Ah, iced coffee. Liquid gold. The only reason we get up on Mondays. Humankind’s best invention since Daveed Diggs. (Prove us wrong.) The Bay drinks coffee like water, so lucky for us, there is no shortage of options when we’re in need of a caffeine boost. Here are 12 of our favorite spots to grab an iced latte or a cold brew in San Francisco and the East Bay.
There is one drink in the city that is as amazing as it is beautiful - the Snowy Plover, named after a bird that looks like a fluffy white cloud. The drink consists of sparkling water, a double shot of espresso, and simple syrup, and comes topped with a heavy scoop of homemade whipped cream. This is the root beer float for coffee fans.
Coffee has always been the most important meal of the day, and in quarantine, it’s downright essential. But if you want an iced latte or cold brew, and you have a sweet tooth - do yourself a favor and head to Excelsior Coffee. It’s a small neighborhood cafe on Mission Street that also serves ube pastries from the Bay Area-based bakery Ube Area - brownies, flan, cheesecake, and mochi donuts. They’re available for takeout every day from 8am-4pm. You can also order beans for delivery online.
We’ll take any excuse to stop by The Mill, just so long as we can pick up a loaf of their black pepper parmesan bread. The bakery is also known for their excellent toasts, which you should get to-go along with any iced espresso drink (they’re made with Four Barrel Coffee).
In old times, the snug Inner Sunset cafe was a quiet place to read or tinker on our computers (you haven’t lived unless you’ve shared one of their tiny round tables with a complete stranger). We also love their large selection of espresso drinks - all the standards, plus refreshing iced matcha lattes, affogatos, and cold brew coffee.
It’s starting to get warmer, which means there’ll be days when hot drip coffee just won’t cut it. So start the morning at Snow White Coffee on Piedmont Ave. They have classic espresso drinks, but you want the Oakland Chill, a shaken mix with cold brew, half & half, ice, and simple syrup - it’s incredibly smooth and refreshing. They’ve also got a version with espresso instead of cold brew. Stop by or order ahead for pick-up online.
Home Coffee Roasters reminds us that life is better with coffee - and color. They’re known for their rainbow and sprinkled latte art that belongs on your 5th grade Trapper Keeper, but also manages to taste good. The iced espresso drinks are just as eye-catching, like the rose and lavender lattes. Both their Sunset and Richmond locations are open for takeout.
We have a high caffeine tolerance, meaning it takes a lot to get us jacked on cold brews and espresso shots. But when we really need energy that lasts us through our quarantine binge-watching, head straight to Orson’s Belly. The movie-themed coffee shop and tapas bar in the Outer Richmond makes a fantastic fizzy concoction that’s part espresso and part tonic water. It’s set over ice and has a slightly bitter kick to it.
We’ve searched far and wide for the best iced Vietnamese coffee in the Bay, and The Beanery’s comes pretty damn close to perfection. It strikes just the right balance - it’s sweet but still strong - and a small will only cost you $2.90 (although we’d order it by the gallon if we could). Order ahead here or stop by to grab one to-go.
You can now order delivery from Hip Hop Juice Box, or you can pop in and talk through the many, many drink options. Seriously, think of this Emeryville cafe and juice bar as a boundless watering hole. The long menu has everything - fresh kale or beet juices, fruit smoothies, kombucha, and a mint shakerato, a shaken espresso drink infused with fresh mint.
One of Red Bay Coffee’s most unique drinks - the vanilla charcoal latte - is a must-order. It’s creamy, slightly sweet, and delicious hot or iced. Their regular iced latte and Vietnamese iced coffee are also excellent if you need a caffeine boost before your third power-walk around the lake. You can walk up to order from their van (usually parked around Lake Merritt), their coffee box on Broadway, or their spacious Fruitvale roastery.
You’re a cinnamon in your coffee type of person - we see you. So if you’re in Oakland and it’s hot, or you just need coffee in your life, get to Chica. The Mexican breakfast and brunch spot (they’re not a taqueria, so don’t even try ordering a burrito), makes a Dirty Horchata that’s refreshing and not-too-sweet. The drink goes great with their carnitas and carne asada bowls, or chilaquiles with fluffy eggs and chile verde.
Souvenir has two locations - one on Claremont in Oakland and one on Solano in Albany - where you can start your day with a coffee shop classic: fantastic iced lattes or cold brew. They’re also selling beans online (or you can sign up for their coffee subscription).