A unique Charleston  phenomenon on Upper King by Marion Square  is the aptly named Cupcake (433 King St., 843/853-8181, www.freshcupcakes.com , Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–7 p.m.). Their eponymous specialty compels Charlestonians to form lines onto the sidewalk, waiting to enjoy one or more of the 30 flavors of little cakes.
By common consensus, the best java joint in Charleston is Kudu Coffee (4 Vanderhorst Ave., 843/853-7186, Mon.–Sat. 6:30 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.–6 p.m.) in the Upper King  area. A kudu is an African antelope, and the Africa theme extends to the beans, which all have an African pedigree. Poetry readings and occasional live music add to the mix. A lot of green-friendly, left-of- center community activism goes on here as well; a recent discussion group was titled “How to Survive the Bible Belt but Still Find God.” The adjacent African art store is owned by the coffeehouse.
If you find yourself needing a quick pick-me-up while shopping on King Street , avoid the lines at the two Starbucks on the avenue and instead turn east on Market and duck inside City Lights Coffeehouse (141 Market St., 843/853-7067, Mon.–Thurs. 7 a.m.–9 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.–6 p.m.). The sweet goodies are delectable in this cozy little Euro-style place, and the Counter Culture organic coffee is to die for. If you’re really lucky they’ll have some of their Ethiopian Sidamo brewed.
Though technically a retail location of a national chain rather than a traditional tea room per se, you can get an outstanding fresh cup of herbal tea or maté at Teavana (340 King St., 843/723-0600, www.teavana.com , Mon.–Thurs. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. noon–6 p.m.). Take the time to enjoy it in the little courtyard out back. Stored in big cans along the back wall, all the tea here is loose, fresh, and of extremely high quality. The friendly and knowledgeable staff will let you do sniff tests until you find the aroma that appeals to you most.
Routinely voted as having the best desserts in the city, Kaminsky’s (78 N. Market St., 843/853-8270, daily noon–2 a.m.) cakes alone are worth the trip to the City Market area. The fresh fruit torte, the red velvet, and the “Mountain of Chocolate” are the three best sellers. There’s a Mount Pleasant location, too (1028 Johnnie Dodds Blvd., 843/971-7437).
Some key Starbucks locations in Charleston  are 239 King Street, 387 King Street, 168 Calhoun Street, and 475 East Bay Street.