The Ultimate Guide to Charleston Coffee Pt. 1

You never have to decide where to get your next cup of coffee I just did it for you

Ok here we go. I thought this was going to be a light/not a big deal article but it turned very serious very quickly. So it is a classic coffee article you see almost every week on the Talon but it’s also an extremely-serious-no-messing-around coffee review article. So take this advice to heart because I really went for it. Here’s how it works:

For pt. 1 I thought I would have two weeks to write this article like we usually do but I only have one. SO, I was going to go to a different new coffee shop every morning and try it out but I don’t have a lot of time and I ran into some financial obstacles so we’re going to have to wait for a pt. 2 on that one. This article is a balance between places I’ve been to before and places I tried this week. For every new place try I also invited someone along with me to share their opinions and offer another perspective.

Current Overall Standings

  1. Harken Coffee
  2. The Rise
  3. Metto Coffee and Tea
  4. Second State Coffee
  5. Starbucks
  6. Vintage Coffee Cafe

Harken Cafe

Location: Downtown, Queen Street

Vibe: 100/10, Coffee: 10/10, Food: 10/10

Overall: No ranking can give it justice it was just the best but also 12/10

IF YOU GET ANYTHING FROM THIS ARTICLE UNDERSTAND THIS: you must go to Harken Cafe. Right now. I don’t care if you’re listening to a lecture or sitting in a doctor’s office or if you’re Ms. Pinckney taking a break from doing whatever it is that she does all day. Go. Right now. *on the off chance that you’re reading this and you are Ms. Pinckney on a school day please take me with you I’m so bored I can be found in the hall (probably upstairs)* Let’s start with the vibe shall we. Absolutely flawless. Later on in this article I say that the Rise’s vibe is immaculate, and it is, but I hadn’t seen Harken yet. My expert advisor this day was Sophia Martuscello and upon walking in she said “a Virgo most certainly designed this place”. Therefore it was meant to be because for those of you who don’t know which is all of you but a few I have a Virgo ascendant. It’s everything the Rise is: exposed brick, high ceilings and beams, plants, EXCEPT it’s sage green (my favorite color) and warm and cozy. The way it’s laid out I couldn’t find a good picture of the whole place but I mean come on look at that fireplace. Now the coffee. At most of the subsequent places I tried to get an iced coffee because I feel like that’s what a majority of the Magnet population gets but I was over it by now (this is the last place I went before finishing this article but I had to put in first so you would read it). But never fear I asked the very kind staff if they would just give me a tiny sample of the iced coffee and they did. They also made sure I knew it was made in-house. As iced coffees go it was very good but that isn’t the main event. I got a tumeric chai latte and Turkey Avocado Sandwich. I won’t go into too much detail because I see I’ve already said quite enough so let’s just say I have no words and leave it at that. You’ll have to experience it for yourself. *by the way I’m serious Ms. Pinckney I’m waiting*

Metto Coffee and Tea

Location: Mount Pleasant, Coleman Boulevard

Coffee: 9/10; Food: 10/10; Wait: 5/10; Vibe: 6/10

Overall: 8/10

I worked at Metto for a little over 6 months so of course I have a lot to say about it but I’ll try to keep it brief and to the point. I’m looking back after I wrote this and I’m sorry I lied to you this is anything but brief but at least it’s thorough.  They have the best selection and quality of pastries. No contest. They have Nutella pop tarts. Need I say more? I didn’t think so. My favorite is the gluten-free blueberry muffin. They have the best breakfast sandwiches. They do not have sausage so please do not ask. The lunch menu is also very good if limited. My favorite is the mozzarella pesto panini followed closely by the roasted veggie and goat cheese panini followed closely by the chicken salad (on a croissant). They have the best chai. Period. If you come in the fall ask for a pumpkin chai. They have one of the best lattes. Try the honey latte (honey, vanilla, and cinnamon). They have the biggest selection of teas that I know of (except maybe Starbucks). It’s the best seller. They also have the biggest selection of latte flavors (except Starbucks). They do not have the best iced coffee but it’s good. Most everything is made in house. Pastries, sandwiches, cream cheese, granola, vanilla, chai, caramel, mocha, it’s all made in house. The only things that aren’t are some of the latte flavors and the bagels are from Charleston Bagels. They do not have the best frappucinos. That award goes to Black Magic Cafe no questions asked. They have dog treats for dogs and a nice patio. The prices are reasonable especially compared to other coffee shops in Charleston. HOWEVER. If you want your latte/food quick, go to Starbucks. Just because they have a drive-thru DOES NOT mean it is fast food. I know it’s confusing I’m sorry. Usually the lattes are made quickly but all the food is being made on the spot by hand by one person in the back. They are one of the only local coffee shops I know of that has to juggle in house, drive-thru, and online orders at the same time. The staff is also mostly made up of college girls. DO NOT get angry at them because they are making your food along with dozens of other people at the same time and it’s taking a minute. Pro tip: 9 times out of 10 if it’s any morning and the drive-thru line is long there is no line inside. Just get out of your car and walk inside trust me. In terms of the vibe I love the patio and the big comfy chairs inside but other than that it’s not my favorite interior. It’s very cozy inside but it’s also very brown and I personally go more for the light-colored, minimalist, plants route.


The Rise 

Location: Downtown, Wentworth St. (off of King St.)

Vibe: 11/10; Coffee: 10/10; Bagel w/ Cream Cheese: 12/10

Overall: 10/10

My expert advisor for the Rise is none other than Rachel Ackerman. When she’s not guzzling Bang energy drinks every school morning she’s actually the foremost iced coffee expert I have on this article. On this day I got an iced chai tea latte with oat milk and Rachel got an iced coffee with cream and sugar as well as a bagel with cream cheese. The vibe of the Rise is immaculate and I would like to model my future home/apartment by it. I won’t write a love poem about it or anything even though I could but the exposed brick, high ceilings and beams, abundance of plants, and minimalist white granite countertops and tile floors are everything I could ever want. The chai was great you could definitely tell that they made it in-house. The only thing I would say about it is that it is a bit spicy. The iced coffee and bagel with cream cheese were close to perfection. I wish I could have recorded Rachel’s explanation of the bagel with cream cheese for you guys because she praised it the entire car ride from Wentworth to the Battery. She quotes that “the cream cheese is house-made and a must”. That about sums it up. The only drawback of the Rise is that the interior is really small (only one table and then a bar with some high stools). That didn’t take away from the experience though because we just took our coffee to the Battery and enjoyed it there which I would always 100% recommend to anyone for any occasion.


Second State Coffee

Location: Mount Pleasant, Near Ion; Downtown (Beaufain St. [near Market St.])

Coffee: 7/10; Food: muffin: 9/10, sandwich 5/10; Vibe: 9.5/10

Overall: 7/10

My expert advisor for this article is my wonderful grandmother who I will refer to as Gran. She’s been around the block a few times and has probably has had the most coffees in her lifetime than any of my other advisors. The vibe of Second State is lovely. Very minimalist and clean looking. One thing that makes Second State stand out is that it’s quite big on the inside and has a lot of space to sit and enjoy your coffee or study. On this day I got an iced coffee with oat milk and a breakfast sandwich and I picked up a vanilla latte and a blueberry muffin for Gran. The iced coffee was a little bitter for my taste but the oat milk was unsweetened so if I go again I would add some vanilla to it maybe. The breakfast sandwich was pretty disappointing. First of all I wanted to add tomato to it and they didn’t add tomato which was a bummer like who doesn’t have tomato? Anyways. I also thought that it would come with bacon or something which was my mistake because I didn’t look at the menu hard enough so it was just egg and cheese but it is very important to note that the sandwich was $7 and if I would have added bacon it would have been $9 which I find outrageous. Gran reported that both the vanilla latte and the blueberry muffin were “wonderful” and received “very high reviews from her”. However, she originally wanted a caramel latte and they also don’t have that on the menu. Once again what coffee shop doesn’t have caramel latte? Naturally, I am conflicted about the rating because for the most part what I got was good and the atmosphere was great but the menu had some limitations. I think maybe if I had the chai it would help me out some more because I have a feeling it would be good but as of now I have to rank them slightly lower.


Vintage Coffee Cafe

Location: Mount Pleasant, Coleman Boulevard

Iced Coffee: 2/10; Food a.k.a. the one menu item that I’ve had: 10/10; Vibe: 7/10

Overall: 5/10

My expert advisor on Vintage is me but also I have gotten Vintage with Rachel before and I believe she would agree with my review. I really do like the vibe of Vintage. It’s a little cramped on the inside and I’ve never actually sat in there and had my coffee but it’s nice. Whenever I go to Vintage I always sit outside because they have their own decent sized outside seating type thing that I like. Whenever I have gone in the past I have gotten iced coffee and their Homestyle Breakfast (eggs, bacon, toast). Their coffee is bitter. No two ways about it not even just a little bitter just bitter. No matter how much cream and sugar you put in the bitterness still comes back and bites you. This is the main reason I don’t go the Vintage anymore but I need to go back and try out their chai. On the flip side, I love their homestyle breakfast. I don’t know what they do to it but it’s so good. The eggs are perfectly fluffy, the bacon is crisped to perfection, and I think the butter is house-made. 10/10. If they had better iced coffee they would have a much better ranking but that’s the whole point of the article so they really need to do better.



Location: all over the place

Coffee: 6/10; Chai: 10/10; Food: 6/10; Vibe 7/10; Service=fast

Overall: 6/10

I think we all know and have our own opinions about Starbucks and I don’t have that many but here they are. While I always think that if possible you should support small businesses over chains like Starbucks or Dunkin, Starbucks does have some upsides. They are pretty fast. Mobile ordering is great. I honestly haven’t had that many different Starbucks drinks but the caramel macchiato isn’t bad but it’s not an actual macchiato. The iced coffee is pretty good. The passionfruit iced tea is good. If you like chai the iced chai with almond milk and vanilla sweet cold foam with cinnamon powder on top is phenomenal. Drawbacks: not a small business, no oat milk, their espresso is terrible it’s so burnt and bitter because it’s a machine not a person if you get espresso in your drink get the blonde espresso. That’s all I care to say because once again everyone has their own views already.