In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson stated that we are guaranteed certain unalienable rights. Sure the promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were (kinda) important, but we all know he really meant we should be given the right to drink a cup of damn-good coffee when we want. Unfortunately there are many popular chains brewing the mediocre grab-and-go cup, but Charlotte has a slew of independent artisans making mind-blowing java. Remember, life is too short for boring coffee, so let's check out the best around town.
Located on the corner of Central and Louise Avenues, Central Coffee has been serving Plaza-Midwood exceptional coffee since 2009. With java from Joe Van Gogh, a Triangle roaster, this place is a cozy spot, perfect for business meetings, working remotely, catching up with friends, or even a quiet moment to yourself. Just don’t forget to get a piece of baklava.
Uptown (& other locations)
Now with three locations, Not Just Coffee came to the Charlotte scene in 2011. This place brews its coffee from North Carolina’s own Counter Culture Coffee and uses fresh dairy products from Homeland Creamery. It's comfortable, it's warm, it's all about North Carolina.
Mugs Coffee is a local, independently owned coffee shop where everything from the coffee beans (Magnolia Coffee) to the pastries are locally sourced from North Carolina vendors. Grab a cup and wander around the shop looking at the artwork on the walls, or just sit in one of the comfy chairs and enjoy your coffee.
Ballantyne (& other locations)
Rush Espresso and its sister shop, RUSH by Rush Espresso in Uptown, provide Charlotte with a little Down Under flair. Serving Australian espresso coffee from Di Bella, this place is unlike anything the Queen City has seen or tasted before. The menu offers breakfast (the guacamole Benedict is legit), lunch, and evening snacks, making it a place that has something for everyone. Plus, it's also a great date spot.
This colorful and much-loved coffee shop has been a NoDa staple since it opened its doors in 2000. Roasting its own ethically sourced coffee means that patrons will have a delicious and conscientious cup with every visit. So grab a cup, a delicious pastry (scones, perhaps), and sit outside on the patio. Then sip and watch the eclectic views of NoDa while trying not to think of that damn "Smelly Cat" song from Friends.
Julia’s Café & Books isn't your typical coffee shop. It's also a fundraising division of Habitat for Humanity Charlotte. Located next to the Habitat ReStore on Wendover, Julia’s offers a large selection of used books for you to peruse or buy, as well as delicious locally roasted coffee (Magnolia Coffee) and organic breakfast and lunch options. Feel good about every cup you drink, every treat you consume, and every book you buy because the money goes towards Habitat for Humanity.
Okra is traditionally known for being a yoga studio, but it also gives patrons a relaxing Zen lounge to enjoy coffee or tea. Fitting with the mantra of being a healthy and healing environment, the lounge offers local hand-crafted teas and coffee, including loose-leaf teas from TEA ReX and coffee from Pure Intentions Coffee. Come for the coffee and stay for the yoga (or at least get a massage)
Focused on the three pillars of coffee, art, and bar, FABO serves patrons coffee, fresh baked treats, and even wine. Get the trifecta of beverages while you're there: coffee, lemonade, and some vino. Then take a few glances at the surrounding art, grab a treat from brüks bars, and enjoy your perfectly relaxing night out.
Waffles and coffee: the way all mornings should start. Formerly a pop-up concept, HEXCoffee has now opened a permanent one inside of Good Bottle Co. (which is also a very good beer bar, by the way) and fans are rejoicing. In addition to the signature pour-over drinks, a new line up of espresso drinks has been added to the menu. Go early on a Saturday for coffee and one of the wildly popular waffles.
Sign up here for our daily Charlotte email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in the Queen City.
1. Central Coffee Company719 Louise Ave, Charlotte
2. Not Just Coffee224 E. 7th St, Charlotte
3. Mugs Coffee5126 Park Rd Ste 1D, Charlotte
4. Rush Espresso14825 Ballantyne Village Way, Charlotte
5. Smelly Cat Coffeehouse514 E 36th St, Charlotte
6. Julia's Coffee & Books1133 N Wendover Rd, Charlotte
7. Okra1912 Commonwealth Ave, Charlotte
8. FABO Cafe8538 Park Rd, Charlotte
9. HEX CoffeeEdit 125 Remount Rd, Charlotte
This neighborhood coffee shop, stationed in the outskirts of Plaza-Midwood, has served as a local caffeine-haven since 2009. The corner shop has a modern-industrial feel, with exposed piping, towering windows, and a wood-paneled espresso bar. Serving beans from Joe Van Gogh, a Hillsbourough artisan roasting company, this quiet, trendy locale is a particular favorite amongst laptop-wielding freelancers, looking for a space that is equal parts hospitable and productivity-friendly (with free wi-fi). That's not to say, however, that the café is not home to a number of locals catching up over spicy mochas or finely-crafted cappuccinos, paired with some of Central Coffee's fresh house-baked pastries (try the espresso chocolate cake). A quality option for take-out or sit down morning fare, this spot has games and art supplies for children, long couches for lounging, and secluded tables for coffee-charged customers, hard at work.
Husband-and-wife team James and Miracle Yoder opened Not Just Coffee in 2011, partnering with NC's Counter Culture Coffee and Homeland Creamery to create handcrafted espresso drinks made with local passion. Patrons can choose from a wide range of coffee types at this detail-oriented shop (both in terms of beans and brewing methods), making it the perfect place for espresso aficionados and gearheads. Pour-overs, syphon pots, and Aeropress machines are just a few of the different methods available to choose from, or you can just keep it simple with a latte or affogato (that's espresso poured over ice cream).
Always casual and friendly, Mugs Cafe in the South Park neighborhood is an independently owned coffee shop that's all about supporting the local economy. Coffee beans from North Carolina's own Magnolia Coffee and pastries sourced from local bakeries stock this cozy little cafe, and the walls are decorated with a rotating selection of artwork from local artists. With plenty of seating, tiny coffeehouse tables, and free wifi, there's always a small crowd here chatting or working remotely. Mugs serves breakfast and lunch and has a few local beers on tap for later in the afternoon.
Owned by husband-and-wife team Jenny and Paul McConachy, Rush Espresso is a casual yet sophisticated espresso bar in the Ballantyne district. Inspired by Paul's Australian homeland (and the place the couple met), Rush serves Australian coffee from Di Bella Roasters and crafts it into creamy espresso beverages. Also serving breakfast, lunch, and evening snacks, this is a full-service cafe that seamlessly transitions from daytime study spot to romantic nighttime date spot. A wine bar and a selection of decadent desserts become available at night and are not to be missed.
This award-winning coffee shop and roasting company has been a local favorite since it opened in 2000. A colorful and well-loved space (think reclaimed furniture, local artwork, and shelves full of board games), this NoDa coffeehouse's warm brick-walled interior is perfect for getting cozy with a latte or a signature nitrogenated cold brew. Smelly Cat roasts its own coffee, ethically sourced and direct from the farmers, meaning that patrons can enjoy their espresso guilt-free. A shady outdoor patio opens up in the warmer months, and the cafe regularly hosts open mike and stand-up comedy nights to further the neighborhood hangout atmosphere of this welcoming cafe.
Julia’s Café & Books in the Echo Hills neighborhood isn't your typical coffee shop—it's also a fundraising division of Habitat for Humanity Charlotte. Located next to the Habitat ReStore on Wendover, Julia’s offers a huge selection of books as well as a volunteer-staffed coffee counter with drip coffee and espresso drinks. As befits a neighborhood-focused organization like this, Julia's serves local Magnolia Coffee and organic breakfast and lunch choices at the bar. Bright and absolutely stacked with books, Julia's is the perfect place to get lost for a few hours searching for the perfect novel.
Okra in Plaza Midwood is known for being a yoga and massage studio, but it also features a relaxing Zen lounge for patrons to enjoy coffee or tea. In keeping with their mission to be a health-concious and healing environment, the coffees and teas are locally-sourced and individually made. Featuring coffee from Pure Intentions roasting company and loose leaf tea from TEA ReX, the cafe serves patrons with french presses or pour-overs (for coffee) and teapots perfect for lingering over after a yoga session. Teas are the specialty here, with choices ranging from the classics (Earl Grey, Jasmine) to Ayurvedic teas with healing properties.
FABO cafe in South Charlotte is a bright, open cafe in a converted industrial space devoted to three things: coffee, art, and booze. During the day this neighborhood hang out spot serves up espresso drinks and bakery treats to commuters and students, while at night it plays host to open mics, poetry readings, and date night for people at the bar. Serving local coffee and beer, this cafe is all about supporting local businesses. That extends to the art on the walls, which is always by Charlotte artists and always up for sale. Perfect for meetings outside the office or a day of studying, the cafe comes provides plentiful seating and free wifi.
Formerly a pop-up coffee shop, south end's HEX is currently housed in beer bar Good Bottle Co., providing a two-in-one destination for caffeine and beer lovers alike. In addition to the signature pour-over drinks, HEX will serve espresso, lattes, vanila lattes and mochas. Go early on a Saturday for coffee and one of the wildly popular waffles.