Knowing a couple of coffee shops where you can reliably get a creamy latte or a smooth pour over is a crucial part of surviving your college career, and if you’re a student at the University of Alabama, you’re probably already familiar with the Starbucks on the lower floor of the Ferg. It’s the go-to place to grab a cup of coffee before a morning class, and a convenient study spot when you can’t look at the gray walls of Gorgas for one more second. But you’re probably also familiar with the feeling of despair that sets in when the promise of some sweet, sweet, caffeine is the only thing keeping you on your feet, and you walk in to find that the Starbucks line stretches into the Supe Store. With these six coffee shops, you can skip the line, get your fix, and make it to class on time.
Find Uperk downtown across from ‘Loosa Brews, and be sure to bring your ACT card because they take Bama Cash and offer students discounts. This is definitely one of the most comfortable coffee shops in Tuscaloosa. With roomy benches, couches, and armchairs for seating, it’s perfect if you need a steady supply of caffeine while you camp out for a marathon study session. Perhaps you work better with a little mutual accountability, though. Uperk often hosts study nights on Sunday evenings. And even better, this is a non-profit coffee shop meaning profits go towards operating costs and local charities, so if you were feeling a little guilty that it’s mostly just espresso flowing through your veins at this point, feel free to remind yourself that it’s for a good cause and order that latte with a double shot.
True to its name, Turbo is downright peppy from its decor to its clientele. When it’s only 10AM, you’re already tired, and you still have a large lecture and senior seminar to get through before your day is done, this is the place for a pick-me-up. The interior is bright with lots of sunlight and white walls, and, a favorite with UA undergrads, Turbo often feels abuzz with the energy and chatter of hyper-caffeinated students. It may not be the best choice if you need to study or work on a paper, but if you’re looking for a place to catch-up with friends or you just need a quick jolt, it’s perfect.
Monarch, located in downtown Tuscaloosa, is so close to campus, you’ll have time to get your fix in between classes (unless they’re back to back, in which case you better run, because it takes fifteen minutes just to cross the Quad.) With its industrial interior and pared down menu, this coffee shop exudes cool, chill vibes. It’s perfect for when you’ve exhausted all your reserves of pep, and need a coffee that will nourish your dark and twisty soul. Go for the Ethiopian pour over and try to remember when you were a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman.
Heritage House has two locations, one in downtown Tuscaloosa and one across the river in Northport. So whether you want to be close to campus or you need a break from the hustle of the university, you’re covered. Heritage House also has you covered if all your studying has made you hungry; out of all the coffee shops on this list, it has the best breakfast and lunch menu.
Nehemiah’s is one of the lesser known coffee shops in Tuscaloosa. It’s located a little out of the way in the Forest Lake neighborhood behind Midtown Village, where you aren’t likely to find it unless you already know about it. Operated by a local church, Nehemiah’s was started after the 2011 tornado in an effort to raise money for rebuilding the area. Eight years later, it’s still going strong. Their staff is entirely volunteer, and their base menu consists only of classic espresso and ground coffee drinks, but what they do serve is delicious. They also host live music nights once a month, the perfect excuse to put aside any work you might have and enjoy a warm drink with good music and better friends.
It may not be unique to Tuscaloosa, but the café inside the Barnes & Noble in Midtown village is a solid choice when you need coffee and quick. They serve Starbucks coffee, and it’s almost guaranteed not to be as busy the one on campus or the stand-alone on Veterans Pkwy. If you’ve got time to kill or studying to do, there’s a table tucked into an alcove near the entrance that offers privacy and a good view of the rest of the café. It’s almost never empty, but if you can snag it, it makes for great people watching.
Look, coffee is not always a cheap habit. Buying your morning caffeine of choice every day adds up fast, so why not invest in what you need to make good coffee at home. There’s no need to beg your parents for one of those fancy espresso makers, as long as you have a drip coffee maker or french press, and a good ground coffee, you won’t miss your usual Starbucks. Kauloosa Coffee Roasters is a local business that provides the beans many of these coffee shops use. They don’t have a brick and mortar store, but they do often have a booth at the Tuscaloosa River Market. So, if you can drag yourself out of bed on a Saturday morning, you can brew the same coffee at home, saving you precious dolla’ dolla’ bills y’all. Plus, you can sleep in an extra ten minutes. Seems like a win all around.
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