Black Gold Coffee Roasters Coffee maniac Gary Lauters travels the world selecting beans and then roasts them in his Venice warehouse/shop on a machine from San Francisco, which is on display along with big bags of beans. He also works with local businesses from bakeries to breweries to craft coffee-flavored products. Lauters has concocted a menu that includes coffee, red-eyes (espresso and coffee), lattes, cappuccinos, mochas, blended drinks and cold brew that’s been dubbed “liquid crack.” Not only is it strong, but when combined with vanilla and cream, sweet and delicious. There are even seasonal “cracks”—the Irish Crack is made with Irish cream and hazelnut; the Island Crack, coconut and cream; and the Winter Crack, peppermint and cream. Nice pastries, breakfast items, sandwiches and salads available, too. 2385 E. Venice Ave., Venice, (941) 488-8242, $ 

Downtown Sarasota 

Breaking Wave Coffee This laid-back shop opened earlier this year in the former home of Artisan Cheese Company. It is owned and run by Radu Dehelean, with a menu of familiar favorites like pour-overs, cortados, flat whites, espresso, cold brew and more, plus friendly service and a minimalist design. A perfect place to stop after browsing books at Bookstore 1 just down the way. 1310 Main St., Sarasota,

Buddy Brew Coffee An offshoot of a Tampa operation, Buddy Brew is owned by Dave and Susan Ward. The pair picked the perfect downtown location when they opened here a few years ago—beneath the Palm Avenue parking garage and next door to the restaurant space that is now Lemon Tree Kitchen. It’s always buzzing with customers, from condo residents and office workers to employees at nearby arts organizations. They’re sprawled on sidewalk seating and lining up for strong coffee (order it black to savor the fruity acidity), creamy lattes and sweet treats like affogatos and cold-brew floats. Drinks are whipped up with Dakin Dairy milk (almond milk is available, too), and syrups—like vanilla, caramel and mocha—are made in-house. 1289 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 374-7186, $

Pastry Art Bakery, Espresso, Sandwich Shop Pastry Art buzzes from open until close, thanks to its strong coffee (an iced coffee had us vibrating at our desks all afternoon), central location and ample outdoor seating that’s perfect for people watching—especially during the Saturday farmers’ market. On its menu are iced and hot coffee; hot, iced and frozen espresso drinks; specialty sippers like dirty chai (chai tea with a shot of espresso); and the popular iced Americanos. This spot has the widest selection of pastries of any local coffee shop, all made in house and worth the indulgence. The gargantuan chocolate chip-studded espresso muffin packs a punch and is the perfect partner for that iced coffee. 1512 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 955-7545, $

South Sarasota

The Clever Cup Nestled in a little storefront in Gulf Gate, The Clever Cup exudes a cheery, warm vibe, with a scattering of tables and chairs up front, a vintage couch in the back and interesting art on the walls. (Paintings made with espresso, anyone?) Coffee is brewed with beans from Venice’s Black Gold Coffee Roasters; the line-up includes Americanos, lattes, café con leche, café au lait and more, and the baristas will whip up whatever you request. Good seasonal flavored milk drinks, too, like the cinnamon-and- rice-infused horchata latte we enjoyed over the holidays. It all comes in giant mugs—they don’t skimp on the good stuff. 6530 Gateway Ave., Sarasota, (941) 447-8383, $ 

Lakewood Ranch

Kahwa Coffee Roasting Another popular Tampa Bay chain, Kahwa has a handful of locations in the area. The name is a spin on the Arabic word for coffee (“qawha”). It specializes in one-of-a-kind blends of single-origin beans from countries around the world, and the menu offers the usual line-up, including cappuccinos, lattes, macchiatos, Americanos and more. There’s also a flavored drink of the month, and each one can be made with cow or almond milk. The space has an industrial-chic vibe—concrete floors with minimal decrations—and shaded outdoor seating. The nitro cold brew is the region’s best. 8317 Market St., Bradenton, (941) 351-1551; inside University Town Center, 140 University Town Center Drive, (941) 248-3300; 1487 Second St., Sarasota, (941) 203-8971; and coming soon to the Shops at Casey Key; $ 

Siesta Key

Lelu Coffee Lounge First walk Siesta Key Beach, dipping your toes into the water and watching pelicans swoop into the Gulf. Then head across the street to Lelu, housed in a bright-blue cottage with cheery yellow awnings. Inside, you’ll find beach-themed décor, including hanging surfboards, comfy chairs and couches and rustic wood accents. Owner Jennifer Smith brews a menu of espresso and coffee that includes lattes, cold brew, café con leche, frappés and Smith’s own coconut-flavored coffee; bags of coffee and bottles of cold brew are available for purchase. Our pick: the cortadito, a Cuban-inspired drink that’s made with an espresso shot, sweetened with demerara sugar and topped with steamed milk. You can order a good breakfast or lunch from the extensive menu, too. 5251 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key, (941) 346-5358, $ 


Perq Coffee Bar Keith and Erin Zolner brought coffee concoctions such as flat whites, Gibraltars and Kalitas to Sarasota when they opened their Southside Village shop in 2013. From the beginning, they made it their mission to educate locals about the art and science of coffee. They’re sticklers for detail: beans are Fair Trade and single-origin; milk comes from Myakka’s Dakin Dairy Farm; the bright-green Slayer espresso machine is Instagramable; and drinks are made and measured to exacting specifications. But don’t be intimidated: The staff loves to chat about coffee and will walk you through the ordering process. You can savor your drink on one of the sleek black leather couches or at an industrial-chic wood table. 1821 Hillview St., Sarasota, (941) 955-8101, $$ 

North Sarasota 

The Reserve This coffee shop/bookstore/market is housed in buildings once owned by Charles Ringling. Owners Jessica Simmons and Kim Cressell have converted them into airy, light-filled, multiuse spaces where you can grab a great cup, along with house-made pastries, sandwiches and more. (On a recent morning, the smell of croissants baking in the oven wafted through the air. “We’re doing an experiment with croissant sandwiches,” the barista explained.) The Reserve crafts its drinks with Buddy Brew coffee and espresso, and the menu features cold brew, lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos and more—using regular or alternative milks—plus kombucha on draft, wine and local craft beer. Pro tip: Grab your coffee and pastry and head to one of the outdoor tables when the weather is nice. 1322 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 400-8396, $

Rosemary District

Varietal Coffee Bar The Overton added Varietal, a specialty coffee bar, to its fun indoor-outdoor space in the Rosemary District this year. Running the bar and pouring the drinks is the knowledgeable Evan Cooper, and the coffee comes straight from the coffee maker Counter Culture. Varietal offers a rotating cast of different roasts, plus seasonal specialty drinks. Cooper knows his coffees—and teas—and takes his time with every cup. A great meetup spot in a neighborhood that’s undergoing drastic change. 1430 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota, $$

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