The morning grind of crossing over and under the Hudson requires some extra motivation, and with a burgeoning coffee scene that’s been quietly percolating far beyond the Starbucks-and-Dunkin-dominated PATH hubs, there’s never been a better time to detour for your morning fix. These are the 10 best coffee shops in Jersey City and Hoboken, from a psychedelic living room siphoning single origins in the Jersey City Heights to a newcomer roaster on Hoboken’s northern edge that’s on the brink of an East Village expansion.
10. Bean Vault Coffee, 1 Newark Street, Hoboken
Opened Super Bowl weekend halfway between Hoboken Terminal and the city’s police HQ, this takeout espresso bar from local cops Justin Floriani and Justin DePascale — and manned by a vet of Jersey City’s Brewshot — pours brews made from just-roasted beans from Brooklyn’s Toby’s Estate and upstate’s Plowshares. If you need added sweetness to complement that subtle note of blueberry in the cold brew Brazilian, pair your drink with the full range of Tom & Geri Cookies, like graham cracker chocolate chip, freshly baked one town over by DePascale’s dad.
9. WORD Bookstore, 123 Newark Avenue, Jersey City
The Jersey City outpost of Greenpoint’s WORD bookstore, just across the street from the Grove Street PATH station, features an in-store cafe where readers can pore over a hardback copy of Michaele Weissman’s seminal God in a Cup with a mug of Stumptown Coffee in hand. The back-of-store espresso bar also offers cold brew on tap, and it buzzes until 9:30 p.m. nightly, catering to crowds who come in for graphic novel book groups, readings from celebrity authors, and The Book Doctors’ roving Pitchapalooza. Early risers can hit the walk-up window, which serves coffee and espresso to go from 7 to 9 a.m. daily.
8. Tea NJ, 262 Newark Avenue, Jersey City
This transplanted Union City teahouse, which recently reopened in the Jersey City Village, takes its name and inspiration from owner William Toledo’s experience working at TeaNY, the Moby-founded Rivington Street vegan cafe. The vegetarian-friendly, full-service cafe (that also serves some poultry dishes) has already earned a local reputation for Toledo’s vegan chocolate lavender layer cake and its weekend DJ brunches. The expansive beverage menu features dozens of coffee drinks, bubble teas, Italian sodas, and juices, including this dirty Thai tea floating a shot of espresso.
7. Sam AM, 112 Morris Street, Jersey City
If you’re looking for more than your morning Stumptown fix in Paulus Hook, claim a table beyond the front counter and settle into Sam AM, the all-day brunch cafe that’s an easy detour from Exchange Place chains like Van Houtte Coffee, Au Bon Pain, and Cosi. Tuck into hearty breakfast fare like pulled chicken and waffles drizzled with cranberry syrup, or a biscuit and eggs smothered in sausage pan gravy. If the craving strikes you later, the full morning menu’s available until 2:30 p.m. daily. Sam AM is also one of Jersey City’s best dinner spots one night a week.
6. Ultramarinos, 260 3rd Street, Hoboken
While Washington Street’s La Isla is the obvious play for your morning Cuban coffee fix, turn west down 3rd Street to find James Beard-winning Cucharamama chef and cookbook author Maricel Presilla’s Latin hideaway: It pours $2 cortaditos, the most affordable espresso shot in town, alongside the most expensive hot chocolate, which is infused with cinnamon, chile, anise, and rosebuds and is served iced come summertime. Pair your drink to a thick wedge of fruit-, nut-, and chocolate-studded Cuban country toast, served hot, buttered, and spread again with a garlic-olive oil chocolate ganache sprinkled with sea salt.
5. The Warehouse Cafe, 140 Bay Street, Jersey City
Hidden in a construction corridor of fast-rising apartment towers, the Warehouse Cafe anchors the downtown lofts at 140 Bay Street. The guys who don’t wear their Carhartt ironically opt for a no-frills coffee truck down the street, but foremen, hipsters, and neighbors congregate at communal tables here for Intelligentsia coffee by the mug — and the scoop. The latter is courtesy of roving creamery Milk Sugar Love (soon opening a Hamilton Park storefront), which provides the cafe with weekly deliveries of coffee chip ice cream sandwiches. One of those makes a nice follow-up to the smoked ham-and-cheddar sandwich swiped with strawberry preserves.
4. bwe kafe, 1002 Washington Street, Hoboken
Inspired by their mother’s philanthropy in Haiti, brother and sister Dale and Evan Ryan opened this socially conscious uptown Hoboken coffee house last May; the shop’s signature blend comes from Haiti by way of Philadelphia roaster La Colombe. The cafe’s airy living room is stroller- and laptop-friendly by day, and you’ll frequently find benefits, trunk shows, and spoken word performances here at night. Settle in to savor a cup of slow drip inspired by another island; bwe uses a Japanese method that brews coffee at a rate of only one drip per second. Whatever your order, from latte frappes to vegan donuts, a portion of your purchase benefits nonprofits Coffee For Water and Love for Haiti.
3. Red Lion Coffee Co., 1320 Bloomfield Street, Hoboken
One-year-old Hoboken roaster Red Lion will open a second espresso bar, City of Saints, in the East Village later this month, and while that shop represents a bit of a re-brand, the coffee here’s already made an impression on uptown locals, who pack the standing-room-only counter. Outdoor seating in the summer months lets you spend a leisurely morning soaking up pourovers, seasonal lattes, and cold-brewed Kenyan blends alongside fast-selling vegan sweets, like a signature espresso doughnut from Hoboken’s Om Sweet Home. And espresso techies take note: Shots here are pulled from the only La Marzocco Strada EE currently in the States.
2. Dames Coffee Espresso Bar, 581 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City
This rustic wood-and-brick shop was the first espresso bar to cater to downtown Jersey City’s third wave coffee connoisseurs when it opened in 2011. It sources only local ingredients that are up to owner-barista Borah Young’s standards. Consider the butterscotch latte, which is made with Counter Culture’s chocolatey Toscano blend, homemade milk jam, and milk from Battenkill Creamery. Young also sources Tisserie pastries, baked in nearby Union City, and come summer, find that milk jam and yuzu flavoring seasonal iced teas.
1. modcup coffee, 479 Palisade Avenue, Jersey City
Owner-roasters Travas Clifton and Justin Dean Hicks will happily provide you with a free chemistry lesson while they’re siphoning your $8 cup of Ethiopian heirloom coffee — perhaps you’d like the Hachira N2? — over an open flame. Savor your brew at the low counters and eclectic seating, which are designed to inspire conversation among neighborhood regulars, a group that includes a sommelier at DB Bistro Moderne and the Bloomingdale’s window dresser responsible for the mod-psychedelic tableau above. On weekends, Clifton and Hicks take the party outside with a live DJ, and food truck Dark Side of the Moo dishes up exotic sausages along Riverside Park. If none of that entices you, perhaps this will: The owners maintain a lending library of rock biographies and boxes of vintage vinyl.