The East Bay is blessed with the best damn coffee shops in the world (no hyperbole here), thanks to our insane, collective fixation on this precious bean. The region has committed to the third wave of coffee, which has fostered the boom of independent shops and roasters, and ensured that the artistry in each cup can be traced back to the organic farm that grew it. This summer, dive into the culture at the best of the best in the East Bay.
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Best coffee with a cause
Mamacitas CafeAddress and Info
First off, the coffee is delicious -- locally roasted Red Bay Coffee beans, so you’re set there. But the real reason to come to Mamacitas is that co-founders Renee Geesler and Shana Lancaster grew their brick-and-mortar cafe from a pop-up coffee stand as a business with a purpose: their goal is to train young Oakland women to be entrepreneurs, leaders, and economically self-sufficient. Aside from their badass mission, they’re housed within the Qulture Collective, a welcoming open workspace for LGBTQ folks and their allies. There are contemporary couches and a chill backroom with work tables and Wi-Fi. Get on it. Oh yeah, and they serve donut kebabs and savory porridge. All is well in the world.
Best coffee on tap
HighwireAddress and Info
Holy Sweet Baby J, Highwire’s clean, balanced brews will have you falling in love. Settle in at the Berkeley site, formerly the coffee spot of Local 123. It’s spacious and work-friendly, offering breakfast sandwiches, lunch goods, and all the Howling Wolf cold brewed nitro coffee on tap your little heart can handle. Want a comedown? They collaborate with local brewers Drake’s Brewing Company -- so you can have your coffee, and get buzzed, too -- as the tap beers often feature Highwire ingredients. If you want to soak up some sun, check out their coffee trailer plunked in the blossoming patio of Albany’s Flowerland Nursery for a perfect afternoon latte, or if you’re feeling nostalgic, hit up the original Rockridge Market Hall location. It’s more of a street-side hangout than a full-fledged coffee shop, but if you live in the ‘hood, you’ll soon join devotees who pop into the wee space to get their fix before BART.
Best Lake Merritt caffeination
PerchAddress and Info
Adams Point, Oakland
Perch covers all bases: coffee and food, the basics in life. There’s also loads of natural light and plenty of workspace with large tables. Best of all -- for any parent-y or babysitter-y types in the East Bay -- there’s a toy-filled kids room for your offspring to leap and play while you attempt to re-caffeinate your blood stream. Location-wise, it’s a great stop before jogging around Lake Merritt... or, you know, getting coffee and cookies to-go and watching people jog around Lake Merritt.
Best sustainable setup
Bicycle CoffeeAddress and Info
Jack London Square, Oakland
Bikes and fair trade, locally roasted brews -- it's the Bay Area dream. Their model consists of sustainable beans (the Bicycle Coffee crew knows their Central American farmers), roasted in-house, and delivered by bicycle. The whole thing is basically delicious. Catch them at their Second St spot each Saturday on mobile coffee shop bikes at the Grand Lake Farmers Market, or their current venture opening inside The New Parish. Your other options are LA or Tokyo, but you might as well stay true to their local ethos.
Best late-night study spot:
Caffe StradaAddress and Info
Open late, with tons of outdoor seating and benches on their welcoming patio, Caffe Strada is your home away from home -- if your home has a charmingly huge tree-lined porch and a wood chandelier gracing the entrance. Come to read, talk about last night, and write your paper under the leafy trees and fabulous heat lamps, depending on the fickle Bay Area weather. It’s mayhem during finals, but aside from the seasonal deluge of Cal students, it’s a chill local spot. Drink an Americano served in a pint glass, or feed your sweet tooth with the Bianca Mocha, Berkeley’s favorite white chocolate drink.
Best vegan buzz
Timeless CoffeeAddress and Info
Small-batch, hand-roasted coffee located at the top of Piedmont Ave. The narrow, cozy joint is expanding, so there’ll be more room for their house-baked, vegan pastries -- try the Chocodile, which is basically a Ho Ho upgrade, for maximum enjoyment. Besides sweets and gluten-free goodies, Timeless offers savory lunch-y things like empanadas and pizza, so you can sit and read Moby-Dick all day -- but heads up, freelance warriors, no Wi-Fi. Only bring the laptop if you’re cranking out that novel. No dairy here, either, so if you need milk, call yo’ mama, or hop up the block for a sundae at Fentons Creamery afterwards.
Best boozy coffee
Room 389Address and Info
Adams Point, Oakland
What to do when you want coffee and your friend wants whiskey? Room 389, that’s what. A cafe by day and a lounge-tastic bar by night, this place bridges the two with a souped up, booze-spiked coffee drink menu that’ll fire your engines from early morning until 3pm... at which point, the joint seamlessly transitions to a chill lounge that’s open until 2am. They've got live music or DJs every night, and a leafy green and inviting front patio. Get you some.
Best freaking coffee
Blue Bottle CoffeeAddress and Info
Blue Bottle Coffee is arguably the best coffee in the Bay, heading the pack of the local third-wave coffee roasters. Their coffee is fresh -- never more than 48 hours out of the roaster -- and is brewed special to each batch’s daily specifications. Coffee science, yo. Besides amazing drinks (hello, New Orleans iced coffee), the historic W.C. Morse building housing this Oakland branch makes a gorgeous cafe. The soaring 1920s architecture allows massive light in through the pane windows. There’s no Wi-Fi, so connect with the people instead. Come to get inspired, get coffee buzzed, take free brewing classes (!), and buy or repair your home espresso machine. It’s kind of coffee heaven.
Best get yo’ butt to work coffee:
Modern CoffeeAddress and Info
Love day drinking? So do we. 7am-5pm get your fix at Modern Coffee. Pick your poison based on your nearest BART stop: 19th St or 12th St stations. Here, a fine morning brew is your oyster: choose from a solid selection of local roasters, artisanal teas, and a healthy dose of TCHO Chocolate in their mochas -- your way to have secret dessert for breakfast. Service is fast, friendly, and there are seats tucked in the cozy 19th St spot if you can’t drink and walk.
Best basic coffee shop
The BeaneryAddress and Info
Here is your study solution. In the best way possible, the Beanery is just a coffee shop -- a family-owned and family-run spot. They serve damn-good coffee, and they have a solid selection of food along with the requisite Semifreddi’s locally baked goods. There’s an airy front room full of tables, easy access to outlets, and there’s also a second back room and charming back patio all verdant and light. Heads up, though: it’s not a late-night joint, so plan to be finished by 7pm if you’re heading this way.
Best place to coffee geek out:
Artis CoffeeAddress and Info
Ever had live roasted coffee? It’s time you do. If you’ve gone next level in your coffee obsession, and find yourself discussing acidity levels, sourcing, and roasting methods with the savoir faire of a seasoned wine connoisseur, Artis is your new spot. They’re bananas for the art of coffee. The Berkeley coffee shop is open and bright, and full of home brewing goodies to fuel your late-night experimentations. The baristas will chat you up on all things coffee, oh, and that live roasting? They roast to order. While you watch, entranced.
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1. Mamacitas Cafe1714 Franklin St, Oakland
2. Highwire Coffee2049 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley
3. perch coffee house440 Grand Ave, Oakland
4. Bicycle Coffee Co.364 2nd St, Oakland
5. Caffe Strada2300 College Ave, Berkeley
6. Timeless Coffee4252 Piedmont Ave, Oakland
7. Room 389389 Grand Ave, Oakland
8. Blue Bottle Coffee4270 Broadway, Oakland
9. Modern Coffee 19th St381 19th St, Oakland
10. Beanery Inc.2925 College Ave, Berkeley
11. Artis Coffee Roasters1717 4th St, Berkeley
Go to this hip neighborhood cafe off Franklin Street and get your morning started off right. Rep Oakland with iced and hot espresso drinks (lattes; cafe au lait; cold brew) made with locally roasted Red Bay coffee, and be sure to stop by Mamacita's during their crowd-pleasing "Donut Happy Hour:" Friday during 1-4pm, snag some artisanal "donut kebabs," all made in house. Women owned and operated, Mamacita's also serves as a local youth empowerment center, so you can feel good about helping out the community while you nosh.
Get your small batch, made to order coffee and tea in this bustling pint-sized West Berkeley roastery and cafe. Highwire features a well-curated selection of heirloom roasted brews and bean varietals from Africa, South America, and Asia to make their signature slightly sweet/semi acidic cups o' joe. You can also grab a savory breakfast pastry from Market Hall Bakery next door.
This light and airy Grand Ave hits all the stops when it comes to meeting your perfect neighborhood coffee shop requirements. Friendly service, plenty of outlets and ample table space make Perch a solid spot to camp out and get crazy productive, compliments of their strong brews. A well-rounded cafe menu of salads, breakfast sandwiches, wraps, and smoothies are additional perks. Location-wise, it’s a great stop before jogging around Lake Merritt... or, you know, getting coffee and cookies to-go and watching people jog around Lake Merritt.
What could possibly be more Oakland than fair-trade roasted coffee brewed out of a make-shift bike co-op/cafe and hand-delivered to you on wheels? Get your caffeine fix courtesy of the folks at Bicycle Coffee in Jack London Square serving up tasty fine drip cold brew and bakery treats (muffin tops, cookies)-- coffee and a sweet won't cost you more than 5 bucks.
A favorite of UC Berkeley, locals, and craft coffee aficionados, Caffe Strada is a cozy, Italian style cafe serving up stellar espresso, mocha, and Americanos from morning till night (they're open everyday until midnight, making it the perfect study spot). Not only are there tons of tables and outlets to plug into, there's also tons of outdoor seating and benches on their welcoming patio.
This cute North Oakland coffee shop and full service bakery is known for their local brews and amazing sweets. Churros, cheesecake, and Belgian waffles are perfect treats for Sunday brunch, or if you're craving some savory, check out Timeless's benedicts and pizzas. Menus rotate weekly based on what's seasonal and fresh. During the summer months, Timeless's fresh made in-house soft serve is sure to please. As its website warns, "we assume no liability for injury and/or addiction resulting from topping everything that you order with soft serve ice cream," so buyer beware!
This charming, wood-paneled Grand Ave cafe and bar is a local favorite serving up chill cocktails, light dinner fare, and (spiked!) coffee. With DJs spinning most nights and great trivia on Wednesday, Room 398's a great place to hang out with old friends till late into the night (they're open until 2am) and perhaps make some new ones. For brunch, Room 398's the rare spot where the cappuccinos are as good as the Bloody Marys and Mimosas.
The North Oakland branch of West Coast favorite coffee roastery, Blue Bottle, stands out from the shop's other Bay area outposts. Located in the historic W.C. Morse building, the airy, spacious coffee house accentuated with 1920s' art deco finishings is surely a sight to see. Of course, this being Blue Bottle, the coffee is fresh -- never more than 48 hours out of the roaster -- and is brewed special to each batch’s daily specifications.
Uptown Oakland's Modern Coffee is a bright and buzzy neighborhood cafe doling out fresh brews courtesy of Counter Culture coffee, Chromatic, and Stumptown, among other artisanal and fair trade roasters. If you're feeling hungry, Modern's line-up of pastries and danishes from Starter Bakery make the perfect on-the-go sweet treat. With digs in the historic and centrally located Leamington Building, rest assured you'll never be too far away from a cup of Modern Coffee.
The South Berkeley branch of this San Fran coffee shop isn't trying to be anything it isn't. Providing life's simple pleasures — a solid cup of coffee, Semifreddi’s baked goods and WiFi — Beanery is the basic coffee shop you always end up returning to. The shop's interior is airy and quiet (with plenty of outlets for your laptop and phone chargers) so it's the perfect place to set up camp until you finish that thing you desperately need to get done. Just make sure you start early; Doors close at 7.
Both coffee geeks and casual java drinkers flock to this modern roastery and cafe in Berkeley. Pouring up perfectly roasted brews (they use a hot air roaster that effectively toasts the beans without torching them), Artis's coffee selections feature small batch producers from around the world. With plenty of knowledgable and friendly staff on hand, you're guaranteed to learn something new about your favorite brew.