A cup of black coffee and light snacks. Photo Credit: Whole Foods Market, Sarasota.

What's on the Menu in Sarasota: Coffee

Although the aroma of freshly brewed coffee speaks a universal language that is recognizable to most people, true coffee connoisseurs know that the difference between a good cup of coffee and a great cup of coffee is a vast one. Luckily for java fiends, Sarasota has a variety of independent establishments - from cozy, casual coffee shops and international cafes to sleek, sophisticated espresso bars - where great coffee is a guarantee. Here are some of the spots that boast the best roasts in Sarasota.

Pastry Art

The ever-changing selection of original works by local artists that decorate the walls of downtown Sarasota's Pastry Art are not the only artistic masterpieces the bakery/cafe has to offer. Coffee fans will appreciate the artistry of Pastry Art's baristas, who craft espresso drinks and refreshing iced coffees to accompany the bakery's award-winning fresh-baked pastries. From foamy cappuccinos to a wide selection of self-serve, fragrant, locally-roasted coffees, Pastry Art excels in the craft of coffee. In addition to some of the best sweets and caffeinated sips in town, Pastry Art offers free wireless internet access, comfy couches and plenty of tables both indoors  and out, where customers can dig into a book or the newspaper, work on-the-go from their laptops, catch an open-mic performance in the evening or simply socialize with friends and people-watch.

C'est la Vie

Francophiles flock to C'est la Vie for the casual French dining experience on Main Street downtown Sarasota. The smell of freshly baked pastries and bread that wafts from the bakery and into the sidewalk seating area is often what draws patrons into the authentic Parisian-style bakery-cafe, and the delicious coffee and teas complete the experience. Pulls of espresso and cups of cafe au lait play delicious supporting roles to French pastries, croissants, crepes, quiche and baguettes. Much like the streetside cafes in Paris, Sarasota's C'est la Vie is situated in a vibrant, bustling setting where people-watching is a favorite pasttime. Settle in at a charming wrought-iron sidewalk table, order your favorite French pastry and a cafe au lait, and experience the vibrance of downtown Sarasota with a delicious French twist.

Cafe Epicure

The European bakery-cafe tradition also thrives just blocks down Main Street from C'est La Vie at Cafe Epicure, where Italian cuisine reigns supreme. Naturally, espresso, which originated in Italy, plays a prominent role in the Cafe Epicure experience. Baristas at Cafe Epicure take pride in the attention to detail and quality that defines an irresistible pull of espresso topped with just the right amount of smooth crema, or a cappuccino foamed to perfection. Paired with a fresh-baked pastry or a scoop of creamy, authentic Italian gelato from the cafe's tantalizing dessert bar, the espresso drinks at Cafe Epicure are a favorite among aficionados of the aromatic, concentrated coffee.

Burns Court Cafe

Tucked away in downtown Sarasota's artsy, historic Burns Square, the Burns Court Cafe is a popular haunt for daytime coffee drinkers and diners who prefer to get away from the hustle and bustle of the coffee shops and cafes along Main Street. Espresso, macchiatos, cappuccinos and lattes are all in the under three-dollar range at the Burns Court Cafe for an affordable coffee fix. The cafe also specializes in dessert coffee drinks including blended, flavored frappes and affogato (espresso over vanilla ice cream) beverages.

Perq Coffee Bar

A "flatwhite" at Perq Coffee Bar
A "flatwhite" at Perq Coffee Bar

In Sarasota's Southside Village, Perq Coffee Bar is the newest caffeinated sensation to hit the scene. Perq is a sleek, upscale espresso bar that focuses on single origin, artisan coffee brewed with eight distinct methods that have quite literally been perfected to an exact science. Perq, which opened in May, 2013, is the first "Third Wave Coffee" bar in Sarasota, and is reminiscent of the artisan coffee bars in New York City and Seattle, the coffee capital of the nation. The Third Wave Coffee movement encourages a culinary appreciation of the subtleties of flavor and variety of coffee similar to that of other complex food items like chocolate, tea and wine. Perq carries a selection of ethically-sourced, direct or fair-trade coffee beans that are micro-roasted to enhance the flavor nuances and brewed in complex, artisanal styles.

Lelu Coffee

Top quality beans hailing from tropical locales such as Hawaii, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Cuba join the ranks of some of the best local roasts in Florida, as well as Lelu's own specialty, naturally flavored coconut coffee, at Lelu Coffee on Siesta Key. The beachy coffee lounge serves a variety of flavorful, medium-to-dark roast coffees made to order, including the difficult-to-find Cafe Cubano, a Cuban-style espresso sweetened with sugar during the brewing process. Fans of flavored coffee may wish to explore options such as the popular Island Coconut Mocha, or one of the more than 20 different coffee cocktail options that come with a kick, such as Lelu's signature Espresso Martini. Coffee fans can also purchase coffee in bulk in whole bean form or ground on site.

Java Dawg Coffee

In south Sarasota, Java Dawg Coffee is a must-visit for caffeine fiends. All coffees at Java Dawg are fresh-roasted on site, guaranteeing only the freshest quality. Java Dawg beans all come from prime growing locations throughout the world, situated along the line of the Equator where the richest, most flavorful coffees grow with the greatest success. Java Dawg approaches the art of craft-roasting and brewing coffee with the same gusto as its beans.

Coffee Loft

North Sarasota's Coffee Loft is about more than just great coffee: It's about great coffee for a good cause. The nonprofit coffee shop offers all the classics - brewed coffee, espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, Cafe Americano and Cafe Cubana, and indulgent treats like mocha, macchiatos and sinful signature beverages like the "Almond Joy" and "Bananas Foster" - and donates the proceeds to food banks in Sarasota and neighboring Manatee County, as well as Charity Water, an organization that builds wells that provide clean drinking water around the world. The Coffee Loft's proximity to colleges as Ringling College of Art + Design and New College ensures that the shop is always bustling with activity, whether it be for an open mic night or for a study session caffeine fix. Delicious coffee, a charitable cause and a great coffee shop atmosphere are a winning combination at Coffee Loft.

Local Coffee + Tea

Sarasota's Local Coffee + Tea, an independent tea and coffee retailer with two locations on Siesta Key and at Selby Gardens, receives quality, local, "Sarasota-centric" coffees roasted nearby at Java Dawg Coffee. Blends such as "Fruitville Flavored Coffee," "Bee Ridge Blend," and "Siesta Decaf" derive their names from popular locations and the the main roads that run throughout Sarasota. For a coffee or tea experience that is truly local, organic and delightful, visit Local Coffee + Tea at the Selby Gardens, on the beach, or at the downtown Sarasota Farmer's Market on Saturdays and give it a try for yourself.

Black Gold Coffee Roasters

At Black Gold Coffee Roasters in Venice, the company motto is "From Tree to Cup." Black and Gold Coffee Roasters puts emphasis on supporting fair trade practices as well as supporting growers who practice environmentally-conscious techniques. The coffee retailer carries over two dozen blends of coffees that can be purchased in the store at its East Venice Avenue location or online. Every day, Black Gold Coffee Roasters samples out two flavors of its specialty coffee at the store, along with freshly-made bakery items and in-house chocolates; soups, sandwiches and salads.

In Sarasota, coffee fiends have a variety of coffee shops from which to choose - but it's up to you to pick your favorite fit. Are you jones'ing for your coffee fix yet?

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