Gimme that average ASU coffee

A barista pours steamed milk into a latte at Songbird Coffee and Tea House in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Alexis Macklin) A barista pours steamed milk into a latte at Songbird Coffee and Tea House in downtown Phoenix. (Photo by Alexis Macklin)

Every morning, I wake up with fuzz in my eyes and stumble into the kitchen to make or (if I’m lucky) grab a cup of brown liquid that lifts the blur and allows me to understand the proper use of a toothbrush. I love coffee.

In Phoenix, we find ourselves at a hub of a “third-wave” coffee movement, with independent shops opening up left and right serving some of the greatest cold brew or the finest espresso around. It’s absolutely incredible how the culture developed in Phoenix, and it’s something we should all be incredibly proud of. I am looking at you, Blue House Coffee!

The problem is, none of these aficionado vendors operate on campus. And, to be frank, the campus culture does not lend itself to the artisan cup of coffee. The reality is that most students are looking for coffee the way governments and multinational corporations are looking for oil — as much of it for as little money as possible and fast, with an extra shot.

With this in mind, which one of the several Tempe campus coffee vendors makes for the best deal? Considering that taste is only a minor factor, one has to hold speediness and price above all else. The quest for the optimal “utility-cup” begins.

Starbucks

Starbucks at the Memorial Union in Tempe. The Starbucks and ASU online degree partnership starts at the beginning of session B. (Photo by Ryan Liu) Starbucks at the Memorial Union in Tempe. The Starbucks and ASU online degree partnership starts at the beginning of session B. (Photo by Ryan Liu)

By now, Starbucks’ presence is well established at ASU. With three locations, a sponsorship of a fourth in Barrett, The Honors College, and the debut of one of the first mobile coffee carts the company has ever promoted, Starbucks is ubiquitous.

Before 10 a.m., Starbucks is a great place to grab that morning gasoline. After 10 a.m.? Run for the hills!

At $1.75 for a tall (12 oz.) cup of coffee, it’s not too bad of a deal, but the likelihood of you losing time and money in a line not so different from what one would find at Disney World, you’re better off branching out and going to a different place.

Einstein’s

Just across the Union is Einstein’s — a worthy alternative to Starbucks, if the goal is to guzzle as much coffee as possible before your next exam.

Around the same price range as its corporate competitors, Einstein’s has one distinct advantage: convenience. Going with the DIY method of having customers fill up their own cup of coffee, Einstein’s cuts back on wait-time while at the cashier.

Once you get to the stand, you can pick from a number of coffees to suit your interests — never having your choice limited. My favorite of these choices if the Vanilla Hazelnut blend — it tastes like cardboard, but smells like heaven, and that’s all you can ask for at the MU, right?

Charlie’s Cafe

Located at the Hayden Library, a home away from home, Charlie’s probably serves the best coffee on campus. It tastes like magic, and I enjoy picking it up from the incredible staff of baristas whenever I get the chance. It’s one of the only places at ASU that feels like a community establishment. Charlie’s also excels in its creative latte-crafting — I will always keep my eye out for the next Horchata Latte season.

My only cross to bear when discussing Charlie’s is how quick it can thrust out coffees. Given that it is local in relation to ASU, Charlie’s does not have the industrial capacity to pump out liquid crack and morning buns at the pace corporate institutions do.

Often times one will find a line piling up in front of it, but rest assured, if you have the time, you will enjoy your experience.

Provisions On Demand (P.O.D.) Market

I’ve been using the gasoline metaphor a lot, and in no other place is it more applicable than the P.O.D. market coffee. Home to a number of roasts, it's coarse, bitter, and there’s a suspicious “Coffee Mate” dispenser next to the lids that make this experience the most convenience-store-like of coffees at ASU.

Sometimes, though, it’s all I need.

eSquared

Last, but not least, is eSquared — a satellite branch of the Elysium-esque Engrained, holding its luxurious spot over the Memorial Union first floor underlings.

This place features a chic aesthetic and a menu featuring a number of vegan options, grooming it to be the ideal hipster haven on campus. In many ways it excels in this area, as the coffee is a tad higher of priced than its competitors, but it maintains a level of cool-ness to it that adds to the experience. The line is usually pretty short, and it takes only a second for them to fill your hands with a warm cup.

All in all, it’s a safe bet, but not the ideal bet.

 

Tell the reporter "Caution, contents may be hot" at zjenning@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @humanzane

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