Whether it’s for a daily caffeine fix or a study-time change of scenery, coffee shops are to college students what three-hour naps are to cats … and college students. And Charleston is a great place to find unique, locally owned coffee joints that offer so much more than just coffee, though we’re still waiting for one with late-night hours (hint, hint). Artisan sodas? You got it. Beer tastings? Covered. Positively dee-lish homemade muffins? Check and double-check. So if you’ve found yourself stuck in a rut, ordering the same thing at the same place, we’re here to tell you there’s no excuse. Our list of coffee hotspots just became your new best friend.
This one is tried and true, judging by the endless stream of College of Charleston students, professors, and staff who are in and out all day. Old-timers will remember when Kudu was filled with African paraphernalia, including the scary mounted head of its namesake, but new management has given the place a sleeker, more modern look while still maintaining a cozy feel. Craft beer offerings continue to grow, and many are served on tap. And don’t miss the oasis-like courtyard, which is just about perfect for enjoying a new-to-you book from the Book Crossing bookshelf.
This adorably pint-sized alcove’s welcoming vibe accounts for City Lights’ incredibly loyal following of regulars, who know where their favorite baristas went to school and where they grew up. This spot just north of Market Street’s stretch of tourist traps is also a great place to run into the Holy City’s artsy and intellectual crowd — if you’re lucky, you might stumble upon a napkin sketch or a haiku forgotten among the tables. Besides the always-delicious Counter Culture coffee and artfully made espresso drinks, City Lights offers plenty of yummy desserts, from locally made pies and cakes to a to-die-for coffee milkshake.
Black Tap is the type of place where you’re almost cheating yourself if you just go in for a regular old cup of coffee. Thanks to Charleston’s warm falls and wimpy winters, there are plenty of months to enjoy this new kid on the block’s icy cold refreshments. Take your pick from their housemade bubbly offerings, like cucumber mint limeade and blackberry lemon fizz, or their ever-changing on-tap cold brew, which is a fancy name for iced coffee. Black Tap’s location on a quiet stretch of Beaufain Street makes it a perfect place to hang out or study without interruption.
We’ve heard from several patrons that this café reminds them of Paris, with its fancy café chairs, classy full bar, and air of elegant refinement. It’s even got a Parisian-style bohemian element, hosting weekly open mics for poetry and music over the last several years,. In addition to a full coffee menu, they’ve got breakfast, lunch, and an “After Dark” menu that goes well with either a cocktail or an espresso.
Tucked behind a majestic live oak just over the Ravenel Bridge in Mt. Pleasant, Metto is one of the few coffee shops that serves in-house, made-from-scratch baked goods and panini. Their great food is outshone only by their coffee, which is brewed to perfection by easygoing baristas who know their stuff. Their flavored lattes are like non-corporate versions of their Starbucks equivalents: less sweet, more subtle, and definitely more yum factor. Sip yours on their spacious deck, which is built around that live oak, or if you’re in a hurry, coast through their drive-thru.
You can tell you’re on James Island as soon as you walk in the door of Café Kronic: there’s cool music playing, plenty of art on the walls, and a seriously laid-back vibe. They’re known for their specialty lattes in beach-worthy flavors like coconut and banana nut, but they also have a full breakfast and lunch menu with plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. This place means it when they say they support local businesses, with coffee coming from Charleston Coffee Roasters, bread and pastries from downtown’s Saffron, and produce from local farms. They even double as an art gallery.
This place is the true coffee connoisseur’s dream — they even roast their own beans. The passion for coffee that drives this hidden gem café is literally on display, with customers greeted upon entrance by oodles of burlap bags practically overflowing with aromatic coffee beans from around the globe. They offer a changing special “Coffee of the Week” and the very cool “bottomless mug” deal, which is great for insatiable coffee drinkers or those who like to sit in a shop for hours writing a term paper or cramming for a test. Word has it that their homemade frappes beat Starbucks’ frappuccinos to a pulp.