15 Ways to Enjoy the Best of Charlotte Coffee
On every side of the city are a vast variety of coffee shops. Bakeries with top notch coffee abound, bookstores are serving up home-roasted beans and long-standing establishments have been holding down the fort for decades.
by Liz Logan
No Filter Coffee Fest
This article is brought to you in partnership with No Filter Coffee Fest.
Festivals and markets like Festival in the Park, Vintage Charlotte, Front Porch Sundays and more bring on local coffee purveyors and the annual No Filter Coffee Fest is a devoted solely to bringing the best of Charlotte coffee to one spot. No matter your go-to – latte, batch brew or tea – these shops are worth a go.
1. What’s better than coffee and books? Shops like Archive CLT and Julia’s Café & Books answer that easily – nothing. Grab a used book and sip inside Julia’s, the coffee shop and bookstore of Habitat for Humanity. Browse shelves of curated Black ephemera at Beatties Ford Road’s Archive CLT and sip on the Foxy Brown Latte created by a Johnson & Wales graduate and made with beans from her company By Any Beans Necessary.
2. Charlotte is brimming with bakeries from doughnuts to French pastries, with shops serving coffee to accompany your croissant. Amelie’s French Bakery, Chez Marie Café Pâstisserie and Tous Les Jours serve an array of eclairs and macarons, with full espresso bars to meet any and all coffee pairing needs. Sunflour Baking Company’s bakery case is full of cupcakes and cookies, with plenty of vegan options sprinkled in, and a coffee menu featuring French press and exclusive blends. The walk-up window of Reigning Donuts and the storefronts of Pepperbox Doughnuts serve house-made doughnuts with batch brew to round out the nostalgic coffee-doughnut duo.
3. Around the city, historic mills are being transformed into dining and drinking destinations, with coffee almost always being a part of the equation. At Optimist Hall, Undercurrent Coffee serves up locally roasted Night Swim coffee, as does sister company, Not Just Coffee (with one location found in the bright and airy breezeway of Atherton Mill). Hex Coffee roasts their own beans and serves beverages from their shop at Camp North End, where weekends bring about bakery pop-ups.
4. When traversing the city via LYNX Light Rail, coffee is only a short walk away from most stops. Starting from the south is Sumaq Coffee, a six-minute walk from the Archdale station. Heading on the Light Rail towards University, Madison Perk Coffee Bar is a two-minute walk from the South Boulevard & Seneca Place station. In Uptown, Not Just Coffee’s flagship location inside The Market at 7th Street is directly adjacent to the Seventh Street station. At the UNC Charlotte Main station, Thoughtful Cup, the mural-clad on-campus shop serves students, faculty and the community.
5. Breweries around the city are serving more than beer from the taprooms that’ve put Charlotte permanently on the craft beer map. Award-winning Salud Beer Shop’s upstairs cerveceria doubles as a coffee shop by day and brewery by, well, midday. South End’s Suffolk Punch Brewing, Resident Culture and Wooden Robot Brewery all feature coffee bars for those looking for a brewery experience without the beer.
6. Philanthropic coffee endeavors bring good deeds coffee-side. Bitty & Beau’s employees individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as does Backdrop Coffee (complete with a fully-sensory experience for those on the autism spectrum) for great coffee that’s doing good in the community. The coffee sold at Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee is committed to providing the Rwandan farmers from whom the beans are sourced with a variety of basic needs, like healthcare, clean water and education. Community Matters Café offers graduates of their parent organization, Charlotte Rescue Mission’s, 120-day recovery program a six-month life skills program through employment at this coffee shop and café to aid in recovery and relationship building.
7. The Charlotte coffee scene would not be what it is today without the shops who’ve paved the way for and played a part in the third-wave coffee movement. Davidson’s Summit Coffee opened the doors of their first storefront in 1998 and have since expanded to multiple markets, with many found in the Queen City. In 2006, NoDa’s Smelly Cat Coffee House & Roastery opened their quirky spot and has since become a linchpin in the Charlotte coffee world. Central Coffee opened their Plaza Midwood shop in 2009 and has remained a community staple with faithful followers. With their 2011 opening in the former Area 15 business incubator, Not Just Coffee brought pour overs to the city from a small storefront with a staff of two before becoming a coffee monolith spread in many iterations in many of Charlotte’s neighborhoods.
8. Making a name for themselves on carts around the city are Evoke Coffee and Wildroots Coffee Collective, both now with brick-and-mortar locations. From a dream of brewing great coffee and creating community, these two shops serve signature drinks from coffee bars born of smaller operations gaining enough of a following to build their own shops for sitting and sipping.
9. South End’s Stable Hand features shelves of natural and orange wine as you walk through the doors towards the coffee bar serving sister company Hex Coffee’s beans. Others, like The Hobbyist and Vibe Café and Wine Bar, offer coffee barside in their wine shops. Rhino Market and Lincoln’s Haberdashery serve sandwiches, carry curated wine selections and have become hotbeds for early morning coffee sipping. Rosie’s Coffee & Wine Garden is located in McGill Rose Garden, a two-acre urban garden, where guests can sip in the shop or amongst the flowers, while The Artisan’s Palate – a restaurant, wine shop, art gallery and hub for Drag brunches – offers a late-morning option of locally-roasted coffee.
10. While locally roasted coffee like Pure Intentions and Magnolia Coffee Company are served in shops and beyond, some local roasters have shops of their own. Enderly Coffee got their start selling beans to local businesses before opening their shop on Tuckaseegee Road. Queen City Grounds serves their own Nightflyer Roastworks (among other local beans) in a few shops around Uptown. Night Swim, the sister company to the Not Just Coffee/Undercurrent Coffee partnership, has a handful of shops, including their LoSo café and roastery.
11. For the lovers of felines, three area shops offer coffee and cats – Mac Tabby Cat Café (with shops in NoDa and Concord), Daily Mews Cat Café and downtown Gastonia’s Cool Beans Cat Café. Sessions to meet and play with cats while drinking delicious coffee can be made online, with the option to adopt for those looking for a new furry friend.
12. Coffee and communities go hand-in-hand and neighborhood coffee shops become meeting places for catching up, holding a meeting or simply running in to some familiar faces. Uptown’s Coco and the Director has tiered stadium-style seating in their cozy shop, while Plaza Midwood’s Giddy Goat Coffee Roasters has two floors of potential meetup space with a welcoming patio to sit streetside and people watch. Crown Station Coffee House & Pub was opened by a few old friends with differing interests and a shared passion for bringing people together over a cup of coffee. Inside Belk at SouthPark Mall is Dilworth Coffee and in Park Road Shopping Center’s Blackhawk Hardware is Dunx, both of which making it easy to stroll and shop with quality coffee in-hand.
13. While plenty of drive-thru Starbucks line highway exists, Charlotte’s CupLux Coffee Drive-Thru elevated the experience in 2017 when they began serving craft coffee to commuters and those passing through to their Freedom Drive location before expanding to serve coffee to retailers across the city. In LoSo (with their flagship location in nearby Indian Land, South Carolina) Burr & Berry serves specialty coffee at their drive-thru and walk-up windows making it easy for travelers of any kind to grab a drink.
14. Shops dot Charlotte’s surrounding cities’ downtowns creating warm and inviting spaces for coffee lovers. Brakeman’s Coffee & Supply in Matthews is an excellent addition to their expanding-yet-historic downtown. Mugshots Coffee and Tea, located in Belmont Specialty Foods in the eponymous downtown just across the Catawba River, serves from a walkup counter with neighboring Honeycomb Café serving coffee, lunch and more, while Catawba Coffee in nearby Mount Holly is a pillar of the growing downtown cityscape. Lowell’s Fryeday Coffee Roasters serves their own beans and is one of the area’s only stops for kronuts. Concord’s The Percantile and Creamery serves coffee and ice cream in their 1920s-inspired shop with Rock Hill’s Knowledge Perk Coffee Company offering two locations featuring house-roasted beans just across the South Carolina border.
15. If you find yourself wandering around the city, you may find yourself stumbling upon craft coffee pop-ups like Detour Coffee Bar which can be found around town daily. Donut I Love You serves doughnuts and Black Powder Coffee at events and businesses, as do Coordinates Coffee, Third Eye Coffee, Drip Joint and Mud + McQueen, while The Pour Farmer serves both around the area and faithfully on Saturdays at the Waxhaw Farmers Market.