Where to Find the Best Coffee on Campus

Emory students have a number of places to get coffee on campus, including Highland Bakery, Kaldi's Coffee and Peet's.
Emory students have a number of places to get coffee on campus, including Highland Bakery, Kaldi’s Coffee and Peet’s.

As a coffee addict now down to two cups a day, I like to call myself a reformed sommelier of sorts in regards to coffee. A San Francisco Bay Area native, I am a habitual frequenter of hole-in-the wall coffee shops complete with dim lighting and chalkboard paint, Beatles music softly playing in the background and cold-brew served in a mason jar. Coming from the West Coast with Seattle and San Francisco roasted coffee and independent coffee shops, I would say that I have high expectations of the pleasant atmosphere and taste of the coffee and baked good I am going to enjoy when I want to treat myself to coffee outside of the dorm room. Having spent some time in Europe this summer, as well, with its delicious foamed milk and silky smooth espresso, the ante has further been upped in my expectations of my latte, cappuccino or café au lait.

After scouring campus for the best place to find a cup, I have decided that Highland Bakery, Peet’s, Starbucks and Kaldi’s Coffee all have their own distinct perks. Instead of deciding on one shop as the standout choice, I have decided — in the spirit of welcoming the freshmen to campus — to become a self-designated orientation leader to all you students in need of a caffeine fix. Please look for my “Okay, but first, coffee” t-shirt if you need any help during the next few weeks.

Highland Bakery

With its ideal location for business students and spacious patio near the Goizueta Business School lawn, Highland Bakery is the perfect way to treat yourself after a grueling Financial Accounting exam. But, don’t categorize Highland as an indulgence or else you’ll miss out on a delightful array of affordable goodies, one of the best cups of coffee on campus and a lovely place to do some light studying or chat with your friends. Dim lighting and a cafe-like feel give the bakery a relaxed yet professional atmosphere with the versatility of a sit-down brunch place or a quick stop-and-go snack and coffee run. Serving delicious breakfast options (I recommend the ricotta pancakes) and a piping hot cup of coffee, Highland offers, in my opinion, the best brunch or a tasty snack from the counter that Emory has to offer.

Highland’s coffee is pretty strong and flavorful. Sometimes, I even need to add milk if it’s a strong brew, and I always like to drink my coffee black. Flavored lattes, such as vanilla and caramel, are always a good choice — sweet, but not too sweet — and the café au lait is a great pick-me-up, with a good ratio of steamed milk to coffee. Drinking a medium cup of coffee in a secluded corner while thumbing through a textbook in the early afternoon is a nice way to collect your thoughts and begin to get into a sharp but calm studying mentality.

But, in terms of hardcore studying, inside the bakery isn’t a great idea because it’s normally bustling, but outside on the patio you can preserve your summer tan while getting some work done. All in all, Highland is ideal for a brunch supplemented with some coffee on the weekend, after a rough exam or for a snack and caffeine fix in the late morning or afternoon.

Starbucks

Ah, Starbucks. Home of the hipster and cramming college student. Starbucks is a decent cup of coffee. Not great, but good. With plenty of flavored options for your latte and macchiato, the menu can be a bit overwhelming at first. But, if you want a coffee joint with variety, Starbucks is obviously the place. The offering of Frappuccinos might not do it for you in terms of coffee, (I personally am not a huge fan of what I like to call the coffee milkshake), but there’s always that loyal following. Granola, nuts, dried fruit and yogurt cups are always great for a study snack, and the heated paninis can be a good, quick lunch option. Just a warning: studying at Starbucks can get very competitive. It’s normally pretty quiet, though, so if you can beat someone out for a chair, table or counter seat, you’ll not only have your java but also a study spot. I like to grab an armchair in the middle of Starbucks, where the light filters through the glass windows, and curl up with a book and a grande unsweetened latte. Though the coffee may be a bit watery and a little flat at times, Starbucks is a good place to unwind and read a little while because of its comfy chairs, nice natural light, and calm atmosphere.

Kaldi’s Coffee

“Everybody’s talkin’ ‘bout the new kid in town.” A bit pricy, Kaldi’s Coffee is a nice addition to the campus coffee selection. The cups are a bit small, but the coffee is good. It’s flavorful and strong — just the way I like it. But, the finish is a bit acidic. It leaves you with a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth, so you might need to break out the mints or gum afterwards.

There’s a nice bit of variety in the baked treats section and the lunch options are, again, fairly expensive but good. Found in the DUC, their location is fairly ideal because it’s moderately central on campus, and the closest coffee option for freshmen, Woodruff frequenters and lodgers. Though the sit-down options in front of Kaldi’s isn’t great (the DUC right above is a bit too loud for my taste), Eagles Landing is right around the corner, so you can grab your coffee and snack, spread out your materials and study, study, study. But, a quick bit of advice: make sure to get a medium in order to economize, because if you get a caffeine slump after drinking a small while still at Eagles, you’ll be tempted to go back for another. Since Kaldi’s so close to this prime studying spot, your wallet will take a hit. You’ve been warned.

Because Kaldi’s is essentially brand new, I would say that the jury is still out on this one. While I have frequented Highland Bakery enough to lose a significant portion of my Dooley Dollars every semester, I cannot say the same about Kaldi’s — so I’ll leave my true verdict for later in the year.

Peet’s

Oh, how I love you, Peet’s Coffee. Without you, I never could have made it through either semester of finals my freshman year. I have a soft spot for Peet’s, mainly because of its location in the lovely Woodruff library. I also do love strong coffee, which Peet’s delivers. The nice selection of snacks is great for a little treat while hitting the study grind. I recommend the sweet potato biscuit (from Highland Bakery who caters to Peet’s) for when you are so tired and depressed from studying that you feel like you might nearly give up. Granola bars, salads, sandwiches and bagels are a few of your snack options. Peet’s in the library is seemingly a full Peet’s menu and has plenty of flavored drinks to choose from. The Dirty Chai Latte is a nice blending of coffee and a chai latte with a shot of bittersweet espresso, making it the perfect pick-me-up for a long day of studying.

Another great appeal, in addition to all the snacks and coffee options, is the free hot water and microwave. Bring your travel mug and tea from your dorm room for unlimited cups of tea, so that you’ll be warm and cozy in the Stacks. The microwave is located in the second room of the Peet’s area for your convenience. Also, Peet’s isn’t a great place to study because it’s a bit loud, but it is a good place, especially in the back room with the microwave, to meet with a T.A. for some one-on-one help. Located in the basement of the library, Peet’s is a bit of a hike from the stacks, but always worth it. At least for me.

With syllabus week over, the SongFest title awarded and the reality of a 9 a.m. lecture nearly accepted, a new semester begins at Emory, signaling the opening of the Woodruff library doors and the closing of summer vacation. But, do not lament, students, for no matter how many activities you pursue or classes you take, there are enough coffee options on campus to keep you awake and sharp all day long — I would know.

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