Keeping pace with Santa Barbara's active lifestyle requires all kinds of hydration.
Santa Barbara is an idyllic coastal city that resides just 90 miles north of Los Angeles, near one of the world’s great wine, vegetable and fruit growing regions. The city has roots with Native Americans called the Chumash. Spanish Missionaries arrived in the 1780s, Mexicans grabbed the reins in 1826, and 20 years later, Colonel John Fremont claimed the city for the United States. Since then, the culinary landscape has repeatedly grown and shifted. I can confidently say there’s never been a better time to drink (or eat) in the city. Learn about 13 Santa Barbara drinks worth seeking at the moment.
Updates since February 9, 2019:
Additions: Cajé Coffee Roasters (Downtown State Street), Cajé Coffee Roasters (Haley Street), Considered Coffee Bus, Dawn, Dean: A Coffee Shop, Dune Coffee Roasters, United States Of Espresso
Subtractions: The French Press (Rebranded as Dune Coffee Roasters) Les Marchands (Closed), Ty Lounge (Closed), Whistle Club (No Longer Serves Coffee)
Establishments appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
Cajé Coffee Roasters (Downtown State Street)
Ryan Patronyk founded Cajé Coffee Roasters in Isla Vista near UCSB. Now Cajé has four Santa Barbara locations, including a plant-lined downtown outpost at Paseo Nuevo. Their signature drinks have become a big draw. Salted Pecan Latte is specific to State Street and incorporates bourbon pecan syrup, sea salt, and spectacular garnishes: star anise and edible gold.
MUST ORDER: Salted Pecan Latte
Cajé Coffee Roasters (Haley Street)
When Ryan Patronyk expanded Cajé from Isla Vista, he teamed with bartender Sean Sepulveda and barista Troy Yamasaki and cranked up the creativity. Jupiter’s Forest is a showstopping specialty latte with cold brew x juniper berry & sage syrup, grapefruit zest and deluxe garnishes: an orchid, sage, dehydrated grapefruit and gold. At night, the space becomes Lab Social cocktail bar.
MUST ORDER: Burnout, Jupiter’s Forest
Considered Coffee Bus
Pia Beck pops up around the city in her 1965 Volkswagen Microbus, which houses a generator powered La Marzocco espresso machine. Her special Iced Dirty Horchata boosted cinnamon vanilla syrup sweetened rice milk with espresso and dusted cinnamon.
MUST ORDER: Iced Dirty Horchata
Dart Coffee Co.
Erika Carter Dart and husband David are aiming for caffeinated bull’s-eyes in the Funk Zone space they share with Tamar’s “Central Coast shawarma.” The couple roasts fair-trade beans using a Diedrich roaster and brews satisfying basics and some standout specialty beverages. Corena Cortado, named for Luis Corena from First Village Coffee in Ossining, New York, is basically a liquid churro seasoned with cinnamon and brown sugar syrup. Beach Brew is even better, treating cold brew to milk, sugar, and salt.
MUST ORDER: Beach Brew, Corena Cortado
“Foundation” writer Isaac Asimov would no doubt appreciate downtown’s stylish Drift Hotel, which opened in 2023 and houses both Dawn (coffee bar) and Dusk (cocktail bar). I enjoyed two seasonal specials. Bonfire Cappuccino balanced honey with Angostura bitters and cherry smoke. Something Different seasoned sweet matcha with ginger, lemon, and pink peppercorn.
MUST ORDER: Bonfire Cappuccino, Something Different
Dean: A Coffee Shop
Jennifer Shively named Dean for her Folgers guzzling grandpa. At the stylish Goleta coffee bar she opened across from Santa Barbara Airport in 2020, Victrola coffee fuels beverages like iced brown sugar lattes seasoned with cinnamon and Aleppo pepper.
MUST ORDER: Iced Brown Sugar Latte
Dune Coffee Roasters
Julia Mayer and partner Todd Stewart founded The French Press in 2009 and initially brewed Verve beans. The couple has remained a driving force in Santa Barbara’s specialty coffee scene. They achieved vertical integration by launching Castle Coffee Roasters. In 2016, they rebranded the roastery as Dune Coffee Roasters and now have four locations in the area that maintain a high standard.
MUST ORDER: Iced Coffee, Mocha, Matcha Lemonade
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