[MetroActive Features]

[ Features Index | Metro Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

Fuel for Thought

Caffe Pergolesi
Robert Scheer

Notes from Under the Coffee Grounds: UCSC's Tanya Sansing cracks her own whip studying calculus at Caffe Pergolesi.

Forget the Algonquin Round Table, the dorm study hall or even the friendly neighborhood opium den--today's students get their educational quick fixes at the coffeehouse

By Marlow de Ville

YOU NEED IT--THEY'VE got it. Caffeine, and plenty of it. Hot, bracing, dark as death, coffee jump-starts the brain and, as far as Santa Cruz County is concerned, pretty much makes the world go 'round. Everybody's got a favorite coffeehouse hangout, a place to meet people, get a legal jolt, read, study or just daydream. Here's our take on the places that give you an edge on reality, a hangout in which to Hegel over Heidegger, or just a cozy port in a storm.

UCSC Campus

Cowell Coffee House Cowell College, UCSC (459-2710).
A tiny nook tucked between the dining hall and the Eloise Smith Gallery, this baby fuels the central hub of Cowell. Spare and efficient--just a few tables and a mini-deck--Cowell does the basics just fine. Sandwiches, morning pastries, cookies, juice and coffee--lots and lots of coffee--are always available. Zero ambiance but it's there when you need it. Mon.-Fri. 8am-4pm and Sun.-Thu. 8pm-midnight.

Howling Cow Kresge College, UCSC (429-6606).
A gorgeous setting surrounded by redwood groves, this is a lively crossroads for the arts and sciences communities on campus. Take your act outside to the courtyard tables or stay indoors and watch the falling rain through enormous walls of glass. Inventive salads and sandwiches are the staple, plus espresso specialties and the world's greatest snickerdoodle cookies. All-day conversations are the rule rather than the exception. Mon.-Fri 8am-10pm. Closed on weekends.

Hungry Slug Porter College, UCSC (427-2608).
Located above the Porter College dining hall, the Slug offers aid and comfort--plus some very nice burritos and pizza slices--to scholars and slackers alike. The lattes are bracing, though the regular coffee often malingers in the realm of the wimpy. Everybody ends up here sooner or later, and the outdoor seating on the umbrella-filled deck gives nice views of sculpture, lush plantings, redwoods and the ocean. Mon.-Thu. 7:45am-midnight (Fri. till 10:30pm, Sat.-Sun. 4:30pm-10:30pm).

Stevenson Coffeehouse Stevenson College, 1156 High St., UCSC (459-2433).
While each college up at the city on the hill has its own coffeehouse, and each is populated by students trying to cram in knowledge along with caffeine, the Stevenson Coffeehouse is the acknowledged pacesetter. Couches, huge tables, a sprawling outdoor terrace and excellent fresh food all make this vintage campus pit stop part salon, part intensive-care unit. You can spread out your books and papers for days on end, stopping only to inhale some gargantuan sandwich and cappuccino. Professors will invariably find you, since they also use this place as an academic retreat. This fortified haven has great attitude and a killer location. Mon.-Fri. 7:30am- 5pm, and nightly 8pm-11:30pm.

Whole Earth Central campus, UCSC (426-8255).
One of the original hearts of the campus, the Whole Earth (whose name has been cruelly punned upon over and over) was one of the first homes of organic cookery in the entire Central Coast area. Still is, but the espresso drinks have grown up nicely. You can still get a pleasant rush from the illusion of being suspended high up in the trees by planting yourself on the deck for a few hours. You can also get a rush from the daily special coffee. Good salads with the inevitable sprouts and sunflower seeds, tasty hot entrees and about as much scholarly atmosphere as you'll find south of Berkeley. Daily 7:30am-8pm.

Westside Santa Cruz

Cefiro's Donuts & Espresso 1222 Mission St., SC (427-0406).
A tiny neighborhood lunchroom and coffeehouse, this place is run by friendly folks who genuinely want you to leave happier than when you walked in. Help is provided in the form of espresso drinks or industrial-strength Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company grounds available at a self-serve coffee bar and via thermos jars. Don't fail to load up on house-made doughnuts, fresh, warm and fragrant--the classic partners for caffeine. Daily 5:30am-5pm (Sat.-Sun. 6:30am-5:30pm).

Westside Coffee Company Corner of Mission and Almar, Safeway Center, SC (427-1300).
Tucked beside Hollywood Video in the high-traffic Safeway complex, this cavernous coffeehouse is not at all what you'd expect from a generic strip mall. Patrons do homework and read papers at round wood tables tucked beneath enough giant palms to start a plantation. Adding to the visual appeal is a beautiful counter of deep-blue glazed tile. Listen to light jazz, munch a nonfat muffin or indulge in one of Grandma Hansen's wee olallieberry pies. Friendly staff, lots of espressos and help-yourself coffee options--a veritable UCSC annex seasoned with world-class surfers. Daily 6am-9pm (Sat.-Sun. till 7pm).

Downtown Santa Cruz

Caffé Bene 1101 Cedar St., SC (425-0441).
Minuscule and homey, Caffé Bene provides relaxing atmosphere and blood-racing espresso, as well as a fully stocked humidor. These locally roasted beans underlie espressos made by top coffeehouses all over the county. A couple of tables outside provide seating for those who favor sun and nicotine or just want a view of Santa Cruz's wild and zany streetlife. Mon.-Fri. 6:30am-6pm and Sat.-Sun. 7:30am-6pm.

Caffe Pergolesi 418 Cedar St., SC (426-1775).
A coffeehouse to some and a home to others--especially the young, the fashionable and the terminally hip--this landmark serves up attitude and bracing espressos until midnight. Students stake out study space in the back rooms, where many a seminar has been conducted. The sprawl of alfresco seating practically cries out for intense existential debate. The Perg prides itself on being downtown's original coffeehouse, and the Dr. Miller Victorian in which it resides is a vintage gem. Daily 8am-midnight.

Espresso Royale Caffe 1545 Pacific Ave., SC (429-9804).
The former Lulu Carpenter's saloon still exudes old-brick-and-hardwood atmosphere. Behind the long faux-granite counter, a young staff does a brisk, high-volume morning business turning out textbook lattes and cappuccinos from the house-brand beans. Thanks to a sea of tables hugging those historic brick walls, an enclosed courtyard for loud philosophical discussions and the largest bathrooms in town, this is a haven for the bookish and the studious. Daily 7am-midnight.

Georgiana's Cafe 1522 Pacific Ave., SC (427-9900).
A required downtown pit stop, this long, narrow coffeehouse that fronts Bookshop Santa Cruz spills happily out into one of the top sidewalk cafe scenes in the area. Denizens can--and do--spend the better part of the morning nursing a head-clearing cappuccino ($1.75) or two while reading daily journals like The New York Times. Daily 7:30am-10pm (Thu.-Sat. till 11pm).

Herland Cafe 902 Center St., SC (429-6641).
Goddesses and mortals alike have taken to this bastion of matriarchal funque, where you're treated well, fed well and provided with that all-important caffeine jolt to boot. The spot to grab is one of the two picnic tables out front, where street action is plentiful and so is privacy. Good salads and veg burgers--but it's the superior vibes that distinguish this oasis of coffeehouse sanity. Daily 10am-6pm.

Jahva House 120 Union St., SC (459-9876).
A spacious, plant-filled sanctuary that is paradigmatically Santa Cruz. For many devotees, Jahva is an office, where scholars set up shop for half-day stretches of hitting the books. Funky couches invite reading, while the well-worn tables are perfect for emptying your entire backpack. The espressos--featuring Graffeo beans--will keep those brain cells hopping, or at least pretending to. The legendary house double lattes pack a multi-layered jolt. Regulars practically set up camp and the student-sensitive management is supportive. Daily 6am-midnight (Sat.-Sun. from 7am, Sun. till 8pm).

Peet's Coffee & Tea 1409 Pacific Ave., SC (457-8170).
Dark wood and exquisite, full-bodied coffee is the appeal of this relatively new entry into the overflowing downtown SC coffeehouse inventory. The place feels like an urban coffeehouse and Peet's award-winning beans make even the house regular coffee taste cosmic. Pastries complete the picture, though regulars have been known to chew the coffee itself. Mon.-Fri. 6:30am-10pm (Sat.-Sun. from 7am).

Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company Palomar Arcade, 1330 Pacific Ave., SC (459-0100).
Bustling with traffic all day long, SCCRC offers plenty of study archipelagos for lengthy sipping amid its busy banks of artwork and conversation. If you can concentrate in the middle of a fairly non-stop scene, you can join the regulars who write poetry and term papers while swilling custom-brewed coffees dispensed from behind the long curve of an updated art deco counter. In addition to high-voltage cappuccinos, SCCRC offers a full deck of muffins, cookies, pies, sandwiches and hot dishes. The outdoor sidewalk patio provides a prime vantage for people-watching distraction, a.k.a. study-avoidance behavior. Daily 6:30am-11pm (Fri.-Sat. till midnight).

Starbucks 1955 41st Ave., Capitola (464-8091).
Masters of the caffeine universe, the Seattle-based chain has recently emerged right across the street from the mall to the delight of the 41st Avenue community. Glittering galaxies of chocolates, pastries and croissants flirt from gleaming display cases. Shelves filled with every conceivable variation on espresso, decaf or industrial-strength java make this place an institution. Mon.-Thu. 6am-10pm (Fri.-Sat. till 11pm, Sun. 7am-9pm).

Java Junction
Robert Scheer

It's Never Too Latte to Learn: Nicole Sweet (front) and Tali Serota jar Java Junction junkies awake with drinks such as the latte Sweet is producing.

Eastside Santa Cruz

Chill Out Cafe 860 41st Ave., SC (477-0543).
Exuberant attitude as well as full-on breakfasts are on the menu at this hip, colorful hangout--formerly located on 17th Avenue--that was once Sofia's. Brightly colored walls, that lovably funky blue velour couch and plenty of windowfront counter seating make this an irresistible way to wake up. Expert espresso drinks are the specialty, including the very potent Big Chill--an industrial-strength elixir of coffee powered by two shots of espresso. No hassles here and very patron-friendly staff. Daily 6am-3:30pm.

Coffeetopia 3701 Portola Ave., SC (477-1940).
Serving the Pleasure Point surfing community with style and substance, this attractive new retrofit of the former Coffee Vault space offers espresso specialties with Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting beans. That would be a $2 killer cappuccino. We love the bank of PC computers, plus plenty of study lamps and tables--especially the cozy salon tucked inside an actual old bank vault. This private space features Oriental carpets, a central fountain and nice plants and has all the smoothies, sandwiches, bottled drinks, cookies and muffins, plus surfing photos lining the walls, that you could want. Daily 6am-10pm.

Java Junction 519 Seabright Ave., SC (423-5282).
The ambiance is a mix of beach/political/student at this industrialesque site tucked next door to the Seabright Brewery in the pink "po-mo" corner designed by Gary Garmann. Excellent espresso drinks of every possible description are created exactly the way you want them and can be consumed along with a hefty array of pastries or goodies from the in-house gelato/juice bar. For study and fellow-student schmoozing, few sites can beat JJ's terrace, where intellectuals get down with beach denizens praying for surf and the neighbors at the Seabright Brewery can be seen knockin' back a few. Daily 6:30am-11pm.

Capitola & Soquel

Capitola Book Cafe 1475 41st Ave., Capitola (462-4415).
Surrounded by a thriving bookstore, this coffee arena is as luxuriously appointed as it is fashionable. Unmistakably Euro-hip in feel, BC has long been a top spot for busy shoppers and moviegoers gearing up for a two-hour stretch at the 41st Avenue Cinema next door. Daily 8am-10:30pm.

Capi's Coffee Express 311 Capitola Ave., Capitola (475-4745).
Housed in what looks like a dollhouse miniature, workers create espresso favorites like lattes ($1.80) and cappuccinos (starting at $1.60).
Warm, friendly, no-frills service is the whole point here. Mon.-Fri. 7am-6pm, Sat.-Sun. from 8am.)

The Coffee House 1700 Commercial Way, SC (476-8625).
Happily serving its midcounty clientele, this tiny hub of warmth and espresso is landlocked by industrial shops. A healthy single latte will run you a mere $1.50 (beans are from Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting), and there are lots of special espressos, like the aptly named "Jumpstart," a double espresso with coffee for $2, and the mind-altering "Quadra," a fix of coffee with not one but two double shots of espresso for $3. Mon.-Fri. 6am-5pm (Sat.-Sun. 7am-2pm).

Cup of Italy 1955 41st Ave., Capitola (479-9228).
Coffee beans roasted and blended in Italy fuel the house specialty espressos at this very attractive, very non-mall coffeehouse located very, very close to the Capitola Mall. Gorgeous pastries, biscottis and frothy cappuccinos served by attractive and friendly staff will get you going. Sit indoors in the designer setting or take it outside. Mon.-Fri. 6am-10pm (Sat. from 7am, Sun. 7:30am-9:30pm).

Starbucks 1955 41st Ave., Capitola (464-8091).
The original Starbucks in the county (beating its downtown counterpart by a year), this saintly place has been throwing open the doors to latte-starved addicts at 5:30 in the morning. And the folks behind the counters keep it pouring throughout the day for shoppers who need a jump-start before strafing through Mervyn's or Ross Dress for Less. Mon.-Thu. 5:30am-10pm (Fri.-Sat. till 10:30pm, Sun. 6am-9:30pm).

Mr. Toot's 221 The Esplanade, Capitola (475-3679).
Just possibly the longest-lived establishment of its kind in the county, Mr. Toot's is the real McCoy. With one foot still in the hippie heyday, the other somewhere near the Parisian Left Bank, this coffeehouse offers cozy, funky atmosphere overlooking Capitola's main beach. Lattes come in huge goblets, the kind that take an hour or the first chapter of Introduction to Plant Physiology to finish. The dessert selection is awesome, helping to keep that blood sugar raised and the brain functional. Okay, so it is pretty packed with tables, chairs, church pews, kitchen sinks and other funky furniture. It's still got tons of scholarly potential. Daily 7:30am-midnight.

The Ugly Mug 4640 Soquel Dr., Soquel (477-1341).
It's been through a few different cafes, this corner building on Soquel Drive and Porter that's designed like a cruise ship. The latest incarnation serves the nearby Soquel High students in--what else?--ugly mugs that customers have gleefully donated, grateful to have finally found a home for Aunt Maude's birthday gift. There's plenty to appreciate here: Steaming lattes, pies, cakes and sandwiches--all the eats sure to cover the four main food groups of growing youth. Daily 6:30am-11pm.


Bookworks Espresso Cafe 36 Rancho Del Mar Shopping Center, Aptos (688-4554).
Tucked away in the Bookworks bookstore is this unassuming espresso and bagel outlet with four small tables mingling about a compact coffee counter. The best thing about this place is that books from the bookstore are allowed in the eatery--ahh, bliss, coffee and books co-habitating. Mon.-Sat. 9am-8:30pm and Sun. 10am-4:30pm.

Espresso Rio 113 The Esplanade, Rio Del Mar (685-9550).
Recently opened to provide that all-important caffeine fix to its neighbors and the big beach crowd, ER serves up sandwiches, pastries and other munchies to accompany its house favorite, the "Rio Freeze." Daily 6:30am-9pm.

Essentials Deli 2000 McGregor Dr., Aptos (688-2962).
A new little joint not far from New Brighton Beach, this deli's outdoor patio has a scenic view of the oak groves. Steaming coffee, fresh munchies and outrageous sandwiches are there to preface a brisk walk by the surf. Mon.-Sat. 7am-7pm and Sun. 9am-4pm.

The Farm Bakery & Cafe 6790 Soquel Dr., Aptos (684-0266).
A huge sunny space in this cozy cafe/coffeehouse is devoted to wooden chairs and tables to tempt studious patrons in need of a well-lighted space to study, chat, enjoy some delectable sandwiches and gorgeous pastries while fueling up on caffeine. The ambiance is so low-key and friendly that this place has become an instant study hall annex for Cabrillo students, who have only to walk across the street to find this cafe heaven. Daily 7am-7:30pm (Sun. till 6pm).

Pacific Coffee Roasting Company 7554 Soquel Drive, Aptos (685-2520).
A clean and airy yupscale interior--complete with gleaming bean roaster and stunning photography exhibits--that offers safe harbor for those who want to spend a few hours with their books or papers or rehearsing their oral exams with friends. Java lovers can choose to sip expert cappuccinos at marble bistro-style tables indoors or on the sunlit patio out front. Tasteful classical music makes the perfect studious background, and a plethora of baked goodies--including bagels with homemade cream cheese spreads--help feed those little gray cells. Daily 6am-8pm (Sat. till 7pm, Sun. 7am-6pm).

Surf City Coffee Company 9105 Soquel Drive, Aptos (684-2750).
This beach-themed, fully functional coffee shop is fast becoming a local favorite. With genuine affection for its caffeine-craving customers, Surf City brews up some hot perks, from a frequent-buyer coffee club to the increasingly rare free first refill. The place also offers holiday specials like an autumn chai served with hot chocolate, pumpkin spice, whipped cream and cinnamon ($2.75).
Mon.-Sat. 6:30am-9pm and Sun. 7am-7pm.

Trout Gulch Coffee & Tea 8043 Soquel Drive, Aptos (685-1236).
A new, well-lighted sanctuary for coffee lovers and espresso fiends, the Gulch is filled with witty, trout-themed artwork. Right in the heart of tiny Aptos Village, the commuter-friendly place opens very, very early. Daily 5:30am-6pm.

Scotts Valley

Abouché 226D Mount Hermon Road, Scotts Valley (438-2224).
Holding down the corner of King's Village Shopping Center, Abouché offers spacious seating indoors and out, steaming espressos and a vast array of sweets. A great place to buzz up before hitting the cinema next door. Mon.-Thu. 6:30am-8pm (Fri. till 10pm, Sat. 8am-10pm, Sun. 9am-1pm).

Rosie's Espresso Bar Cafe Scotts Valley Junction, Scotts Valley (438-1735).
Charming little upscale shop where Scotts Valleyites meet and greet. Besides espresso drinks, grab some gourmet chocolates or a bite of lunch. On sunny days--as most are here--enjoy the patio seating. Mon.-Fri. 6am-6pm (Sat. from 8pm).

[ Metro Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

From the Sept. 24-Oct. 2, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate