Caffeine has become such a necessity in life, especially in the always working, fast-paced tech world that is Silicon Valley. The South Bay is littered with places which aren’t your typical chains. There’s no Starbucks or even Phil’s on this list; these are the local, small businesses you can trust to brew you a great cup of coffee.
Sue’s Gallery Cafe | Courtesy of Allen Mark Aranas
Sue’s Gallery Cafe stands out for being equal parts coffee shop and homemade ceramics gallery. Artist Sue R. Kang’s ceramic work, available for purchase, both covers the walls and is also used for for in-house coffee and tea orders. Priding themselves with a minimalist aesthetic, the shop is filled with charm and warmth and the tall windows bring so much life into the room.
In the always working, fast paced lifestyle the Silicon Valley has adapted to, there needs to be places to slow down and relax, and Bitter+Sweet brings exactly that. The interior feels more like a daytime bar than a coffee shop, but it’s that ambiance that gives the shop a modern charm. Other than coffee and espresso, Bitter+Sweet also offers ice cream, cakes, teas (with timers for perfect steeping), and even wine, leaving any customer satisfied.
Hidden within a Korean shopping plaza on El Camino Real, the aptly named Big Mug Coffee’s double doors open to show a shop much larger than expected. The room is filled with plenty of table space, long and short alike, offering enough real estate to work alone, be with friends, or even hold off-site meetings. The menu itself is pricier for the size of the drinks, but the coffee is well worth an order. Plus, they constantly have cold drip coffee brewing in different roasts, perfect for warmer South Bay days.
There’s often beauty in simplicity, and Bellano offers exactly that. It is a business built by coffee lovers, and it shows through their product: perfectly brewed coffee, freshly baked pastries each day, and even house-made sauce, syrup, and almond milk ingredients. They have also had the honor to expand, adding a garage bar in Downtown San Jose, as well as a fresh location in Willow Glen. It is with their simplicity that they have grown and succeeded, making Bellano a mainstay in the South Bay landscape.
For a full coffee experience, Barefoot Coffee is the way to go. The menu at their Campbell location only boasts a modest espresso and coffee selection, but they still satisfy refined palates, offering less obvious drinks like Cubanos and Caffe Borgias. And if you ever want to learn a thing or two about the process, their Santa Clara roastery has a training lab and roll-up bar that offers weekly Saturday classes. They are definitely worth a visit at either location: they know how to brew a mighty fine espresso.
Japantown is definitely one of San Jose’s more charming places, and Roy’s Station Coffee & Teas sits right at its heart. Formerly a gas station, Roy’s is a coffee shop that offers freshly brewed Verve Coffee, a wide variety of tea options, and an ample amount of outdoor seating. It definitely makes for a relaxing stop. Roy’s is the spot to be if you’re lucky enough to be in the area on a beautifully warm Bay Area day.
Pretty much everything about Chromatic Coffee screams hipster, but that only means they really make the time and effort for their customers to consume their coffee in the best way possible. Shots of espresso are paired with a palate cleansing seltzer water. Shelves filled with 12-ounce bags of coffee beans also list preferred brewing techniques dependent on the roast and region. It all comes down to the fact that the people in this business know coffee and want to express that to each customer, making it more than a worthwhile visit for a caffeine fix.
Sitting at the southern end of the South Bay, Great Bear Coffee offers a taste of classic, Bohemian style coffee on the way down Highway 17. They establish a small town feeling that fits perfectly with Los Gatos, matching their brunch variety of baked goods, small meals, and drinks. Their Chocolate Coffee Cream is their go-to drink for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Crema Coffee Roasting Co. | Courtesy of Allen Mark Aranas
Matching a great selection of espresso drinks, iced fruit teas, and gelato with welcoming and friendly service, Crema often feels more like home than a coffee shop. They have plenty of outdoor and indoor seating with plenty of power outlets. This makes for a perfect environment to either get some work done in a relaxing setting or grab a quick treat before a Sharks game (with the SAP Center only a 7-minute walk away). Though it tends to get packed at peak hours, Crema is most certainly a coffee shop worth visiting.
Inspired by an old Italian lifestyle, Caffe Frascati stands out within the usual San Jose hullabaloo. They pair a very classic interior and ambiance with traditional espresso drinks, paninis, and even wine to transport customers away from it all for a couple hours. Weekly open mic and comedy nights also contribute to a truly lively, vintage, and typical coffee shop feel, all just within a mile from the typical nightlife that San Jose has to offer.