St. Petersburg, Florida - Exploring Coffee And Kindness In The Sunshine City

13 min read OCT 22, 2023

The sun is shining brightly above. You pull your shades over your eyes to look upward and gaze at the cerulean blue sky.

A soft smile emerges on your face as you calmly sigh; your first steps into the white, sugary sand seem to lift all your troubles.

You slowly shift your feet through the sand, and as it slides through your toes you soon feel the warm, smooth, salt water engulf your feet.

As you breathe in the salty air, you purposefully look out over the glistening waters, iced coffee in hand, knowing at this moment, all is right in the world.

Are you immersed in this scene, yet? Can you hear the waves? Can you smell the ocean’s distinct aroma?

Simply describing this has lowered my heart rate (according to my watch). And, coastal towns are incredibly popular for this very reason.

There’s just something about the sand, the sea, the saltwater, and the sunshine that is good for the soul…something the folks in St. Petersburg, Florida know quite well.

Otherwise known as the sunshine city or St. Pete, this city is undoubtedly a town many seek to reside in or visit, specifically for the scenery.

But, did you know St. Petersburg is also said to be the starting place here in the United States of a common, happy trend? Even better, this trend began in a coffee shop in the sunshine city.

The trend I’m alluding to here is a kind and generous one - pay it forward.

Such gestures have been around for centuries, some dating these acts of kindness back to around 317 BC in Athens. But, what seemed to start a modern day movement, a revolution of kind gestures, is commonly linked to St. Petersburg, Florida on a seemingly ordinary December morning in 2007.

Today, we’d like to detail the actual chain of kindness that began with a cup of coffee more than 15 years ago in the sunshine city. Then, we’d like to explore what else is brewing in St. Pete, as well as some inspiration in hopes that you’ll keep this chain going in your own town and life.

So, pour a cup of joe and join me as we explore St. Petersburg through the lens of coffee and kindness!

I Think This Is The Beginning Of A Beautiful…Trend

Whether you’ve seen Casablanca or not, many are familiar with a common phrase from the film, “...I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Chances are, if you’re reading this article from a coffee company, you already have a beautiful friendship with this beloved bean, but who knew that gifting this beverage would ignite a spark of kindness that would send ripples all across our country, proving to be the beginning of a beautiful trend.

I can think of no better way to describe kindness, gratitude, and a giving spirit than beautiful.

When you look beyond yourself and your circumstances, choosing to bless others, good things follow.

And, in December of 2007, in a Starbucks drive-thru in St. Petersburg, this is exactly what happened.

You see, one man in the long line at the drive thru that winter morning grew impatient. He then expressed his annoyance by laying on his car horn, possibly seeking to prompt the line ahead to move more quickly.

Now, we all know such gestures certainly do not serve to speed things along in these types of situations. However, if we’re honest, we also know we’ve been tempted through impatience to react in similar ways.

In fact, if we’re really honest, many times we find ourselves identifying with the impatient man rather than the other gentleman…

The other gentleman, the one ahead of the impatient sir in line for coffee, reacted to the honking horn behind him with grace, a virtue which led to a heart of kindness and generosity.

Yes, upon pulling up to the window to pay for and receive his morning coffee, this kind soul decided to brighten the impatient man’s day by paying for his coffee as well.

I can imagine the barista at the window was a little shocked, but undoubtedly inspired as well. And, should that barista not have been inspired yet, they certainly were as the hours passed that day.


Because this one act of kindness, this one giving gesture, prompted a chain of paying it forward that lasted for hours and hours at this single Starbucks location!

As the impatient man made his way to the window, soon realizing his actions were repaid with kindness, he was touched, humbled, and grateful, prompting his desire to continue the chain, paying for the order behind him.

Then, upon receiving the blessing, that car paid for the one next in line, and those actions continued, according to some reports, for more than 11 hours. In fact, one barista commented that they believe the chain was only broken because the final customer in this hours long line of gratitude simply didn’t grasp the concept.

But, with such a grand display of gratitude and generosity, this chain of events, of course, made the NBC nightly news. And, since that time, a multitude of others have joined in, grateful for the opportunity to bless others with a little bit of kindness and a cup of coffee.

Actually, the trend has even surpassed coffee, as these kind acts have been happening in all kinds of venues, which just goes to show that ‘kindness is catching.’

After this event, the city of St. Petersburg found itself as the center of attention pertaining to coffee and kindness. And, today the sunshine city’s bean scene has grown immensely.

Could it be that this act of generosity played a part in St. Pete’s growing love for coffee?

Or, perhaps coffee is just so amazing that the incoming droves of folks seeking sunshine, sand, and the sea have prompted the city to purposefully grow its java offerings, with a cup of coffee often being enjoyed in equal measure to that of such scenic attractions?

Either way, St. Petersburg’s coffee community is a booming one, and we’re putting on our shades to see where the sun leads us in this thriving coffee-loving city.

St. Petersburg’s Bean Scene

Generally, when you think of a major coffee city, St. Petersburg, Florida doesn’t come to mind.

However, in the last 10 years or more, St. Pete has become quite the coffee hub, with coffee shops and cafes popping up all over the center of the city. Some have even noted there to be at least one cafe on every block in central St. Petersburg.

Honestly though, coffee in a water-front city doesn’t surprise me. I mean, for locals, what’s better than an afternoon stroll on the beach while enjoying a local cup of joe? And, as for tourists, I know some of my most enjoyable trips have included searching out the local coffee scene, finding the best cafes to sample some java while away from home.

Speaking of the Tampa Bay area, whether you’ve lived there your whole life or you’re only staying for a week to enjoy the sand and sun, there’s truly a variety of cafe offerings sure to meet all your coffee needs.

Here are just a few of those offerings…

Kahwa Coffee is a coffee shop many locals have linked to the rapid spread of cafes across the city, as this popular roaster has been supplying St. Pete with delicious brews for more than a decade.

Kahwa Coffee Roasting Company is the largest independent coffee roaster in the state of Florida, and what started as one cafe has now turned into more than a dozen locations throughout the Tampa Bay area.

Kahwa sources premium Arabica coffee beans from all over the world for both their wholesale customers and cafes. So, when sipping in person, you can expect a wide variety of options to choose from.

They even provide seasonal selections such as their popular harvest chai latte and golden hour latte.

Locals are partial to their aloha coffee, cappuccinos, and lattes. Then, for a few perfect coffee pairings, their chocolate croissants and ham, egg, and cheese croissants are also a hit.

If you’re looking for some to-go options, you can even get a growler full of cold brew to take on the road and enjoy throughout the week.

For those looking for a cup of joe to fuel their next surfing adventure, Grove Surf & Coffee is a cafe and surf shop in one.

So, if you’re looking for surfing gear, or simply want a delicious brew, you can join locals and tourists alike who enjoy the atmosphere and menu at Grove.

One common recommendation from locals is Grove’s toasted coconut latte for those wishing to sample exceptional coffee with an island vibe. But, their menu doesn’t stop there.

Grove Surf & Coffee offers a variety of typical espresso based drinks such as a cortado, cappuccino, mocha, chai latte, and more. And, be sure to check out their seasonal menu as well as their honey cinnamon latte, orange vanilla latte, and so much more.

Craft Kafe is a gem of a coffee shop in St. Pete which is a hub for many folks who are following a gluten free diet/nutrition plan.

Craft Kafe offers multiple date pastries and delicious gluten-free breakfast sandwiches (dubbed the best in the region) to enjoy alongside an espresso, cold brew, drip coffee, pour over, or cup of tea.

A favorite from Craft Kafe is their kyoto drip coffee which is made by allowing cold water to slowly drip over coffee grounds. This method of brewing can cut down on the bitterness and acidity of coffee, so it’s no wonder so many enjoy this selection from Craft.

Then, while in most cafes you’ll find patrons quietly working on their phones or laptops, there’s one location in St. Pete’s that truly captures the serenity of a beach scene.

Bandit Coffee not only provides their customers with great coffee, tea, and kombucha, they do so without an option for their patrons to use wifi.

Gasp…a coffee house without wifi, how will folks get their work done? Well, Bandit’s lack of wifi not only fits with a common theme of coffee (connection), but it greatly embraces the relaxing, calming nature of the coast.

While many coastal cities are hubs for tourist activity, most tourists escape to such places for a well-deserved break and some needed rest and relaxation.

At Bandit Coffee, without wifi, folks are enjoying their coffee in peace, connecting with one another instead of connecting to the internet.

If you stop in Bandit Coffee, be sure to try one of their mochas, cortados, or lattes, such as their maple bourbon latte, a special for the fall season.

For art and coffee enthusiasts, Black Crow Coffee is a trendy, fabulous cafe that displays a wide variety of local art.

Black Crow is located in a beautiful courtyard where they serve freshly roasted artisan craft coffees and baked goods.

Their fall line up, including a blackberry sage latte, pumpkin spice latte, caramel apple butter latte, and an apple chaider, have my mouth watering and my mind fully tempted to pack my bags and head to Florida.

Speaking of packing my bags, the last time I was in Florida my family and I made it a point to only dine at locations with a waterfront view or patio, that way we could enjoy each and every meal with a view.

And, as much as I enjoy dining in this manner, I never would have thought to open a cafe “on” the water. But, this is exactly what Gypsy Souls Coffeehouse is, a unique waterfront cafe that serves (and roasts) coffee from all around the globe.

Gypsy Souls Coffeehouse offers a selection of coffee beans from twelve different origins, including Tanzania, Brazil, Indonesia, Peru, and more.

Brews from these locations are roasted at a small shop in Sarasota then served up daily along with locally sourced teas and pastries.

Gypsy Souls is committed to offering premium Arabica coffee, all of which is sustainably grown, organic, fair trade, rainforest alliance, estate, co-op, and small lot grown.

Alas, to give you a glimpse of each and every cafe in St. Petersburg would truly take hours, so we’ll have to wrap up soon, but there are such a wonderful variety of unique experiences to be had throughout St. Pete’s bean scene.

So, before we move on, I want to share a list of cafes which fit under a somewhat common theme in the sunshine city, the merging of alcohol and coffee.

As St. Petersburg is a known tourist city, this seems to demand a range of offerings from the town’s drink spots, and many cafes here have jumped at the opportunity to meet the beverage needs of their patrons.

The following cafes and coffee shops offer not only coffee and tea, but a variety of alcoholic options as well:

Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails - Here you can enjoy a cup of coffee or a coffee cocktail, a pint of beer or a glass of wine, even their classic cocktail and other beverage list is expansive, containing a seemingly never ending list of options.

Beans & Barlour - Primarily a dessert cafe, this unique shop serves up a variety of things including milkshakes, bagels, alcohol infused ice cream, and of course, coffee.

The Blend - Serving a mixture of wine and coffee, this cafe is described as the perfect place to get work done or simply hangout. Their coffee flights not only look/sound amazing, locals rave over them, specifically their fabulous cold brew and seasonal flights featuring pumpkin cold foam, a pumpkin latte, peach cobbler latte, and a caramel pecan latte…all of which look to die for!

Book & Bottle - Coffee and books, yes please! Coffee and wine, yes please! Book & Bottle describes themselves as a bookstore with wine, a wine shop with books, and a wine bar with coffee and snacks.

According to one fan of this space, their iced pumpkin pie cheesecake latte is outstanding… “tastes just as good as it sounds.”

Get Into Giving

To close things out today, I want to revisit what led us to St. Petersburg in the first place.

Not only is the sunshine city home to some incredible coffee shops and cafes surrounded by white sand beaches and seemingly clear ocean waters, it’s also where most claim the pay it forward movement here in the states truly took hold.

While these acts of kindness, paying for someone else’s coffee or dinner order as an expression of gratitude, grace, and generosity, can truly happen anywhere, personally I find there to be something special about doing so in a coffee house or cafe.

There’s such potential for connection surrounding a cup of coffee. I mean, it’s often the beverage of choice for those seeking to enjoy company and conversation with friends or even a great setting for getting work done with colleagues.

But, when you’re in a drive thru line, this element of connection is rare.

Paying it forward, giving to others, showing kindness…however you wish to term it, while it technically lacks a personal connection, I submit to you that such acts bridge gaps where connection is lacking.

When I pay for someone else’s coffee, or when someone does something similar to me, I feel more connected to others.

Maybe that sounds a bit odd, but it’s true.

Actually, the more I thought about this, the more I wondered if I was alone in feeling such connection simply by giving to others, especially those I do not know.

So, I did a bit of digging…and, it turns out, such actions truly do help us feel connected to others, to mankind as a whole.

When was the last time someone showed you kindness through giving or through generosity?

And, when was the last time you gave to others out of the kindness of your heart?

I’d like to challenge us all today to look for such opportunities, for ways to give, be it a cup of coffee or otherwise.

Of course, after seeing all that St. Petersburg has to offer those of us who truly love coffee, I’m considering a journey to Florida, which seems to be the perfect setting for enjoying amazing coffee and gifting such a treasure to others!

Check out Lifeboost Coffee Embolden Dark Roast.

Headshot of Becky Livingston Vance
Becky Livingston Vance Content writer

Becky is a mother, educator, and content writer for Lifeboost Coffee. She has had three years’ experience as a writer, and in that time she has enjoyed creatively composing articles and ebooks covering the topics of coffee, health and fitness, education, recipes, and relationships.


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