At RIT, there seems to be some degree of competition with everything we do. From soap box derbies to athletics to comparing grades with a friend in class, most of our extracurricular and even curricular activities have a spirit of competition naturally built into them, whether it’s intended to or not. As a resident coffee junkie at Reporter and über competitive person in general, who else would be as qualified to give their expert (and subjective) opinion on the coffees of RIT and rank them accordingly?
Java Wally’s: Located in the library, Java Wally’s has the distinction of being the only independent coffee shop at RIT. This is also why they don’t take debit, despite the fact that their sales would probably triple if they did. Not only is the central location a plus the design of Java’s is really nice and comfortable, although it can get a little noisy at times.
My personal favorite from Java’s has to be “Shot in the Dark”, a blend of espresso and hot chocolate, a flavor combination my taste buds beg for on a regular basis. The “Chocolate Sitch” is a nice alternate choice for warmer weather. Rumor has it that the “Terrapin” is delicious, though the baristas have mentioned that it is pretty time-consuming to make, meaning it wouldn’t be a wise choice for a quick coffee fix on your way to class. You should also probably leave some sort of a tip for their efforts. The cost for most of the coffee-based choices run from about $2 to $4, with a small regular coffee costing $1.50. If you’re planning on buying a cup of coffee on campus every morning anyway, it isn’t a bad price.
Beanz / College Grind: Both are on the dorm side, with Beanz located right across from Gracies, and College Grind located near the Commons dining facilities. Using your debit, you can feast on their chocolate cannolis and cake all day long — or, if you're in need of a real meal, paninis and other lunch items are also available. But don't let all that distract you; what we're interested in now is the coffee.
Their coffee is better than what I make, but not the absolute best value on campus since they’re competing with the likes of Java Wally’s. While I can get my chocolate and coffee fix simultaneously, I prefer Starbucks coffee (served at College Grind) to Spot coffee (served at Beanz). Still, it’s not worth the price — which is roughly the same price as the coffee found at Crossroads — when you consider what you’re getting.
At Beanz and College Grind, the Freshen Smoothies reign supreme in the taste category. Made with frozen fruit and ice, these smoothies are easily the healthiest prepared beverage on campus (aside from dropping a tea bag in some hot water or filling up your water bottle). Whenever I go to Beanz or College Grind, I always get a smoothie. But the only time I walk past Beanz is when I am craving coffee and real food, in which case I go to Gracies. Similarly, when I go past the College Grind I am usually fixated on eating a pasta toss with a ton of alfredo sauce upstairs at Commons.
Crossroads: The built-in Starbucks at Crossroads always looks nice, and is conveniently close to the Riverknoll and University Commons apartments. With those cute little cups holding chocolate mousse and big slices of pie or cake, it’s difficult to pass by that glass case without temptation. (Don't you wish you could try just one bite of everything in there?) The cost here is basically the same as Beanz and the College Grind, which is also on par with the average Starbucks. If you purchase anything, expect it to be at least $3.
The taste of the coffee is comparable to Starbucks, which is to say rich and sweet thanks to the quality coffee beans and the blissfully excessive whipped cream toppings. Since I like the combination of chocolate and coffee and will only purchase Starbucks beverages with both of these components, I tend to get the Peppermint Mocha Twist, hot or iced depending on both weather and availability. With bittersweet chocolate, dark chocolate, coffee, and peppermint, this shop is coffee heaven. It’s one of my favorite treats when I’m feeling like indulging my intense sweet tooth, but this would definitely be a bad choice for an everyday purchase due to both price and the nutritional value (or lack thereof).
RITz / Brick City Café / Gracies / anywhere else that serves coffee: At any other place aside from the few mentioned above, you can find Seattle’s Best coffee from a giant red carafe. Brick City Café (the cafeteria on the main level of the SAU) has a really good selection of flavors and additives, from cocoa powder to liquid vanilla to Splenda. This coffee is for the ‘on the go’ person who wants to pay slightly less than it would cost at Starbucks or Java Wally’s. If you have your own mug, you can also get a cool $0.10 discount while getting more coffee than the 16 ounces you’re paying for at the RITz and Brick City Café. The price at most of these places (aside from Gracies) is probably $1.50 to $2.50, depending on the size you select. Gracies coffee is included in the cost of the meal, so it never hurts to grab a coffee on your way out and make sure you really get your money’s worth.
The best hot coffee on campus goes to Java Wally’s. In addition to using only Fair Trade coffee beans, its fairly central location on campus is key for the busy student. There is also a certain prestige to the coffee there due to the necessary use of cash or Tiger Bucks to obtain it. If you’re not a coffee person, Java Wally’s also has smoothies to choose from, though my smoothie purchases are monopolized by Beanz and the College Grind. Most importantly, if you want to wake up, Java’s can definitely help you, whether you’re a coffee person or not.