Best Coffee Study Spots in Santa Barbara

As COVID-19's quarantine policies have caused me to be cooped up in my parents household, I can't help but reminisce on some of my favorite memories from living in Santa Barbara. As weird as it may sound, SB's artisanal, independent coffee shops are something I truly miss, especially when I'm only able to work at my childhood bedroom desk for the next couple months. I thought I'd indulge in my fond cafe memories and share my experiences from these coffee shop treasures over the past four years.

 

Caje (Isla Vista)

Of course, I had to begin with the tried and true UCSB favorite, Caje. With the original location in Isla Vista and the new downtown location off of Haley St., Caje's quality beverages, fresh acai bowls, and popular bagel sandwiches draw in hundreds of patrons daily. Here's some highlights of why Caje stays winning:

 

PROS:

  • Proximity! It's just a simple stroll (for most) to grab some quality coffee and food.
  • Best matcha lattes, hands down. Caje makes their own cinnamon almond milk, and when mixed with matcha...perfection.
  • Quality coffee beans! A few months back, Caje began roasting their own coffee bean mixes in the IV cafe location.
  • Acai bowl heaven. Probably one of the most well-known attributes of this cafe is their one-of-a-kind smoothie bowls. They're always changing the menu and adding on new bowl mixtures.
  • Most of the employees are from UCSB, so odds of you running into your friends and classmates are high.
  • I guess this could be a good or bad thing, but I'm including it on the "pros" list.
  • SB sunshine! The majority of seating is outdoors, so if you enjoy Vitamin D, this is the place to be.

 

CONS:

  • Limited seating. Because of its popularity, the small cafe tends to get packed - fast. I reccomend either going earlier in the morning or in the late afternoon to avoid the crowds.
  • No public bathroom. Customers tends to use Embarcadero Hall's bathroom right across the street.
  • Long line, ugh. Again, Caje is super popular, so schedule your coffee trip accordingly so you won't be late to the rest of your day!

 

Old Town Coffee

A short five-minute drive off of campus, Old Town Coffee in Goleta is a hidden jewel for students in search of awesome study spots. Here's why:

 

PROS:

  • BEST seating options. It is virtually impossible to come to Old Town Coffee and not find a comfortable seat. They have tons of various seating options indoors (all close to outlets) in addition to patio seating in the back. You can find umbrellas, group seating, and even a ping-pong table out back for some study break competition.
  • Burritos! Yes, Old Town pairs their coffee with authentic burritos to order - YUM. They also have the traditional coffee shop munchies like banana bread, donuts, and cookies.
  • Fast service. I know a lot of places claim to have fast service and what not, but this is a quality that really strikes me when I think of Old Town Coffee. The baristas are always super friendly and speedy.

 

CONS:

  • They sometimes play their house music loud, so bring a good pair of noise cancelling headphones if you need a quieter atmosphere to work in.
  • Parking. There is no designated parking lot, so you most likely have to park a block away and walk to the cafe.

 

Handlebar Coffee Roasters

One of the most aesthetic cafes around, Handlebar Coffee Roasters off of De La Vina is sure a crowd pleaser. If you're down to take a drive over the weekend, stop off at this coffee shop, have a study session, and maybe snap a few fun pics for Instagram.

 

PROS:

  • Best coffee, no question. Handlebar is one of the most commonly used coffee bean sources in the SB area, and for good reason. Roasting in-house two to three times a week, Handlebar sources their beans from parts of Africa and Central and South America, and delivers it to numerous coffee shops and restaurants all around the Santa Barbara region. If you want quality coffee, this is THE place.
  • Pastries and food GALORE! Handlebar makes all of their brunch goodies from scratch in-house - none of that pre-packaged stuff around here. Seriously, they're pastries are probably one of the main reasons I come here.
  • They have their own parking lot, so finding a spot to park the car shouldn't be too diffcult. I always try to avoid parallel parkign as much as I can, so whenever a place has its own lot, I'm a happy camper.
  • Very good working environment. Lots of adult locals come to this coffee shop to do business work as well, so it curates an atmosphere of professionalism, focus, and good vibes. I don't know about you, but when I'm surrounded by hard workers, it helps me stay on task and focus!
  • Insta pics! If you're into sprucing up your social media game, this cafe has great photo opportunities ;)

 

CONS:

  • Super popular. Again, like Caje, try to go on the earlier or later side. It's sometimes difficult to get a spot in the cafe, so if you do, hold onto it!

 

Caje (Haley St.)

Had to include Caje's newest and trendiest location off of Haley. This new coffee shop is completely different from any cafe you can find in Santa Barbara, and I am so in love with it. Let me fill you in:

PROS:

  • BEAUTIFUL drink presentation. If you're into the whole "phone eats first" trend, this place is right up your alley. This Caje location is known for its unique, artisanal latte art and drink presentation, making consumers feel extra boujee and special drinking these overpriced drinks.
  • Less busy. Because it's still fairly new, there isn't tons of foot traffic in and out of the place, making it better for focused studying.
  • Awesome cafe decor! With all sorts of greenery hanging from the cieling, you feel as though you're in another world. Studying here brings me instant peace and ignites all the creative juices in my mind. If you're an art major, this place ought to inspire you.
  • A speakeasy bar? YES! Although this doesn't pertain to my topic of studying, this aspect is pertinrnt to include in my highlights. Caje turns into a speakeasy called the Lab Social every night of the week, where guests enter through a secret back door. If you're tired of the same old downtown night scene, come here!
  • No single use plastics! This coffee shop strictly uses resuable products. If you're ordering to-go, you can either bring your own cup, or use one of the shop's with a simple "rental-type-fee" and return it later. I'm not going to go full into detail on how this works, but I promise it's easier than it sounds. So cool to see businesses doing their part for the environment.

 

CONS:

  • Again, becuase of its downtown location, parking is restricted to curbside parallel parking.