You don’t need me to tell you that it’s back-to-school season. The tenor of our city has changed. University students have descended on the Target at El Con, stripping its shelves bare of frozen fruit, gum and shower caddies. They crowd the Sun Link streetcar and establishments like Gentle Ben’s on weekend nights.
Meanwhile, parents of K-12 students are packing lunches and researching developments around the delta variant. Although remote learning is mostly a relic, fully in-person classes pose their own uncertain challenges to teachers as they return to classrooms as well.
Then there are working stiffs like me, who have no kids, no changing responsibilities with the beginning of a new school year. As we stagger to the finish line of a drawn-out summer, we need a pick-me-up to get through life as usual.
For all of the groups above, few establishments offer as simple and direct relief as a drive-thru coffee stand. While Starbucks and Dutch Bros have become ubiquitous, Tucson has a great selection of homegrown favorites, led by the iconic Coffee Times on Speedway.
As a litmus test for the affordability of a particular location, I’ve included the price of a 16-ounce drip coffee or equivalent. At Starbucks, a grande drip will run you $2.85. At Dutch Bros, which only brews espresso coffees, a 16-ounce Americano costs $2.75.
Location: At the base of Sentinel Peak
Hours: Typically Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-12 p.m. | Occasionally closed for private events, which are posted on their Instagram
Price: $3.00 for a 16-ounce drip coffee
Coffee on the Fly at Water Street Station
Location: 3952 N. 1st Ave., near Roger Road
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. | Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. | Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Price: $2.65 for a 16-ounce Americano
Location: 3401 E. Speedway, near Country Club Road
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-5 p.m. | Sunday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Price: $2.25 for a 16-ounce drip
Special offer: Their 8-ounce drip is only 99 cents!
Coffee X Change
Hours: Tanque Verde location, 5 a.m.-9 p.m. daily | Broadway location, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily
Price: $2.75 for a 16-ounce drip
Crave Coffee Bar
Location: 4530 E. Broadway, near Swan Road
Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily
Price: $2.55 for a “medium”
The Human Bean
Location: 6295 E. 22nd St., near Wilmot Road
Hours: Monday-Friday, 5 a.m.-9 p.m. | Saturday-Sunday. 6 a.m.-8 p.m.
Price: $3 for a 16-ounce
Red Captain Coffee
Location: 4004 N. Stone Ave., near Roger Road
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 7 a.m.-1 p.m.
Price: $4.25 for a 16-ounce
Special offer: 15% teacher discount through October 1
Location: 1545 W. Wetmore Road, near Flowing Wells Road
Hours: Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-6 p.m. | Saturday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
Price: $2.50 for a 16-ounce drip
Note: The Prest Coffee Drive-Thru that was on 22nd Street and Tucson Boulevard is temporarily closed as it looks for a new location. We will add a listing when the new location has been announced.