With hip-hop playing overhead and candied bacon served on Fridays, Academic Coffee is not a basic coffee shop, and nor is its history. Starting as a pop-up shop inside of downtown San Jose cocktail lounge Five Points, the coffee shop has since expanded to a stand-alone location at East William and South Second streets.

Barely a month into its new digs, Academic has tended to attract nearby residents and workers over students from San Jose State University, which works out for local professionals like Shannon Hunter.

“I like that the cafe is not known as much,” Hunter said, in between typing and taking sips from an iced mint latte ($5). “It’s only my second time here, but I want to make this my regular coffee shop.”

As a newcomer, I went with a recommended iced coconut latte ($5) paired with an Apple Kouign-amann pastry ($4.50). The glass was filled with enticing swirls of java and topped with toasted coconut. Academic uses So Delicious coconut milk but also offers a soy option for an extra 50 cents. The pastry, delivered from Firebrand Artisan Breads in Oakland, was served on a personal-size cutting board of wood and marble. Made of equal parts butter and sugar, and filled with tender apple slices, the outside crust was flaky and sweet.

Despite my mention of few students, the toons and casual atmosphere are designed to encourage studying. Beginning at the register, guests are greeted with a list titled “Daily Assignments,” aka the menu of the day. There are subtle spinoffs of academia, such as the molecular-design logo printed on college-ruled paper. However, the power outlets and free wifi do lend themselves as a convenient place to get work done.

Brian Nguyen, a barista who has previously worked at his fair share of coffee shops, noted that Academic is striving to provide an atmosphere that doesn’t just run cups and customers through a turnstile. “We are dedicated to being service forward and not just coffee forward,” he said.

In addition to making coffee with a swanky Linea PB La Marzocco espresso machine, Academic intends to educate customers by hosting coffee-making workshops.

“I’ve seen customers buy a bag of beans, but they can’t produce the product,” Nguyen said, adding that the ownership group opened the space as a way “to educate the coffee consumer.”

Shortly after the grand opening, Academic expanded its hours from 7am-7pm. For coffee lovers, that means school is officially in session.

Academic Coffee
499 S Second St., San Jose.