Coffee Times, on 3401 E. Speedway, has been open for 22 years.

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.

Calle Coffee

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

Coffee Times

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 is an east side institution, with two locations: this one is off of Tanque Verde at 6841 N. Camino Principal, Ste. #3906.

Coffee X Change

Location: 6481 N. Camino Principal, near Tanque Verde Road; and 8501 E. Broadway near Camino Seco

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

Roadrunner Kiosk

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.

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