Orlando is known as the Theme Park Capital of the World, home to Disney’s sprawling county-sized Disney World, as well as the immersive two-park Universal Studios complex and. Unless you happen to be a big Joffrey’s fan, coffee in Orlando more or less takes a back seat to everyone’s vacation adventures.
But there is another Orlando. Locals know the city for its bustling downtown, distinct neighborhoods like Little Vietnam and The Milk District, and enough music, art, and food to sustain both young and old, native and transplant. Most of the 70 million tourists each year might overlook it, but over the past decade to Orlando has become home to a vibrant and high-quality coffee scene, shaped undeniably by the city’s relentless pride. Although unintentional, all but Deeply Cafe and Bottle Shop of the cafes and coffee purveyors highlighted here are pandemic entrants. One would be hard-pressed to find a common denominator more convincing of a city’s commitment to a singular coffee culture than that.
Whether the coffee drinker that wants to foster local artists or the one that routinely heads to pop-up markets, Orlando’s got you caffeine covered. These are the coffee personalities not to miss for a surprisingly great Orlando coffee experience.
Deeply Cafe and Bottle Shop
If it’s worth doing, do it deeply.
That’s the approach that owner Ryan Holden committed to when breathing life into the coffee scene in his hometown of Orlando. At this cafe, everything is of the highest quality, and there is not one fake feature, from the counter of real cement to the constant rotation of beans within the grand international network Holden has created for his downtown coffee destiny. The pride of being a multi-roaster shop is palpable, and the impressive assortment that he’s assembled since opening in 2018 includes Drop Coffee Roasters out of Stockholm, the Dutch Friedhats Coffee Roasters, and Nomad from Barcelona.
The Kees van der Westen Spirit Triplette espresso machine is intentionally the space’s centerpiece. Crowned by stalagmitic seafoam green cups and saucers, this statement piece churns out all the espresso favorites, but don’t think that means passing up the filtered coffee; it’s Holden’s favorite. Don’t miss Deeply’s signature Coffee Cola, one of the shop’s most popular drinks. A coffee interest sparked by a once-upon-a-time trip to the Pacific Northwest (as well as by his coffee-loving wife), Holden has built a conscious cafe that makes coffee appreciation and culture easy. It’s a perfect fit for Orlando.
Bynx, a 2020 coffee newcomer, is an exciting new addition to the Orlando coffee scene. With James Reid, your neighborhood full-on creative, at the helm, its current presence and guaranteed future are as fine-tuned as the instruments in the cafe’s fully equipped recording studio in the back.
Baristas at the front are dedicated repositories of coffee knowledge, which they gleefully share as they jam to hip hop and funk beats emanating from the cafe’s main stage. Their mainstay, Water Avenue’s El Toro blend, fills their hoppers, but you can also sometimes grab Blue Creek or, if you’re craving a darker brew, Boxcar on drip. For something local, their Nitro on tap is brewed with beans from Otus Coffee Co., a roaster out of Winter Garden. Passion drives this ambitious third place that, in addition to coffee, sells vinyl, courtesy of Reid, along with rare books and ephemera, courtesy of his father. It’s hard not to feel the family spirit that Reid takes so much pride in.
Lobos Coffee Roasters
Lobos Coffee Roasters opened at the end of 2019 and is the work of owner Roryn “Tony” Villalobos. While unofficial, the tagline “sourced globally, roasted locally” does a fantastic job characterizing what you’ll find here: quality coffee from around the world and a visible roasting operation right on the premises.
The attention to sourcing and devotion to roasting alone would be enough to put this cafe on the map. However, Villalobos, a graduate of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, has created a coffee environment that cares for its customers and will accept nothing less than a superb experience and a drink made right. With other staff members hailing from Hilton and Disney, a customer orientation drives everything they do. Villalobos is proud of the cafe’s Orlando address, and he matches the palate of residents by encouraging baristas to experiment, producing unique seasonal coffee offerings and house specialties.
One beverage to try this spring is their cold brew lemonade, composed of layered cold brew coffee and their house-made lemonade. Whether or not you go this adventurous seasonal route, ample indoor seating and an enclosed, dog-friendly back patio ensure that a day can be made of any visit.
With all the coolness of neon and sleekness of marble, The Robinson Cafe flips the cafe convention on its head. The double-decker space is a vanguard of experience, a place where aesthetics reigns supreme in support of a delicious coffee experience.
Fully understanding its location in the heart of downtown, it’s a cafe and cocktail lounge on the lower level with a disco room and lounge just above. While a seemingly surprising choice for suppressing a coffee fix, the cafe’s intentionality sets it apart. The faithful Philadelphia purveyor La Colombe completely outfits their coffee selection—their house is made from Brazil Beleza, their espresso drinks from Nizza, and their cold brew from San Roque—and the cafe genuinely prides itself on this complete roaster relationship. Their signature Robinson Latte is a mix of espresso, milk (every choice imaginable, from hemp to oat), almond syrup, and chocolate sauce. But—should it be that time—go ahead and consider ordering their wildly popular espresso martini, revered for containing real shots of espresso, resulting in a compositionally complex and excellent cocktail. If there’s even an ounce of a chance that the day’s coffee could shift into a wine night, best to work from home in style as the upper disco room enforces a dress code.
While many cafes are going for farmhouse or amber bulbs, Amanda Douglas has chosen to take it back with her vegan coffee concept… back to the 1990s that is. Social media paced, Totally Coffee can be seen in action at several pop-ups around Orlando including Mellow Market, GB Bottle Shop & Tasting Bar, TPD Night Market, and others, serving delectable vegan pop tarts and lattes (at present exclusively using oat milk). Her announcements of the mystery latte flavor and collaborations with other small businesses—ranging from the praised strawberry shortcake latte to the frenzy that was the vanilla birthday cake latte with Oreos (with a full cake slice plopped on top of the cup, steadied by way of straw), a collaboration with Golden Moon Kitchen—routinely spark local buzz.
Waiting at her stand, this female entrepreneur can be found chatting with customers while crushing Oreo pieces with one hand and pulling shots on her La Spaziale Mini Vivaldi II machine with the other. The smiles, the energy, the smell of espresso, from nearby Winter Park roaster Ligature Coffee, forever emanates… all outside and among the swirls of bright yellow and green, shades precisely right for a ceaselessly supported coffee cart that is all about this brightness.
Also Worth Checking Out
Although you may find yourself transfixed by the growth of both access to and interest in coffee in Orlando, there are several other cafes that set this stage. Of these cafes worth tipping a metaphorical cap to are the coffee spots Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar and, the perhaps lesser known, Achilles Art Cafe. Drunken roasts their own coffee and is both the coffee scene’s vegan and drive-thru veteran. Their iced hemp milk lavender latte is a drink, while perhaps not worth a drive-thru wait, definitely justifies a stop in. However, Drunken’s homemade soups are to die for and sure to please any diet—unbelievably offered in four different columns: Vegan, Vegetarian, Meat, and Seafood. Should you end up on Orlando’s west side, that is where you will find Achilles, a hangout unlike any other. For their drip and espresso drinks they bring in beans from Golden Hills Coffee Roasters out of nearby Clermont, Florida, but the real appeal is the outrageous interior that seems to collect the essence of all its customers.
Emily Sujka is a freelance journalist based in Orlando. This is Emily Sujka’s first feature for Sprudge.