Eight Great San Francisco Coffee Shops

By: Maxine Sheppard

September 8, 2011

The west coast states of America take their coffee very seriously and – as with Seattle and Portland – the San Francisco coffee scene is overflowing with small batch roasters and baristas, who are experts in the entire gourmet coffee cycle from bean selection to blending, from roasting to brewing. Not all of our choices are aimed purely at the connoisseur, but they do all offer a superbly crafted cup. From SOMA to the Mission District, Nob Hill to Castro, here’s a selection of our favourite coffee shops in the city by the Bay…


Ma’velous Coffee and Wine Bar

Ma'velous Coffee and Wine Bar, Market Street, San Francisco © 2010 MA-Velous

Ma’velous Coffee and Wine Bar, Market Street, San Francisco © 2010 MA-Velous


Ma’velous has got to the be the coolest coffee bar in town. Its interior colours are based on the rich palette of coffee, from the green fruit ripening into golden yellow, then red, through to a dark espresso once roasted. Huge importance is placed on the quality of your coffee, so take a seat while your carefully selected roast is brewed in any one of six different ways, including a French press and a Kyoto cold slow drip coffee maker, imported from Japan.

Ma’velous Coffee and Wine Bar, 1408 Market Street (at Polk St), San Francisco

Blue Bottle Cafe

Siphon Bar at the Blue Bottle Cafe, Mint Plaza, San Francisco by kennymatic on Flickr

Siphon Bar at the Blue Bottle Cafe, Mint Plaza, San Francisco by kennymatic on Flickr


While we’re on the subject of Japan, check out Blue Bottle Cafe‘s $20k state-of-the-art five light siphon bar, imported from the Japanese Lucky Cremas company, after years of discussion according to this New York Times article. Coffee aficionados will think they’ve died and gone to heaven when they step foot inside these doors, but regular java lovers shouldn’t feel intimidated. Cappucinos, macchiatos and lattes are all on the menu too, as well as a great selection of breakfast treats – try the roasted corn bread with Italian sausage or the Belgian style waffles.

Blue Bottle Cafe, Mint Plaza, 66 Mint Street, San Francisco

Ritual Coffee Roasters

Another haven for true connoisseurs, Ritual Coffee Roasters is located in hipster central on Valencia Street. This light and spacious Mission District cafe is often rammed to the gills with creative types, entrepreneurs and students and it can sometimes take a while to get your cuppa joe. But when you understand that thirty individual steps go into each and every shot of espresso, as the above video demonstrates, you know that it’ll be worth the wait.

Ritual Coffee Roasters, 1026 Valencia (at 21st St) San Francsico and other locations.

Contraband Coffee Bar

Contrabrand Coffee Bar, Larkin St, San Francisco © Ron Starr and Contrabrand CoffeeContrabrand Coffee Bar, Larkin St, San Francisco © Ron Starr and Contrabrand Coffee

This Nob Hill coffee shop is a real neighbourhood hub, offering its long sleek wooden tables as a meeting place for community groups and its white walls as a gallery for local artists. Contraband‘s Saturday tastings or ‘Coffee Labs’ also give those less knowledgeable folk like us the opportunity to learn about our single origins and our pour-over drips, and the chance to appreciate the difference between Balinese, Ethiopian and Bolivian Organic beans.


Contrabrand Coffee Bar, 1415 Larkin St (at California St), San Francisco

Stella Pastry and Cafe

Stella Pastry and Cafe is not so much a destination for coffee freaks in the way that our previous four choices are; rather it is a truly lovely Italian bakery and cafe that just so happens to serve top-notch espresso and velvety smooth lattes and mochas. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll want to make this North Beach establishment a definite stop on your SF itinerary. Its famous cannoli, chocolate-dipped almond biscotti, pasticiotti and sacripantina are waiting for you.

Stella Pastry and Cafe, 446 Columbus Ave (between Green St and Stockton St) San Francisco

Sightglass Coffee Bar and Roastery

Sightglass Coffee Bar and Roastery by DaveFayram on FlickrSightglass Coffee Bar and Roastery by DaveFayram on Flickr

The ‘bar’ part of Sightglass Coffee Bar and Roastery has been a long time coming for its sibling owners Jerad and Justin Morrison, but now their huge 7,000 sq foot glass fronted roastery and warehouse has an industrial-chic coffee counter to hang out in while you watch the exacting art of your beans being processed. The brothers are both passionate about making sure there’s no such thing as exclusivity here, so ask any questions you like and they’ll educate you in a friendly, approachable way.

Sightglass Coffee Bar and Roastery, 270 Seventh St, San Francisco and other city locations

Saint Frank Coffee

Named after the owners’ beloved San Francisco, this bi-level Russian Hill coffee shop has an uplifting Scandinavian interior which raises the spirits. White and woodsy, with sleek panelled walls and a gleaming white  counter, Saint Frank‘s minimalist design purposefully allows all the attention to be placed on the coffee – the preparation of which is treated as a high art.

Saint Frank Coffee, 2340 Polk St (at Union St) San Francisco

Spike’s Coffee and Teas

Spike's Coffee and Teas © 2011 Spike's Coffee and TeasSpike’s Coffee and Teas © 2011 Spike’s Coffee and Teas

Deep in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro neighbourhood, the dog-loving, eco-friendly Spike’s Coffee and Teas cafe has been proudly serving up a considered brew since 1990. Claiming that they provide an ‘oasis from the harshness of modern life and its rigours’, they have no wi-fi signal and ask that you silence your mobiles while visiting. Perfect for a quiet afternoon with a book and a friendly mutt at your feet.

Spike’s Coffee and Teas, 4117 19th St, San Francisco

Thanks to kennejima on Flickr for the Ritual Coffee Roasters header shot.

Virgin Atlantic operates daily flights to San Francisco from London Heathrow.

Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.