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Fuel for Thought

tea drinking girl
Robert Scheer

Victorian Appeal: Berkeley graduate Patricia Camprubi settles into Santa Cruz with tea and a good book at the ever-hip Cafe Pergolesi on Cedar Street.

Featuring caffeine and attitude for scholars, local coffeehouses are the new study halls

By Marlow de Ville

WE ALL KNOW THAT for that last bracing hit of the night, or a much-needed eye-opener the morning after, coffeehouses are where it's happening. They open early, they close late. But some coffeehouses are generous enough, spacious enough and laid-back enough to also provide sanctuary--or at least a place to hang--when you've got studying to do. Below are our favorite places to spread out books and paperwork, laptop and notes, when you need to catch a few hours of quality study time.

UCSC Campus

Stevenson Coffee House 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 Coffee House is the acknowledged pace-setter. 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 too use this place as an academic fort. Great attitude and killer location. 7:30am-5pm, Mon.- Fri., 8pm-11:30pm nightly.

the coffee people
Robert Scheer

Westside Santa Cruz

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. Open 6am-9pm daily, Sat & Sun 'til 7pm.

Downtown Santa Cruz

Cafe 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 area 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. Open 8am-midnight daily.

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 lattés 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. Open 7am-midnight daily.

Jahva House 120 Union St., SC (459-9876). A spacious, plant-filled sanctuary that is paradigmatically Santa Cruz. For many devotées, 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 lattés pack a multi-layered jolt. Regulars practically set up camp and the student-sensitive management is supportive. Open 6am-midnight daily, Sat. & Sun open at 7am, Sun. 'til 8pm.

Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company Palomar Arcade, 1330 Pacific Ave., SC (459-0100). Bustling with traffic all day long, the Roasting Company 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, the Roasting Company 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. Open 6:30am-11pm daily, Fri & Sat till midnight.

Robert Scheer

Grounds Control: Cabrillo College student Markus Kemper digests his coffee and comp. sci at the popular Java Junction on SC's Eastside.

Eastside Santa Cruz

Chill Out 2-1505 East Cliff Drive, SC (477-0543). Filled with exuberant attitude by its hip, young staff, this East Cliff beach community mecca sprawls with fat couches, lots of tables and chairs--in other words, lots of space to spread out with books and paperwork. 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. Open daily 6am- 3:30pm.

Java Junction 519 Seabright Ave., SC (423-5282). The ambiance is a mix of beach/political/student at this industrialesque site tucked right 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. Open 6:30am -11pm daily.


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. Lattés 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 and funky furniture. It's still got tons of scholarly potential. Open 7:30am-midnight daily.

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. Steaming lattes, pies, cakes and sandwiches--sure to cover the four main food groups of growing youth. Open 6:30am-11pm daily.


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 and 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 with Cabrillo students, who have only to walk across the street to find this cafe heaven. Open 7am-7:30pm daily, till 6pm on Sun.

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 fuel those little gray cells. Open 6am-8pm daily, Sat till 7pm, Sun 7am-6pm.

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From the September 26-October 2, 1996 issue of Metro Santa

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Copyright © 1996 Metro Publishing, Inc.

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