Whether you go for a latte, a chai, an americano, or simply a hot chocolate, coffee shops are great for convenience and delicious drinks. Unfortunately, not all coffee shops are winners, and no one has time to try them all. With so many aspects to take into consideration—ambience, employees, location, service, price, and of course the drink itself—figuring out which coffee shop is best overall is a hard feat. So, we did it for you, rating a vanilla latte from six coffee shops near our beloved high school. We all know of the famous Coffee Garden, but in this article we will explore and rank the best well-known coffee shops around Salt Lake.
Cafe Expresso ★★★★★:
Cafe Expresso is the absolute best shop if you want a grab-and-go coffee. A big part of why we rated Cafe Expresso number one was because of their amazing customer service. They fill out the cliche of “can I get my usual?” that we all aspired to have when watching Gilmore Girls. When you go often enough, they know you and your order almost immediately. Of course, more than just their great service, their coffee—especially their vanilla lattes—are out of this world, as their espresso is strong enough while not interrupting the vanilla flavor. They have a creamy consistency with an outstanding house-made brew, and their prices aren’t too damaging to our wallets. The convenience of their walk-through and drive-through is inviting, though when there's a line, which there often is, a jumble of cars seeps onto the main road and it's hard to get behind them.
Coffee Garden ★★★★☆:
Coffee Garden is a pleasant and tempting coffee shop right around the corner from Rowland Hall. The cafe is a perfect place for a before-school bump or even a midday pick-me-up. You are welcomed in by a hardworking, efficient and friendly staff ready for anything you throw at them. Along with its kind staff, Coffee Garden attracts a wild variety of people. From students to teachers and everything in between, they have something for everyone and offer a great place to settle down and get some work done. This stop can sometimes burn a hole through your wallet if you don't keep an eye out, although when we asked an employee what they love best about Coffee Garden, they answered simply, “the price.” The drinks are astounding, with a flavorful vanilla latte that has a great coffee flavor with not too much vanilla syrup overpowering the strong brew, and when you get it to stay, the foam art is usually quite breathtaking. There is also a variety of scrumptious fresh baked goods. Coffee Garden is definitely a great, well-rounded coffee spot that you should definitely check out.
Salt Lake Coffee Break ★★★★☆:
Salt Lake Coffee Break is a warm and inviting coffee shop five minutes downtown from Rowland Hall. It's a great space if you're looking for a nice spot to do homework as they have many tables and couches. It embodies the ambience of the Friends coffee shop, “Central Perk,” that we have all come to love and want in our daily lives. Their vanilla latte is once again fantastic with their strong brew and foamy milk. There are usually only one or two people working the counter, so the service is slower than most would expect, though their lattes and surprisingly good muffins make up for it.
Bjorn’s Brew ★★★☆☆:
Bjorn’s Brew offers quick-to-go sweet treats. This shop has a variety of unique drinks that come with a sweet shortbread bite on the top. The staff is extremely hardworking and thoughtful although sometimes they are all work and less talk. As Frances Hodson, a freshman at Rowland Hall, said, “I sometimes feel like a burden to the employees.” It is a quick turn off Foothill Drive right before the freeway, so getting in can be a bit tricky behind the stacks of cars. Their vanilla lattes are mouthwatering, with a mix of beautiful foamed whole milk and freshly ground espresso, but they can be overpowered by the vanilla, causing the latte to be too sweet. Their products can be a bit on the pricey side, but their “dog of the month” pictures put a smile on your face. Although you can't go inside in some of their locations, this shop gives off a great community feeling. From great cinnamon rolls and good lattes to their love for animals, Bjorn’s Brew is a highly recommended stop – if you have the time.
Beans and Brews ★★☆☆☆:
Beans and Brews is a mediocre coffee shop at best. As Mr. Long, an English teacher at Rowland Hall and coffee enthusiast, said, “Beans and Brews is adequate but convenient and near my house.” Convenience is unfortunately their best attribute. Their vanilla lattes are good, but nothing special, as their coffee is just short of strong enough, causing the artificial vanilla flavoring to be unmasked and prominent in the weak coffee. The coffee shop itself is homey and has good space for seating throughout most of their stores around Salt Lake. You might be wondering why such a well known place is near the bottom of our list. This is due to the simple fact that it is good, but there is much better. Beans and Brews embodies the saying “A for effort” as they try to match their coffee and ambience to the other great stores in the area. Although we say all these things, Beans and Brews is often quite busy, and despite the fact that it is not at the top of our list, their coffee gets the job done and the employees are truly kind.
Starbucks is an easy place to stop if you are in a pinch. With stores scattered across the valley, you can never go far without seeing their signs. They have a variety of store looks, from big industrial-feel stores to smaller low-key shops and everything in between. Their employees are very hardworking and trained to make even the drinks with the longest names. These mild drinks and small treats are very pricey through all the different sizes, so if you are on a budget, Starbucks is not the stop for you. These shops attract a variety of people but never have the strongest community feel. Their vanilla lattes are nothing extraordinary but can definitely give you an extra bump with enough caffeine and a lot of sugar. If you like your lattes iced, Starbucks often shortchanges you with their ice-to-coffee ratio, leaning too far on the ice side. With nice service and any drink you can possibly think of, Starbucks is consistent enough so you never get an unpleasant surprise.
Salt Lake City has many local and friendly coffee shops with a variety of unique drinks and great features. These great shops have been the heart of the valley, with some being “around for longer than you've been alive,” said Mr. Long. Hopefully, this article helped guide your next coffee run and your ideas of what to look for. Enjoy, and go get yourself a vanilla latte.