A Coffee Lover’s Guide to Lancaster
In my experience, there are a handful things that Lancastrians do better than anyone else in the world: frequenting new restaurants, supporting small galleries and local artists, and… drinking coffee. Buckets and buckets of coffee.
When I lived in other cities (both in the U.S. and abroad) there were always plenty of things that I missed about Lancaster. But my first stop on any visit home is always to one of our many local coffee shops. There is truly a perfect fitting vibe, flavor profile, and destination for any sort of coffee lover (even, like… tea lovers) in downtown Lancaster. FLL set out with the (obviously very difficult and very demanding) job of tasting them all for you — and we’ve compiled that guide right here. Enjoy! (Okay, but trust us from experience: take it easy on the caffeine.)
Does it even count as a full coffee tour of Lancaster if you don’t visit Passenger Coffee and post a photo of your visit on Instagram? This is certainly only of the most aesthetically pleasing spots in downtown Lancaster — coffee shop or otherwise. You might be tempted to think that because the space is so beautiful, the coffee is an afterthought; that is 100-percent untrue in Passenger’s case. In fact, they take their coffee very seriously. Like, very seriously. Passenger roasts its own coffee — all ethically sourced — and encourages visitors to think of their West King Street location as a showroom for the products of the roastery, rather than as simply a café. Stop by just to take a moment for yourself; one particularly cool aspect of Passenger’s place in the Lancaster coffee scene is that they do pour-over, which builds in some extra time for rest and reflection before you enjoy a mug of super high quality, speciality, small batch roast. Also: their bags of roasted coffee make excellent gifts for the far-away coffee lovers in your life.
Just around the corner, you’ll find a classic in the Lancaster coffee shop world: Prince Street Cafe. Established in 2006, Prince Street feels like an institution. From early morning business meetings to low-key nights out for local college students, it has always felt that there’s something for everyone in this rustic space. For fans of the Passenger roast who are also looking for a full meal alongside your cup o’ joe, Prince Street Cafe is an excellent choice, as they serve Passenger Coffee, as well as plenty of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. I fully endorse their delicious fruit and yogurt parfait — what makes it so special is that they use baked oatmeal instead of granola, and it is SO GOOD.
If you find yourself on the campus of Franklin & Marshall and are looking for a quick cup, head over to Blue Line, which opened recently in the summer of 2017. They serve Passenger roast, as well as Passenger’s full drink menu and a variety of sandwiches. Also on the menu? Delicious takes on some trendier, health-conscious foods, like acai bowls and matcha tea. Blue Line is like the sort of ultra cool, yet super friendly coffee shop you always saw on campuses in college movies, and yet—it’s real and right here in Lancaster. AND, the students are so welcoming that you won’t even feel weird about being maybe a bit older than some of the clientele.
If you’re looking for a great place to spend some time while your nurse your caffeinated beverage of choice, head over to Mean Cup’s central location on Harrisburg Pike. Plenty of space means that you never feel crowded or rushed. This cafe is the perfect place to enjoy anything from a simple cup of coffee (they brew Chauvin Coffee, from a roastery located in St. Louis) to something a little fancier, like the Meanie Mocha (a slightly spicy take on the traditional chocolate and espresso combo). If you like a little spice in your life, check out their similarly named — and super popular — Meanie brownie. You can also find Mean Cup at their Central Market stand, a great place to grab a drink before your weekly shopping trip.
If you’re looking for a caffeine-fix while at The Lancaster Central Market, you can also stop by Lancaster County Coffee Roasters. Truly an institution in the Lancaster coffee scene, this Ross Street roastery has been around for almost 15 years. They pride themselves on their focus on coffee — don’t expect to order a sandwich or pick up a croissant at this stand, just a delicious drink. From their bottled classic cold brew to one of their rotating specials (um… peanut butter and hazelnut mocha, anyone?) you won’t be left wanting for anything caffeinated after visiting the Lancaster County Coffee Roaster’s stand. Even better? Though they take their coffee very seriously, they’ll never talk down to you on the topic, which is great, because who hasn’t felt a little judged by too cool baristas while ordering a Pumpkin Spice Latte that one time at a café in DC? No? just me? Well then.
Around the corner on W. Orange Street, a sign hangs above the register at Cafe One Eight that says, “A good day starts with coffee.” Obviously, I agree. Cafe One Eight is the perfect spot when you want a meal to go along with your coffee (they brew Square One’s roast). With its bright and airy rustic vibes, long wooden benches and high tables, this place is perfect to sit and enjoy a latte (complete with lovely latte art) or a fruit and yogurt parfait (the standard recipe uses blueberries and strawberries, but they also offer seasonal varieties (the summer peach is always a fan favorite). In my experience, every person I’ve ever met who either works at or frequents Cafe One Eight is so friendly and happy to be there. Good vibes (and coffee) abound.
A long-time Lancaster favorite (they opened their N. Duke Street location’s doors nearly 18 years ago!) Square One is both a cafe and a micro-roaster based in our city, with cafe/retail locations here and in Philadelphia. Square One has won many accolades for their brew, including being a Good Food Awards Winner in 2014, 2015, and 2016. During the warmer months, their Lancaster location offers a lovely, spacious courtyard, perfect to enjoy a jubilant latte with friends or sip a quiet coffee on your own.
One relatively new addition to the Lancaster City coffee scene is Copper Cup Coffee, located on Columbia Avenue. However, the shop is not new to Lancaster County at large, as the original location in Lititz has been open and pleasing caffeine-seekers since spring 2016. What’s really special about this cafe — beyond the lovely, bright aesthetic of the shop, featuring small succulents, marble walls, and (of course!) copper accents — are the delicious lattes, available both hot and iced. Year round, my choice is an iced Copper latte, espresso and (your choice of whole, skim, almond, or coconut) milk with notes of honey and cinnamon. But, there’s really no wrong choice when you order something off of their speciality or seasonal menus.
So, there you have it: Lancaster truly is a special place, and that includes our abundant, unique, and ever popular coffee scene. Go forth and caffeinate!
By: Madison Pontz