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Peer Advice: Coffee Recommendations for Ballers and Budgeters


My first job I ever held was as a barista for Starbucks, and at the time I had no interest in drinking coffee and had no real reason to drink it.

That is until I went to college, the frequent long night cramming sessions coupled with waking up early to go to school forced me to delve into the coffee game. About 6 years into the coffee drinking world, I primarily drink black coffee now. However, that doesn't stop me from trying new places and their specialties. I want to share my favorite coffee spots up here in North County with you all, as well as some coffee tips for people who want to save some money. I will preface the rest of this article by saying that I am a Cold Brew addict, so any place I’m recommending here has great Cold Brew. So I will just tell you my other favorites of the places I list to avoid redundancy. 

For Ballers

Places within “Walking” Distance to campus

  1. Starbucks: 
    1. Starbucks admittedly is not the best tasting coffee on the list. I go to Starbucks almost every day because nothing gets me caffeinated quite like their Nitro Cold Brew, it’s a good pick me up to get my day started and ready to learn. 
    2. Favorites: Hot Flat White add shot and with a single packet of Sugar in the Raw; Iced Shaken Espresso with a pump of Vanilla
  2. Philz Coffee:
    1. When I learned that Philz was opening up in Fullerton during my undergrad at CSUF, I nearly jumped for joy. One of my favorite coffee places around, however with their high prices and lower caffeine content I can’t justify drinking it every day and it becomes a treat-yourself coffee for me. Their baristas are super knowledgeable if you’re looking for a certain flavor in your coffee, and unlike most places you specify how much cream and sugar you want qualitatively (e.g. you wouldn’t say 6 pumps of sweetener with some creamer, you would say you want it Sweet and Creamy).
    2. Favorites: Iced Mocha Tesora, Iced Mint Mojito, Hot Ambrosia Coffee of the Gods
  3. 7 Leaves:
    1. Most people think of 7 Leaves as a boba place, but don’t sleep on the Vietnamese Coffee here. Reasonably priced, and if it's not strong enough on its own you can add up to 6 additional shots for free. It’s borderline a little too sugary for me most days so I consider it a treat. 
    2. Favorites: Vietnamese with 2 added shots

Places within driving distance

  1. Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders:
    1. This place has become more of a trendier chain of coffee shops, they heavily advertise that their beans are Fair trade and organic (probably to justify their prices) but make no mistake they make good coffee. My only gripe is the lack of iced coffee specialties as they primarily make espresso based and hot brewed coffees here. 
    2. Favorites: Cinnamon latte, Double espresso
  2. Contra Coffee and Tea:
    1. Easily my favorite places to come and study. Their whole shtick is they have coffee and tea on a rotating tap that they will serve you in a glass. You can order a single coffee here or you can get a flight of coffees to taste 4 different kinds on the same visit. If you like hot coffee you’re out of luck with this place as all their drinks are iced. 
    2. Favorites: Dirty Horchata, Gold Rush, Stay Woke
  3. Phin Smith:
    1. Super unique coffee shop with a good mixture of hot and iced coffees. Won’t see a lot of traditional favorites like Vanilla or Caramel in the coffees here as this is a Vietnamese shop. If you’re adventurous and want to try new flavors, I highly recommend it.
    2. Favorites: Iced Banana Coffee, Ca Phe Sua Da

For Budgeteers

In case you don’t want to spend your hard-earned student loan money on a cup of coffee every day, here are some alternative at home solutions to fuel your caffeine addiction.

Route 1: Simple Coffee Maker:

At home I use a Mr. Coffee I bought on Amazon for $35 bucks with a reusable mesh filter. This, by far, is the best bang for your buck, as you don't need much coffee if you’re making it just for yourself. You can easily make a $14 bag of coffee stretch most of the month. Personally, I don’t do hot coffee in the morning because it takes too long to cool down and I like to start drinking my coffee as soon as possible. So for me It’s perfect for late night study sessions when I need an additional boost of caffeine. 

Route 2: Homemade Cold Brew

I have a Sofden Softbrew coffee jug that is excellent for making hot coffee as well as cold brew. It has a metal microfilter that sits in the porcelain housing that can make up to 36 ounces of Coffee. If you’re making Cold Brew, I highly recommend your coffee be ground for a French Press as well as letting it sit for at least 20 hours in the fridge before pulling the filter out. I got one from Starbucks a year ago for around $60 and use it at least once a week to make Cold Brews to have just in case I’m running late to class. The only problem is that it takes a lot of coffee to make a strong cold brew (around 15 tbsp for the full 36 ounces) so you’re looking at going through a bag once every 2 weeks. But $14 every 2 weeks still beats paying $5 a day for a cup of coffee at the coffee shop.

Stay caffeinated my friends.