A certain well-known chain coffee shop has been all over the news in recent weeks. They decided to jump the gun and release their fall-inspired coffee drink before August was even over. People quickly took umbrage at the idea that a major corporation was declaring the end of summer while temperatures nationally were still soaring. However, others were excited to grab a fall-flavored latte.
That ubiquitous drink, often affectionately referred to as a pumpkin spice latte, has become one of the most popular seasonal beverages. It has also become incredibly maligned as the most “basic” of coffee choices.
What are you supposed to do, if you love pumpkin spice and need your caffeine fix? The easiest way to avoid being called basic by buying into this trend is to avoid chain coffee shops. You can get the same flavor of coffee at a wide variety of coffee shops. In fact, you may be able to find more unique and interesting flavors at a locally owned shop.
San Diego is well known for having a variety of restaurants, bars and caffeination stations all over town. The popular downtown neighborhood, Little Italy, is no exception. They are home to some of the best-loved eateries and wine bars in town, and they also have plenty of options for those in need of a coffee drink. Patronize any of these four incredible businesses, and not only can you enjoy your pumpkin spice latte without feeling basic, but you also get the satisfaction that comes from supporting a local business.
Location: 2355 India Street (map)
Hours: Seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
James Coffee isn’t just serving up fresh, flavorful espresso and coffee drinks to patrons. They are also roasting beans right there in house. Each of their coffee blends boasts single-origin beans, meaning that the company can trace the coffee you are drinking right back to the farm that grew and harvested the coffee.
All of that information helps you make a better choice as far as sustainable business practices and ethical treatment of coffee farm workers. After all, smaller coffee shops can often invest more into supporting local farmers, because they don’t need to pay money out to shareholders at the end of each quarter.
In other words, for roughly the same price (perhaps even a little less) than you would pay at a corporate coffee chain, you can help support a locally owned business serving great coffee and supporting farmers all over the world. Whether you prefer a Costa Rican coffee or fresh tea, they have it available by the cup. They also offer retail coffee and tea leaves for you to take and make at home.
Their pleasantly industrial and modern space is a great place to sit and read while enjoying a cup. It’s also a perfect location for meeting with friends or business contacts.
Location: 1230 Columbia Street (map)
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday: 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Closed Saturday and Sunday
For a business to be profitable, they have to make sure that they are open when their customers want them. Many times, this leads companies to have extended hours, well past when the majority of business comes in.
At The Mudbar, they have gone in the opposite direction. They are open for morning and early afternoon coffees on weekdays only, and they close extra early on Fridays. If you need a caffeine fix later in the day or on the weekend, this is not the place to go. However, if you need a great source for a local latte in Little Italy, they could be your new morning go-to.
Some of their house specialty drinks have already developed a following. For example, their Spiced Brown Sugar Mocha has a rich flavor that comes from mixing white chocolate and spiced brown sugar in the same drink. Their Snickers Latte features chocolate, hazelnut and caramel flavors.
They also make many other popular coffee drinks, including blended frappes, as well as versions of all your favorite espresso drinks made with either soy or almond milk. Whether you’re looking to take it to go or sit and enjoy it, The Mudbar has a coffee drink that will have you feeling energized and satisfied.
Location: 1704 India Street (map)
Hours: Sunday-Thursday: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
With a sunny interior, a full lunch menu, brunch on Sundays and gelato, Caffe Italia has everything a customer could want in a coffee shop. Whether you want the best Italian espresso served from a shop that has been making these drinks since 1992 or a simple cup of Joe, this local favorite will not disappoint you. They serve imported Italian Lavazza coffee beans, making their drinks as classic as they come!
Of course, if you stop in for an incredible coffee, you should also peruse their food menu. They make a number of panini sandwiches, including their Tacchino, a turkey and pesto sandwich with a perfect balance of Italian flavors. They also serve salads and fresh soup for lunch.
There are always a few flavors of locally made gelato available here as well. They usually have staple flavors, like a coffee and a chocolate, as well as some other, more creative, flavors. Some people will even take a shot of espresso served over their fresh gelato, for a refreshingly sweet pick-me-up.
Not only do they have a great menu, they also welcome people’s four-legged friends. Over the years, this little location has earned multiple awards, including best coffee and best Sunday brunch.
Lofty Coffee Little Italy Cafe
Location: 444 W Cedar Street (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you like to get into work a little early on weekdays, it can be hard to find a good coffee spot that is open before you head in. Thankfully, Lofty Coffee understands that some people can’t wait until 7 a.m.
They open their doors at 6 a.m. on weekdays, making it easy for those early commuters to grab a little caffeine to go. Lofty Coffee is definitely in the process of giving other coffee chains a run for their money. With three local locations, as well as a roasting facility, they are one of the more popular and faster growing coffee enterprises in the San Diego area.
The location in Little Italy features both excellent patio seating and a bakery. The coffee is made right at the bar, which means you get to watch the baristas do their thing. You can also inhale the tantalizing smell of pastries baked fresh in-house that same day.
Lofty Coffee is a great place to visit to grab a drink and a snack on your way into work. It is also a great place to grab a meal. They have a full breakfast menu, as well as lunch menu, both of which feature locally sourced and organic ingredients.