Exploring local coffee shops and confections
In a world obsessed with brand name coffee, it’s a comfort to know that independent coffee shops still not only exist, but thrive. Features editor Heather Leith and I hunted down unique, local coffee shops in search of delicious food and well-brewed coffee. With the help of our trusty photographers and friends who tagged along, we ate and drank our way through three places to give you the down-low on where to get your cup of joe.
Emily Arnold/THE CHIMES
Heather: At this vegetarian, eco-friendly coffee shop, I sprang for an iced soy latte with honey-flavored syrup. I was pleased, but not elated. I had never tried honey with coffee before, but it was my favorite element of the drink. They used just enough sweetener to complement the latte, but not dominate it. Green Bliss boasts locally roasted coffee, which honestly doesn’t make a huge difference to me, but it did make me feel like I was changing a small business owner’s life. The coffee itself had sour tones, which was what took this drink down a notch.
The strawberry beet smoothie is a surprising delicious coffee-alternative. The beet flavor is light and earthy and pairs with the sweet strawberry perfectly.
Anna: Green Bliss’ vegan and gluten-free cupcakes are definitely worth a try. The cake is moist and does not settle for the mediocre “good for gluten-free and vegan” standard. The raspberry frosting is heavier than buttercream, but the bright berry flavor stood out well. If you are looking for a quality gluten-free and vegan cupcake, look no further. However $3.75 is a little steep if you aren’t picky.
I also highly recommend the “Avo-Campania Panini” and “Tommy’s Special Flatbread.” Both are slathered with a hemp seed basil pesto that will change your life and view of vegetarian food.
Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES
Heather: At the barista’s recommendation I ordered the best-selling chai latte, hoping to get something similar to the sweet vanilla chai lattes at Common Grounds. The homey “for here” mug and inch of foam looked promising, but I was disappointed upon tasting a very spiced chai. Maybe I am just unfamiliar with the traditional taste of chai, but I ended up only drinking half of it because of the bitter taste of the spices. At $3.75, it felt like a waste of money when I could have gotten a more enjoyable drink at Commons for $2.15.
I am not telling you to avoid this cozy coffee hub, although the lack of sufficient seating alone might lead me to do so. I have tried the caramel macchiato and a regular coffee and enjoyed them both. Keep in mind that Night Owl boasts organic and fair trade coffee and tea, so you must be willing to pay the price for that luxury.
Anna: As I scanned the full dessert case for something sweet, the wide selection of decadent desserts made it hard to choose. The lack of labeling or a posted dessert menu added to the difficulty. While some identities were apparent, others were less obvious. The employee politely answered my questions but ordering felt cumbersome, like I was holding up the line. I purchased an individual-size cheesecake and an almond croissant for a total of $9.45.
The creamy cheesecake was rich without being heavy. The graham cracker crust added a nice contrast to the cheesecake’s texture. However, the layer of whipped cream on top of the cheesecake felt like an unnecessary addition. Fresh blueberries perched on top added a burst of fruit flavor, but the richness of the cream cheese became a little monotonous after several bites. Overall, it was simple with a pleasant flavor; I ate about half and was satisfied. At $5, I’m not sure I would order it again, except maybe to share with a friend.
My first bite of the almond croissant revealed it to be tough, dense, greasy and without any distinct almond flavor. It lacked the many light layers that are key to a croissant’s success. I quickly tossed it aside and warned our photographer, who reached over for a bite, that it was barely edible and not worth the calories.
Emily Arnold/THE CHIMES
Heather: Wanting to taste the most popular item on the menu, I ordered an Eiskeffe — think root beer float with espresso instead of soda. The server poured the shot over the two scoops of vanilla ice cream right there at the table and I was pleased when I dug into this sweet coffee treat. It was not bitter, but creamy and smooth, especially when paired with the ice cream — so worth $5.95. I was told by my two friends, a barista and a culinary school graduate, that it was brewed to perfection. Surprisingly, the ice cream did not melt when the hot espresso was poured over it and stayed solid for the whole 20 minutes it took me to finish it. Anna informed me that the cup and ice cream must have been frozen beforehand. Genius.
This quaint Korean shop has plenty of innovative latte choices, including cinnamon vanilla and sweet potato. They also serve milk tea, smoothies and iced coffee served with coffee ice cubes. With an extremely accomodating staff, award-winning latte art and eccentric Korean pop music videos playing on a large TV screen, this place is so worth the price and the 15-minute drive to the Knott’s Berry Farm area.
Anna: A crisp, golden waffle topped with kiwi, strawberry, banana and blueberries is a great late night treat. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce and you have perfection, also known as the “Berry Berry Waffle.” Pancake syrup moistens the waffle without drowning it in unnecessary sweetness, making the fresh fruit the star of the show. Coffee Code’s waffles are made from scratch, are light enough to keep you from feeling weighed down, but hold up underneath ice cream, fruit and syrup.Their other waffle choices, “Chocolate,” “Mochi” and “Strawberry,” look just as delicious and all are just big enough to share, but not so big that you couldn’t eat one by yourself if you so desired.