Tuscaloosa’s Top Five Coffee Shops

Elle Standish, Contributing Columnist

With over 38,000 students enrolled at The University of Alabama, there is a clear demand for coffee shops around the city. Whether providing a quiet place to study or supplying the caffeine to finish a paper, Tuscaloosa offers a variety of coffee shops that cater to each student. 

Coffee is such a hot commodity that its demand has created a number of excellent locations. Locally owned coffee shops stack the deck of Tuscaloosa’s top five coffee shops:


  1. Monarch Espresso Bar


Cost: $$

Monarch Espresso Bar is by far the best place to go for specialty craft coffee. They are a locally owned coffee shop that has hosted events with University of Alabama faculty. Playing off their phrase “where fast lives slow down,” Monarch has ample room for a lively community space, perfect for catching up with friends or studying for an exam. 

Their baked goods are made from scratch daily and their avocado toast is a hit with regulars. Monarch does not take Dining Dollars, but you might luck out and get a free latte on a catering day. They frequently do fundraisers for University organizations, as they are conveniently only a couple miles away from campus, and they host catering events across campus, which makes buying a good latte a little bit more guilt-free. 


  1. Turbo Coffee


Cost: $$

If you want a place to charge up, Turbo is the place to go. Unlike Monarch’s mantra, Turbo is based on the idea of “making people faster.” They have great coffee and tea, but also offer smoothies and açaí bowls. Turbo also has a rewards program where you can earn stars from your purchases for free drinks. They are locally owned and frequently showcase local artwork for sale. 

This is my top pick to go study when I need a quiet space a couple miles away from campus, but they do not have ample seating, making their busiest hours difficult to find a spot. Turbo is adjacent to Greasy Hands Barber Shop and if you walk through the door to Greasy Hands, you will likely find sweet Molly, the shop dog. Overall, between getting to pet a dog and drink good coffee, I love this place.


  1. FIVE Java


Cost: $$

FIVE Java is connected to FIVE Tuscaloosa, which is known for its limited five dinner, cocktail and wine options on the menu. It is one of four locations, the others being in Mobile, Birmingham and Athens, Georgia. The design is eclectic and artsy, with a simple yet rich menu and a lively environment to compliment it.

If you enjoy studying in a busy environment, FIVE Java is the place to be. It is situated downtown two miles from campus, and brunch goers provide ample white noise. People who need quieter environments for work or relaxation may want to avoid FIVE Java at peak hours, but the unique design and drinks add to the allure.


  1. Heritage House Coffee and Tea


Cost: $

Heritage House’s menu has a larger variety of food for a coffee shop than just about anywhere in town. They have a very diverse coffee selection that favors people with a sweet tooth. The Sugar Daddy espresso drink is a local favorite and sure to sweeten up your day. Along with a diverse selection of coffee options, Heritage House has a large tea selection. 

Their atmosphere is warm and welcoming, fostering a sense of community that allows groups to gather there. And with three locations, Heritage House allows patrons to choose their favorite space.

Heritage house offers a multitude of catering and event options, making it likely to see their products around campus. 

One of my favorite things about this establishment is how kind and respectful the managers are to their workers. Heritage House values community engagement and offers jobs to people with disabilities by working with United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama. The store can get crowded with long wait times but luckily, there are other locations near the University. At the end of each day, they sell old pastries and muffins for cheaper prices.


  1. UPerk


Cost: $

UPerk is a nonprofit coffee shop owned by the ministry of First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa. They are tucked under apartments off of University Boulevard, providing a comfortable place to study about two miles away from campus. Live music as well as public and nonprofit events provide excellent opportunities to stop by for coffee.

Open seven days a week, they offer a range of coffee drinks to give anyone any option at any time. My go to drink is the Spice of Life, a cortado with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, drizzled with honey. UPerk accepts Dining Dollars and Bama Cash, which makes the purchase feel a little less impactful to your bank account. They offer a large space equipped with board games to play with your friends.