Santa Cruz County’s coffee scene is a vibrant tapestry, weaving together a diverse array of establishments, each with its own distinct character and commitment to delivering exceptional coffee experiences. From cozy neighborhood nooks, hip urban cafés, and laid-back seaside retreats, the diverse coffee options in Santa Cruz County are united by their dedication to serving a perfect cup of joe. Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur, a casual drinker, or simply seeking a cozy spot to relax, there’s a coffee shop in Santa Cruz County that will exceed your expectations and leave you craving more. Read along as we explore Santa Cruz County’s coffee culture, uncovering the hidden gems and celebrated favorites that have earned their reputation as the best coffee shops in the region. In this blog, we invite you to embark on a caffeinated journey to discover why this coastal paradise has become a must-visit destination for coffee enthusiasts from near and far.
#1 Verve Coffee Roasters
Verve Coffee is a lively and cherished destination for coffee enthusiasts. Verve has four unique locations in Santa Cruz County and even a shop as far as Tokyo, Japan. This local Santa Cruz coffee roaster turned international sensation serves up exquisitely rich and robust coffee. Whether you visit the roastery in Seabright, where the aroma of freshly roasted beans permeates the air, or stop at the enchantingly atmospheric bustling Downtown shop, Verve is a haven for both locals and visitors seeking a masterful coffee experience. Verve’s skilled and passionate baristas take great pride in their craft, consistently delivering expertly brewed cups of coffee that delight the senses. From their expertly brewed pour-overs to their velvety smooth lattes, each cup of coffee is a testament to their dedication to excellence. The cafe also offers a carefully curated selection of pastries and food like their delicious breakfast sandwiches, making it the perfect spot to relax and savor a moment of tranquility amidst the lively downtown atmosphere. Verve Coffee in downtown Santa Cruz is a must-visit destination that captures the essence of the city’s vibrant coffee culture.
11th Hour Coffee is dedicated to coffee as an art form that has the power to bring people together in community and inspire creativity. This wonderful shop during the day roasts and crafts delicious coffee while at night there are community events like comedy nights and pop-up food as well as a full bar. The creativity that goes into each cup of coffee draws together locally sourced ingredients and their expertly roasted beans to make everything from classic drinks to unique coffee creations. Their rotating seasonal specials are always a highlight of the menu and their traditional menu features excellent options like a perfectly balanced salted caramel latte, a deeply nuanced honey bee latte, and bold yet balanced matcha drinks. The atmosphere at 11th Hour is warm, inviting, and cozy. The shop provides a comfortable space for customers to relax, chat, or work while enjoying their coffee. 11th Hour now has two locations, one downtown and another on the Westside of Santa Cruz both with phenomenal coffee and food options for customers to enjoy!
Mariposa Coffee Bar features Cuban and Vietnamese-inspired coffee paired with a full vegetarian menu of treats and eats. The bold flavors of every carefully crafted cup of coffee are inspired by the family traditions of the women behind this community hub. Each drink captures Chelsea and Tram’s passion for sharing their love of coffee and the vibrant flavors of their childhoods. The focus at Mariposa is to slow down the coffee experience and savor in the process of creating communities over great cups of coffee. The Vietnamese iced coffee is the epitome of the beauty of slow coffee; customers can watch the lovingly slow process of phin coffee, which is a drip filter system, served up tableside with sweet condensed milk. Another fabulous must-try item is the Bella Bon Bon, a Cuban-inspired twist on a caramel macchiato that packs a caffeinated punch nuanced with sweetness but balanced with bold espresso. Enjoy your coffee with delicious food items like the fully vegetarian Midnight Cubano or the refreshing vermicelli noodle bowl. This unique coffee shop offers an entirely different experience than any other coffee shop in town that you won’t want to miss!
#4 Cat and Cloud Coffee
Cat and Cloud is a local coffee roaster and growing business with four shops across the county that grew out of friendship and continues to connect and create communities over great cups of coffee. Their distinct style of coffee and branding taps into the creativity and artistic side of the coffee experience. The excellent coffee they roast makes each cup of coffee exceptional and the skillful baristas never fail to provide a great drink. Every single coffee item is wonderful but the mocha has something special to it with delicately flavored chocolate that doesn’t overpower with sweetness and it can come with whip cream and marshmallows for those with a sweet tooth. They even have separate paleo offerings on their menu as well as some unique food options like their delicious breakfast burrito. Whether you’re looking for a hangout or a spot to get some work done while sipping delicious coffee, Cat and Cloud is a must in Santa Cruz!
For over 40 years Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting has been roasting and brewing up coffee in the heart of Downtown Santa Cruz. Their dedication to the craft demonstrated by their small-batch roasting process, brings out the finest subtleties from their premium quality coffee origins. This Santa Cruz institution has been a bastion for coffee since before specialty coffee became a national phenomenon. The counter tops are lined with jars of roasted beans and with plenty of seating, customers can enjoy the ambiance of a true roastery while drinking their coffee. The friendly and knowledgeable staff adds to the overall experience, providing exceptional service and a genuine love for their craft.
Mr. Toots Coffeehouse is the second oldest coffee shop in the Santa Cruz area and has some of the best views in the county. Located in the Esplanade of Capitola Village, this quaint old-school coffeehouse is tucked away above Margaritaville with sweeping views of the iconic Capitola Wharf and Venetians from their gorgeous outdoor balcony seating. Their menu has a vast listing of creative lattes like their Coconut White Chocolate Mocha and a Lavender Latte packed with flavor. Don’t miss out on their house-made whipped cream or their house-made coffee cake that is packed with delicious cinnamon crumbs. Step inside to savor the artisanal pastries, delectable cookies, one-of-a-kind coffee concoctions, refreshing blended beverages, flavorful sandwiches, or a mouthwatering slice of just-out-of-the-oven quiche, all with a breathtaking beachfront view.
The Loft in Aptos is the perfect coffee shop for those looking for a spot to study or work while enjoying some coffee shop ambiance. The super welcoming and friendly staff at the Loft serve up high-quality coffee designed to caffeinate and thrill the community and nearby Cabrillo College students. This spacious coffee shop has two floors of seating and outdoor space for patrons to sit back and enjoy their coffee, read a good book, or do some work. They also have great food offerings, including pastries from Companion Bakeshop and Kelly’s French Bakery and a tasty croissant sandwich. The heart of the Loft is dedicated to charity and serving the community, which is also reflected in their commitment to donating a portion of their income to non-profit organizations worldwide.
Tucked away in the Watsonville Hangar, Honeylux Coffee is a super aesthetic cafe serving delicious specialty coffee made with perfectly roasted beans from 11th Hour Coffee. Honeylux is dedicated to bringing the community together over coffee, which can be seen in the beautifully curated space they have created as well as their locally sourced ingredients, including pastries from Companion Bakeshop, chocolate from Mutari Chocolate House, and teas from Gold Leaf Spice & Teas. The standard coffee offers are meticulously crafted, but the real stars are their rotating specialty offers, which include drinks like the flavor-packed Golden Hour featuring salted caramel and vanilla. Their convenient location in the Watsonville Hangar also means you can enjoy your coffee in the outdoor patio area where patrons can soak up the sun or play patio games amongst a wide selection of food and drinks offered from the other businesses in the Hangar.
The list doesn’t stop here! With so many wonderful coffee shops in the area, we can’t possibly feature everyone. Still, some additional honorable mentions worth checking out in Santa Cruz County include spots like The Abbey, Lulu Carpenter’s, Coffee Conspiracy, Shrine Coffee, and Flower Bar. Every coffee shop in Santa Cruz is deeply dedicated to their craft and creating a welcoming space that honors the community and the craftsmanship that goes into every cup of coffee. Santa Cruz has a coffee shop for every discerning palate, from the locally beloved establishments that have become community pillars to the innovative newcomers pushing the boundaries of the coffee scene. These coffee shops not only serve incredible brews but also embody the city’s unique spirit, creating welcoming spaces where locals and visitors alike can connect, relax, and savor the rich flavors that coffee culture brings.