By Sandy Lang
August 19, 2014
Charleston’s Coolest Coffee Shops
Credit: Kim Graham

Come 7 a.m., the air in Charleston starts to smell of coffee. In shops, hotels, and restaurants from the Market to the East Side to the marinas, coffee beans roasted right here in town or elsewhere in the South are ground, brewed, and poured for customers. Maybe it’s because the city has long been a home to coffee importers and custom roasters, but Charleston residents can’t get enough of the caffeine-filled drink. On parts of this port city’s peninsula, there’s a coffee shop at least every block or two, and the java flows late into the afternoon as colleagues and friends meet for hot, cold, and blended pick-me-up drinks. That’s when some of Charleston’s indie coffee houses shift to something that Starbucks doesn’t do (well, yet, anyway), and start serving craft beers along with their coffee brews. From quaint cafes to budget-friendly breakfasts, to bustling artisanal beer and coffee joints, here are five of Charleston’s coolest independent coffee shops.

Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer

This long-time Vanderhorst Street coffee and sandwich shop has evolved into a busy stop for college students, writers, and the creative crowd who meet for coffee or beer and to listen to live music on the patio. Like the twisting horns of a kudu? Baristas here are known for making swirled designs in the latte pours.

Gaulart & Maliclet (Fast & French)

Open since 1984 on Broad Street, this is not a coffee shop per se, but it’s a well-known fact that G&M helped bring French press coffee to Charleston. Consistency is key here, and the standard breakfast of coffee, toast, butter and jam is still on the menu for a budget-friendly $2.85.

Black Tap Coffee

Black Tap is without a doubt, Charleston’s favorite minimal coffee house. The coffee at this light-filled Beaufain Street shop is hand-poured individually for each customer. Iced coffees are a specialty there, and the owners like to mix up the menu. For example, the shop’s cold-brewed coffee is the base for a “black Julep” mocktail in horse race season.

Bakehouse Bakery Cafe

East Bay Street sees the brunt of the tourist crowds, and many visitors are happy to stumble upon this independent bakery and coffeehouse. Bakehouse offers free Wi-Fi and lots of table space for laptops. They can also bake your wedding cake! And they’ve recently added a menu of craft beer choices for the afternoon crowd.

The Park Cafe

Coffee, toast and eggs: now that’s breakfast. Creative java drinks like the Siddhartha with caramel and almond, and the city’s best chai latte are drawing in the neighbors to this Charleston newcomer near Hampton Park. In addition to coffee, menu highlights include pastries, creamed kale on toast, and shirred farm eggs with crab.