The 8 best coffee shops in Pasadena
Old Pasadena has its humble share of boutique cafés, but newcomer Copa Vida guns for the entire gamut of coffee and tea experiences: A $2-a-cup honor bar during morning rush hour, traditional counter service, an upscale slow bar experience and live music on weekend nights. The front section of the clean, bright space views the enchanting Castle Green, while the side room offers a more conversational-yet-intimate environment. Behind the counter, Frank La and Sam Hong (Café Dulcé Pop-Up) manage a fleet of sleek contraptions that offer tastes to match their looks, particularly with a lever pull of the refreshing teas on tap. Daytime study hermits and Wi-Fi gluttons will find the lunch menu from chef Erick Lee (Stark Bar), particularly the messily delicious croque madame and smoked turkey melt, even more reason to linger.
A few industrial blocks south of Old Pasadena’s niche and luxe-leaning coffee bars, the in-house roasters at Jones are holding down a dedication to well-sourced, straightforward coffee. In fact, the warehouse space feels as much like an old school coffee shop (i.e. no Wi-Fi) as it does a living museum to all-things-beans with industrial-sized grinders and roasters scattered throughout. The current location is only a few years old, but its decor reflects the company’s mid-’90s origins with an eclectically shaggy mix of comfy couches and mismatched chairs. With only a few reserved spaces, parking can be tough enough to merit a valet in the morning and afternoon, so consider taking advantage of the Fillmore stop on the Gold Line during peak sipping hours.
Venture a mere mile north of the freeway and Pasadena becomes a conifer-lined foothill community with a small town feel—much to the advantage of the area’s latest coffee destination, Lavender & Honey. Its friendly charm and namesake ingredients have found a place throughout the menu, from the espresso selection—the semi-sweet honeybee latte—to a handful of honey-drizzled toasts—the delicious peanut butter honey banana. Though morning crowds can clog the entrance and indoor seating, the space stays amiable and easygoing (and with free Wi-Fi, a comfortable workspace). We suggest searching for a seat outside, whether at a shaded sidewalk table or on the side patio; a drink and a slice of toast among old brick buildings and the stately San Gabriel Mountains is one of those moments that reminds us why living here can be so wonderful.
Carrying with it a funky Latin feel, this café has injected a little tang into Pasadena. The second floor houses a gallery, while the first floor is full of goods imported from Latin America; Mexican holidays are even celebrated here. Check out the horchata, and the special latte made with Mexican chocolate.
“Hey, welcome home.” So goes the standard greeting at this bright, friendly Old Pasadena coffee bar. As the name implies, the shop’s specialty is its in-house, 20-hour-long tea and coffee cold brews; the result is a menu of sweeter, smoother blends with subtle flavor enhancements that should satisfy even the most infrequent coffee drinkers. Do yourself a favor and try one of the milk teas with the most perfectly chewy, tasty boba. It’s a trendy spot, for sure—wooden bar tops, white tiles and Edison bulbs—but the sun-drenched space feels comfortable enough to work (free Wi-Fi) and communal enough to chat away the afternoon.
This unfussy coffee shop is popular with the Pasadena City College crowd; its hodgepodge of comfy couches and a spacious brick interior are conducive to getting work done. But it also caters to serious coffee fans with a global selection of beans by the pound (which happen to come with a free cup of coffee).
This pint-sized outpost of the Highland Park cafe sits up the Arroyo, just across the Altadena border. The blue-toned shop is simply adorable, with a living room-like setup inside and a couple of tables and chairs outside. More importantly, the menu lives up to the looks, with Rockenwagner pastries and bagels, Stumptown coffee and their signature creamy horchata con espresso.
The third and largest installation in Los Angeles, Intelligentsia's Pasadena location serves up not only delicious coffees and teas, but also craft beers and wines from a small, well-curated menu. With more space, light and parking (and beer) than its East and Westside cousins, the Pasadena location just may become the most popular. Of course, "popular" doesn't always mean "best"—and you will indeed find better within a few blocks—so consider this trendy, somewhat tired spot a handsome standby.