Charleston’s Coffee Culture

“I love going to coffee shops and just sitting and listening.” ~ Julie Roberts

Locally Owned Coffee Shops

One of the first things I research when I travel to a new city are the local coffee shops. Obviously I love my coffee and while I might judge a place if they don’t have a Starbucks, the real judgement, is if they don’t have independently owned coffee shops and cafes.

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History has long shown how pivotal coffee shops or cafes have played in the honing of artists, philosophical ideas, writing, even political revolution. They are a gathering for the creative types to not just get caffeinated, but to think and create.

While I don’t deny my love for Starbucks, I much prefer to shop and frequent independent cafes. It not only helps support small businesses and the local commerce, but it also gives me the vibes of a city.

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Charleston Coffee Culture

You can tell a LOT about a city from their coffee shops.

I had heard that Charleston was a hub for artists, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that they were also a mecca for coffee. I admit, even I was impressed with how much Charlestonians LOVE their coffee. They had coffee shops upon coffee shops, from the trendy, to the hipster, to the bohemian, if it was the coffee Olympics, they would have won the gold.

It was coffee all day, every day, and in my sleep!

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City Lights Coffee

A shop that kept coming up in my Google and Yelp searches, was City Lights Coffee. When I arrived at my hotel, one of the first things I asked, since I had been up long before it should be legal, was where the best (and closest) coffee shop was located. The clerk right away mentioned City Lights Coffee.

As luck would have it, it was only two blocks away and right between, the street the hotel was on, and King Street, the shopping mecca of Charleston.

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It was a sign that this would become my local coffee home while I was there.

It looked like a hole in the wall, but a popular one at that! The shop was tiny, and mostly taken up by a large counter that had seating reminiscent of an old school diner, with a few tables against the wall which also displayed local artwork. It had a large coffee menu, as well as extensive baked goods which included vegan and gluten free options.

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It was not only a happening place every time I went in, but the baristas and owner were always full of that Southern hospitality you hear so much about. The owner remembered not just me, but also my drink order after my first visit.

I am not one for ice coffee, unless it is cold brew, but their iced lattes were delicious. They weren’t watered down, or to milky, but strong and sweet. It was a shop, that if I lived in Charleston I could see myself going to write and meet friends every day.

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Café Framboise

Another coffee shop, which was more of a cafe, that I could see myself frequenting if I lived there, was Café Framboise. The brightly decorated cafe is also located just off of King Street and had an assortment of delicious coffees, teas and even wine in the afternoon. They also served delicious salads, crepes, and pastries.

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I ended up hanging out there for a couple hours to charge my phone, regroup, and do some reading. It helped that the food was not only delicious, but so was the coffee!

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The Lost Dog

Charleston and the surrounding towns and islands offer a wide range of breakfast and brunch places. One such place was Sullivan’s Island. While it was more restaurant then cafe, not only was their brunch delicious, but so was the coffee.

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I had ordered a cappuccino and oh my lanta was it rich foamy goodness. The foam reminded me of a frothed meringue. In all my coffee drinking years, I had never seen foam this frothy or stiff. It was like drinking a cloud, but with caffeine. I was one happy caffeinated woman!

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The Obstinate Daughter 

I don’t typically order coffee in restaurants, even if they do offer it, I usually find it watered down, and not as worthy as a true coffee shop. With long (amazing) jam packed days, I needed a pick me-up and I was pleasantly surprised by the Obstinate Daughter.

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I honestly shouldn’t have been, because not only had the restaurant gotten amazing reviews, but by this point, I had long since discovered that Charleston really could do no wrong in the coffee department. Heck, even their Starbucks were filled with that charming Charleston architecture.

I had ordered a cafe au lait and it was strong, rich, and so yummy. It was also served in a le creuset cup and saucer, which as a former chef, I am obsessed with their dishes and they won major brownie points!

I could not have been more impressed, nor kept as highly caffeinated as I was, whilst in Charleston. It really was and is a coffee lovers happy place.

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What is your favorite coffee shop in Charleston? Do you live in a city that has that coffee culture?