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The best coffee shops in Santa Barbara have a quiet, local quality about them. Located on California’s central coastline, Santa Barbara has an abundance of excellent roasts to sip along the wide stretches of sandy beaches. Though often overlooked in favor of Napa and Sonoma’s glittering food and beverage scene, this small coastal city brings its A-game when it’s time to pump yourself with caffeine.
You might be wondering why you should bother visiting Santa Barbara. After all, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego all have top notch coffee, plus the added attractions of big cities. Aside from coffee, the natural area will astound visitors. Channel Islands National Park sits just offshore, an archipelago often lauded as the Galapagos of the United States. Los Padres National Forest also borders the city, offering ample opportunity to get outside for a weekend of outdoor adventure. Bring your outdoor gear and your favorite thermos or mason jar to carry your coffee around this low-key town. Here are our picks for the best coffee shops in Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara Roasting Company
Established in 1989, Santa Barbara Roasting Company (or RoCo as the locals have dubbed it) has a selection of more than seventy organic and shade grown fair trade coffees. Though not necessarily the most popular, it’s certainly the most well known coffee shop in the eponymous Santa Barbara. Don’t miss out on the Nutella and fruit toast, and be sure to snag a spot outside in the sun.
Dune Coffee Roasters
Once known as Santa Barbara’s beloved The French Press, Dune Coffee Roasters has three locations. Of the three, choose the Anacapa Street location for a sunny day of relaxation, the State Street location for a study day and the Goleta location for an upscale experience with a calming color palette. Anacapa Street has a spacious patio while State Street has a studious vibe with a curated art gallery. What began as two people cranking out coffee behind an espresso machine in downtown Santa Barbara has bloomed into a coffee roastery and bakery run by a welcoming team.
Cajé Coffee Roasters
Arguably the favorite of all of Santa Barbara’s coffee shops, Cajé began as a venture in artsy, hipster caffeine located in Isla Vista. It’s a sacred spot for UCSB students. Cajé now has a location in Haley Corridor, Santa Barbara’s youngest neighborhood, which moonlights as a roaring 20s speak-easy called Lab Social. Head over when the sun’s out for a mish mash of innovative drinks like the Bela Rose, an iced matcha latte with strawberry elderflower syrup, pomegranate ice cubes and strawberry and beet powder topped off with a trickle of rose petals. Sunset ushers in the SB Margy, a classic margarita with a lavender twist. Ever aspired to gain access to an elusive nighttime hangout? Lab Social requires a password of the day. You’ll feel swankier than a spy schmoozing with a suspect, that is if you manage to unearth the password.
Amid the bustling streets and culture of downtown lies Handlebar Coffee, the fruit of two cyclists’ passion project. Couple Kim Anderson and Aaron Olsen discovered an obsession with coffee shops while cycling professionally around the world. They opened Handlebar in 2011, three years after moving to Santa Barbara. The De La Vina location hosts live music and offers patio seating.
Dart Coffee Company
Before we talk about Dart Coffee Company we have to talk about the location (it’s half the fun). Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone attracts tourists and locals alike for its art and culture. The last few decades has seen massive growth in this contemporary district, which is sandwiched between the ocean and Highway 101, with a swell in boutiques, cafes, galleries, shops and more. Aside from the content inside the buildings and converted warehouses, the exteriors swim with graffiti murals and modern art. From surfboard shapers to winemakers, the Funk Zone hosts a myriad people practicing crafts.
Burrowed in the Funk Zone neighborhood, Dart Coffee Company is a perfect stop for tired tourists looking for a pick-me-up in between wine tastings and art galleries. True to the nature of the district, owners Erika Carter and David Dart contribute a percentage of every bean sold to the Yanonali Street Artist Fund. The coffee shop even has a designated garden space for customers to enjoy the array of coffee, tea and pastries.
The Daily Grind
The Daily Grind began in 1995 and has two locations in Santa Barbara along De La Vina Street. They serve warm morning meals to accompany your coffee in addition to pastries and smoothies. Take a seat on one of the patios or shady spots for the perfect start to your day. Make sure to bring along your furry friend, as the patio area is dog-friendly. True to its name, The Daily Grind gets you ready for your daily grind.
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