Coffee Culture in San Diego


Teal Davis

James Coffee Co. in downtown serves quality coffee and has recently prioritized their environmental impact.

Teal Davis, Staff Writer

As San Diego has grown, the coffee culture within the city has grown immensely and many small businesses offer quality coffee, a welcoming community, and a comfortable space to grab a hot drink for those working and learning remotely. Looking for a great cup of coffee or a comfortable place to study? With many incredible coffee spots across San Diego County, here are some of the best spots to check out when looking for great coffee.

Best Hole-in-the-Wall Coffee

Some of the best cups of coffee come from passionate people in small spaces. These coffee shops may not be the best to sit down with a large group of friends and spend a couple hours catching up but boy can they make a cup of coffee. 

Coffee Cycle is a small shop located in Pacific Beach with several different blends and an exuberant culture surrounding biking and cycling. The shop itself primarily consists of the barback itself with a couple of seats both indoors and outdoors but is only a few blocks from the beach and stands as one of the best places in Pacific Beach to grab a cup before hitting the beach. Coffee Cycle roasts several of their blends themselves with a wide variety of origins from Costa Rica, Colombia, and Ethiopia. The baristas are incredibly welcoming and love to tell you about the blends and strike up a conversation. They also sell pastries and several kinds of burritos for those looking for a great bite with their coffee.

Jaunt Coffee Roasters is another incredible smaller shop located in Mira Mesa. While they have several outdoor tables, the shop itself primarily consists of their bar and display of their coffee. They roast all of their coffee here in San Diego and collaborate with companies which work directly with farmers in order to ensure their beans are ethically sourced. They have incredible espresso and are most known for their vibrant Ube lattes. They have a wide array of food including pastries, Acai, and breakfast burritos, however their empanadas are absolutely incredible and stand out as a clear choice. All of the baristas are super welcoming and make guests feel at home. 

Best San Diego Chains

While chain coffee shops often get a bad wrap for mediocre coffee or overpriced drinks, San Diego offers several coffee shops with several locations across the county that serve great drinks and consistently offer a quality experience.

James Coffee Co. has several locations near downtown and the Hillcrest area and consistently gives a great cup of coffee. Their largest location is located downtown, a few blocks away from the airport, and is a large industrial-style building with several different vendors located inside. They have several tables to sit down and enjoy your drinks but are also within walking distance of the center of Little Italy and are only a few blocks away from the oceanfront. They also have other smaller locations near Balboa Park and Normal Heights. James Coffee has also recently started an initiative to be more eco friendly and reduce the single-use waste their stores produce. Instead of traditional to-go cups, they use glass jars as their to-go containers which can then be returned to the store or reused. 

Lofty Coffee is another San Diego based coffee shop with several different locations including Little Italy, Solana Beach, La Costa, and Encinitas. They have a wide array of different blends and proudly attest to their collaboration with farms and importers to ensure the sustainability and quality of their beans. The cafes themselves often feature predominantly outdoor seating and are an amazing spot to study, read a book, or just enjoy your coffee on a nice day. They feature a large selection of toasts, sandwiches, health bowls to enjoy for those looking for a good meal and have a large selection of pastries. Lofty Coffee also has a Lofty Market where they sell their house-made nut milks, local eggs, fresh pastries and bread, and their own coffee beans. 

Best Coffee Near Mesa

Throughout the semester, nearly every college student will want a pick-me-up or a place near campus to kill some time or study for their next test. While Mesa College campus has some beautiful spots, there are also coffee shops in the community that offer the perfect space for students.

The Forum is located just down the block from Mesa College, along Genesee Avenue, and offers a great place to sit down and work on homework. The large indoor space has several tables and a couple of larger communal spaces. While it is a popular spot for students and is usually rather full, their good coffee and sweet treats, along with their comfortable space, offers a great study spot for students. The shop has several different outlets and it is common to find their tables filled with students working. The shop itself has a wide variety of unique drinks and have ceremonial grade matcha and source their beans from a zero-emissions roaster. The Forum also offers several different unique toasts and waffles with a wide array of toppings. Their pastries are all made in-house and they have incredible chocolate croissants and a creative Vegan Lemon Berry and Pistachio Scone.

Shaka Coffee is a smaller coffee hut located on Mesa College Drive and has a second location on Balboa Avenue. They have a deep, rich cup of coffee and provide a fantastic option for a quick stop for students on their way to class. Their coffee and beans which they distribute are from Lion Coffee and Shaka Coffee. They have several unique drinks and smoothies and also offer fresh acai bowls and bagels for a quick breakfast. Shaka presents a fantastic spot for students to grab a cup of coffee before class or grab a fast breakfast for those running a bit late.