When I can be, I am a self-professed coffee snob. I completely blame it on my past.
My mother frequently took an hour drive from our home to a gourmet coffee bean store in Des Moines. I tried to accompany her on the journey as many times as I could. The aroma from the giant wooden bins of beans was heavenly. On the way home, the hazelnut fragrance from the small paper bags would fill the car. When our Bunn coffeemaker would start the brewing process, I knew that I would grow up intoxicated with the smell and taste of such pure goodness.
I started having small sips of coffee in middle school and by the time high school rolled around, I was dabbling in harder stuff: caramel lattes and mochaccinos.
College came and while other students used their extra cash on hamburgers at the food court, I studied the menu of our campus coffee shop.
After working three years as a barista, my tastes have become quite snobby. While I enjoy a flavored beverage once and awhile, I prefer to stick to mostly premium dark roast coffee of the French press variety, Americanos, and small cups of espresso.
Unfortunately, due to a teeny weeny budget as I look for employment, I can’t be that picky. My bags of gourmet roasted beans have quickly become replaced with more economical choices for the time being. Even with my limited prospects, I don’t have to settle for just whatever is cheapest at the store.
Here is a list of caffeinated drinks that I have come to enjoy. You don’t always have to sacrifice taste for your wallet:
While I would rather buy beans roasted from a local coffee shop or bagged premium coffee from the supermarket, I have learned that buying in bulk is my only option at this point. We have tried a few brands and flavors and this has become our favorite:
It has a smooth, dark roast taste. While it took a while for us to get used to, we have come to enjoy this caffeine mix every morning.
Hurricane Sandy threw us for a loop when it came to coffee. We knew we would have to give instant coffee a try (I never have before). All I can say is yuck. The only way we were able to chug it down was with our International Delight coffee creamer. (We also didn’t want to waste the creamer as our electricity was off so we used healthy quantities.) One thing we did pick up was Nescafe’s Mementos cappuccino.
If you don’t want to go out of the house, it’s blizzarding or whatever, you might want to give this a try. I have tried other instant mocha and cappuccino beverages, and this is definitely the best. It has much more of the foam and thickness associated with coffee-house drinks. While it doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing, it is flavorful. Warning: If you want caffeine content, I would stick with regular brewed coffee. Not a wake-up solution.
We have a French press that we enjoy using time from time. Target has provided us beans that we are happy to use, as they are Free Trade (which is important to us) and delicious. Not only that, but the Archer Farm brand usually has coupons available and is on sale frequently.
Don’t get me wrong. I cannot go a week without coffee-house coffee. It is an uncontrollable habit of mine, that I have learned to limit. If I am in a huge hurry and want cheap, delicious coffee — there is no choice. Dunkin’ Donuts is king. Seriously, out of all the coffee that I have consumed over the years, my favorite is from this chain. Oh yeah, their bagged beans are also super great. Their turbo and dark roasts are my favorites.
The chain I miss most from the Midwest is Caribou Coffee. They make THE BEST white peppermint mocha. Whether I was in Omaha, Neb. or Minneapolis, Minn., I was never unsatisfied by their coffee or service. If you are near one and have not tried their coffee beverages, please head there now. You won’t be disappointed. Speaking of the Midwest, if you ever are in Omaha, visit Crane Coffee or Scooters. Just do it.
I have found another new favorite cheap coffee locale. Pret A Manger. The chain is based out of UK, but there are currently chains in NYC, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. Not only is it organic and fresh, but the quick cuisine available is AMAZING. If you have a coffee there, please pair with their harvest cookies. Super yum. I just wish they had coffee cup sleeves because their coffee is super hot.
And while I have found new coffee shops to venture to, I have a hard time avoiding the most famous of these places. Starbucks. Dang their advertising! I am not a huge fan of all their drinks, but I have a few favorites. I have experienced their pumpkin spice latte a few times already this fall season. If you want regular coffee, you can’t go wrong with a Pike Place Roast. What is my favorite of their drinks? A white-hot chocolate covered in whipped cream. There is a Starbucks really close to our apartment, so if I am in the mood to read a book and unwind, it is my accompanying beverage choice.
There are other coffee shops and chains, such as Panera, that I should list. But I haven’t really ventured out to them lately. Once and awhile, I decide that I must have really, really good coffee. In such cases, I just walk around the corner to Dames Coffee Espresso Bar. Probably some of the best cappuccinos and lattes I have ever had. Complete with heart or leaf drawings on top!
And last (but definitely not least), I am looking forward to visiting my favorite central Iowa shop, Mornin’ Glory Coffee Shop, when I come home for Thanksgiving. Many great memories and the coolest baristas around! And don’t get me started on their dark roast coffee. So, so good! (And definitely try their sticky toffee caramel latte, WOWZAS!)