Could college happen without coffee?

It's no mystery that a university town would be awash with opportunities to catch the caffeine buzz needed to get to through classes and exams, idly hang with a friend or simply meditate over the affairs of the day with a steaming hot cup of joe. Boulder is no exception.

Like most cities with more than three traffic lights, Boulder is littered with Starbucks, but they don't need your business and you don't need their coffee. Boulder features a bountiful selection of independent coffee shops, some featuring award-winning baristas.

Most shops have free Wi-Fi, several feature live music or open mics, and some also offer poetry or spoken-word nights.

Whether you're looking simply to fuel up on the fly or seeking a place to mull the meaning of existence, here are five spots that should meet your needs.

Trident Booksellers and Cafe

Where: 940 Pearl St.; 303-443-3133

Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

A Boulder institution, the Trident is a direct link to a downtown Boulder scene that some see as rapidly vanishing in the face of an onslaught by high-end retailers with no local ties or interest in cultivating the downtown core's quirky spirit.


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The direct pass-through to its new and used bookstore offers Trident Cafe visitors an opportunity to browse, buy and plant themselves with a good read or simply watch life's parade play out on Pearl Street. Also, check out its program of live music on its Facebook page, facebook.com/TridentBoulder.

The Trident has been a fixture since it opened in 1979 and appears to have regulars who haven't missed a day in the succeeding 38 years. After a few visits, you might discover why.

More info: tridentcafe.com

Laughing Goat Coffeehouse

Where: 1709 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-440-4628

Hours: Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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Where: Norlin Library, CU campus, Boulder

Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday

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Where: 2907 55th St., Boulder

Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Maybe there was a time Starbucks had just three outlets. Not saying the Laughing Goat is a future national monolith, but the Laughing Goat now has a trio of locations in Boulder, and each offers something distinctive.

Barista Blaire Baker makes a latte at Ozo Coffee in Boulder.
Barista Blaire Baker makes a latte at Ozo Coffee in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

The downtown site is a true Bolder melting pot that features live music, poetry and "finely crafted adult libations," as billed on its website. The campus outlet is a great spot to grab a cup on the way to class, and during finals, it's open 24 hours a day to keep everyone caffeinated to dawn and beyond. The third location is a perfect stop-in for those working in the business parks on the city's far east side.

More info: thelaughinggoat.com

Ozo Coffee

Where: 5340 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, 303-440-0233

Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

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Where: 1015 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-645-4885

Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday

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Where: 1898 S. Flatiron Circle, #110, Boulder, 303-396-0302

Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday

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Where: 1232-A S. Hover Road, Longmont, 720-600-6689

Hours: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday

Like Laughing Goat, Ozo is developing quite the Boulder County footprint, particularly if you toss in its outlet in neighboring Longmont. Its baristas pride themselves in their friendly service. Barista Greg Lefcourt is a multiple winner of the Mountain Regional Barista Competition and landed on the cover of the June issue of Barista Magazine. And if the Arapahoe Avenue location is too crowded for the tête-à-tête you had planned, the nearby Flatiron Court venue is noteworthy for its elbow room.

Barista Chloe Margot, left, serves a cup of cappuccino to Sara Stup at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe in Boulder.
Barista Chloe Margot, left, serves a cup of cappuccino to Sara Stup at Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

More info: ozocoffee.com

Caffé Sole

Where: 637R S. Broadway, Boulder, 303-499-2985

Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday (live music evenings)

Tucked in the west-facing side of the Table Mesa Shopping Center, Caffé Sole — pronounced "caf-fay so-lay" — is so much more than a coffee house, serving as a community center, art gallery, music venue and dining spot with a full selection of wine and beer — while of course offering a full complement of coffee drinks.

Caffe Sole has been an anchor for south Boulder coffee lovers since 1995 and is proud of its status as a small, locally owned and independent operation.

More info: caffesole.com

Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe

Where: 1301 Pennsylvania Ave., Boulder, 303-495-3303

Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Feel like waxing poetic as you grab your coffee? No better spot than Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe, one of the nation's few poetry-only bookstores, which opened in 2011 and moved to its current perch in December 2015.

Featuring Boulder's Conscious Coffees, the award-winning Boulder-based coffee roaster, Innisfree is just a stone's throw from campus and an oasis from the hectic pace of college life, embracing the words of William Butler Yeats: "And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow."

More info: Innisfreepoetry.com

Charlie Brennan: twitter.com/chasbrennan