Coffee is Life. Coffee is news.

Top 15 Coffee Shops In and Around UCSD

In the very first article The Triton released, we noted that waiting in line for coffee was not news. News is engaging, beneficial, and dynamic – reaching into the depths of your inner-self and reinvigorating you with newfound life. And, as we’ve recently discovered, apparently so is coffee. I guess this now makes coffee news. Very important indeed. 

So, with this retraction, here are 15 of the best coffee shops in and around UC San Diego. We were going to do a typical top 10, but then the caffeine kicked in and we figured we’d just overload this whole thing. Whether you’re interested in convenience, novelty, or ambiance, we gotcha covered. 


 

15 – The Cat Cafe

Basically, it’s a coffee shop with cats in it. What more do you need to know? The Cat Cafe partners with the San Diego Humane Society and cats are kept at the Cafe as a foster home until they are able to be adopted. Adoptions can be made after-hours.

 

14 – Heartwork Coffee Bar

As the name suggests, Heartwork is cute and cozy. Known for their cold brew, this shop has plenty of natural light to accent the store’s vintage vibes and preppy wood tables. With accents of turquoise and salmon, Heartwork is straight out of an Urban Outfitters catalog, brewing customer favorites Dark Horse, James Coffee, and Tea Gallerie. 

 

13 – Muir Woods Coffee House

Warm, comfortable, and local – Muir Woods stands as the “Central Perk” of UC San Diego. With a great selection of fresh made pastries, this comfy chaired coffee house is tucked right beneath Pines Dining Hall. Often featuring performances by student musicians, it’s a great place to study or rest up between classes.  

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12 – Lestat’s Coffee House

Open 24 hours a day, both San Diego Le Stats locations offer a dark eclectic feel. With drinks just as eccentric as their shop such as Carmel D’Lish, Funky Monkey, and Jimmy Milano; it’ll be a combination of sugar and caffeine that will keep you up until the early hours of the morning. If you’ve ever wanted to sit on a throne while doing calculus, or rest on an vintage English loveseat while reading Decartes, Le Stats is the place.

 

11 – James’ Coffee

Located at the edge of Little Italy, this coffee shop is nestled inside the “Space” – which also houses a barber shop, a bike shop, and a men’s fashion boutique. James’ is located extremely close to the San Diego International Airport and  it’s not uncommon to hear low flying planes rush past overhead. While this can be annoying at times, the building’s minimalist hangar bay feel makes the loud aircraft sounds seem oddly appropriate. 

 

10 – The General Store Co-op

I didn’t even know that the General Store sold coffee until a week ago, but I’m so glad I found out. Brewing Revolutionary Roasters, the coffee is not only lively and textured, but it’s dirt cheap! Charging only $1.50 for a 16oz cup, this is one of the best deals on campus. The shop’s seating area feels like a dingy grunge apartment living room that hasn’t been cleaned in a while, but it fits the mood perfectly. Grab a seat on a dank couch, pull out your guitar, and relax.

 

9 – Better Buzz

With several unique locations scattered all across San Diego, Better Buzz will satisfy your sweet tooth. With their self proclaimed “Best Drink Ever,” an americano with creamy vanilla, they’ll give you a sugar rush that’ll leave you bouncing. Each of their unique locations offers something unique: their drive-thru Pacific Beach location is great for on-the-go, their Fashion Valley location is a small kiosk directly inside the mall, and their Mission Valley location (aka The Lab) has spacious indoor seating with grungy surfer vibes.

 

8 – The Art of Espresso

Located just outside Mandeville Auditorium, this outdoor coffee kiosk is my personal favorite of all the on-campus coffee brewers. This may be because The Art of Espresso proudly brews Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (we’ll get to them in a minute). Far superior than the several Perks coffee carts strewn across campus, The Art of Espresso serves authentic non-dining hall pastries, beverages, and snacks. The coffee is great and the outdoor seating is known for harboring TA’s. Overall, a great spot to take in the fresh air and look out over the campus.

 

7 – Coffee and Tea Collective

Located in the depths of North Park, Coffee and Tea Collective perfectly fits the bill for what you’d expect from San Diego’s hippest neighborhood. With an extremely minimalist design, the wooden benches and tables contrast nicely against the shops pegged white walls. Each table delightfully comes with a decorative succulent for you to enjoy while you sip cold brew and figure out which VSCO filter to use.

 

6 – Zumbar

If you see a generic black and white sign that says “COFFEE SHOP,” you’ve reached Zumbar. This tiny café is a great place to stop at on your commute to and from school. Though it’s usually bustling with people going in and out, it’s definitely worth it to stick around for their french press if you have the time. Zumbar is a great for option when you’re on the go and looking for a place close to campus. 

 

5 – Dark Horse

Specializing in Molokai pour overs, french press, and cold brew, Dark Horse meets every extravagant coffee drinker’s needs. While the minimal seating is not the most conducive for studying, it’s a great spot for when you want to get away and enjoy some time to yourself. With locations in Normal Heights, North Park, and Golden Hill, there’s plenty of Dark Horse to go around. Also, their logo is a horse head poking out of a slim fit black suit. So, you know, there’s that too.

 

4 – Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

Voted as the National Micro Roaster of the Year in 2012, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is an open air coffee shop that will make you feel right at home. With a focus on medium/light roasts, warm wooden walls and chill beach vibes, it’s a great family coffee shop. What makes this shop’s ambiance so unique is the fact that their storefront windows slide up towards the ceiling, revealing a street facing patio. Come sit outside after a long day at the beach and enjoy the sunset.

 

3 – Nespresso Boutique at Bloomingdale’s

The Nespresso Boutique holds a special spot in my pretentious little heart. This hidden gem is located on the first floor of the Fashion Valley Bloomingdale’s, tucked away behind walls of women’s perfume and overstuffed clearance racks. If you’ve never heard of Nespresso before, imagine a Keurig, but snottier, deliciousier, and Europeanier. While they do sell the machines and espresso/coffee pods at the bar, visitors are able to taste as much free coffee and espresso as they want. Their hope is that you’ll make a purchase, but if you’re a college student they can’t blame you for trying to score some free caffeine. 

 

2 – Young Hickory

One of my personal favorite late night study spots, the store seems to take on multiple personalities. In the back where the lighting is warmer and the walls are decorated to look like vintage bookshelves, the aura is cozy. However, in direct contrast to this, the front of the store is lined with blue fluorescent bulbs, while natural lighting floods in through the large storefront windows, bringing a much lighter feel to the atmosphere. Young Hickory serves both hot coffee and cold beer, so… pick your poison.

 

1 – Holsem

Beauty. This store emulates beauty. This place is pristine, crisp and Pinterest ready. With a clean and simplistic ambiance, this shop will have your pretentious hipster needs more than satisfied. While the store is incredibly spacious, a great deal of the area is given to standing room; seating is confined to smaller areas of the shop that can be a bit cramped. They’re most known for their signature cold brews which come in a variety of flavors including colada, hazelnut, and nutella. 

 

Do you have another favorite coffee shop that we didn’t mention? Leave a comment down below!