Coffee stops are both a significant and frequent component of both of our daily lives. Given the sheer quantity of coffee consumed between us, we consider ourselves to be coffee experts, especially in regard to available options on Vanderbilt’s campus. To share our knowledge with you, we have compiled a bracket to break down the best coffee on the meal plan.
To make things simple, we have chosen four frequent coffee stops on campus: Local Java in Sarratt, Food for Thought Cafe in Central Library, Grins and Munchie Marts at Kissam/Highland/Commons. And to level the playing field, we will be facing off iced coffees (or cold brews, location depending) from each of the four locations.
As important background knowledge, it is important to know that Rachel drinks her coffee with any sort of artificial sweetener and a generous dash of half & half. Emily sometimes does the latter but doesn’t always add artificial sweetener depending on the flavor of the coffee.
PAIRING 1: LOCAL JAVA VS MUNCHIE MART
Local Java: Local Java cold brew is smooth and light, with no bitterness at all. The coffee is brought in from Frothy Monkey, a local coffee shop near Belmont. The only available iced coffee is the cold brew, and it makes a difference in the smoothness of the taste. No aftertaste lingers. This is a solid choice for a morning go-to or mid-afternoon pick me up.
Munchie: Kissam, Highland and Commons Munchie Marts all serve Peet’s Nitro Cold Brew served from a tap machine. At first, when Commons Munchie started having consumers fill their own coffee at the Pete’s Nitrobrew tap in the back corner of the location, I (Rachel) was hesitant– for first-years out there, they used to serve the iced coffee at the coffee bar. How could coffee coming out of a self-serviced machine deliver the high-quality and refreshing drink I needed after walking 20 minutes from main campus to class?
I am here to say that my reservations were completely unfounded. This iced coffee is good. Refreshing and light, it’s equally as smooth as Local Java’s version. There is even an underlying layer of sweetness that is inexplicable but delicious. (The sweetness in this cold brew actually tastes like notes of chocolate to Emily.) Overall, I would say that to those of you that are hesitant to try this coffee given the slightly strange set-up and Peet’s brand (if you’re making the connection with the coffee served in Rand), I advise you to think twice.
If you couldn’t tell from my high review, the coffee at Munchie is just superb. Combined with the added benefit of surprise, this underrated delicacy is a must-have of my MWF trek to the Commons Center.
PAIRING 2: GRINS VS FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Grins: I’m not gonna pull any punches here: this iced coffee is by far the worst on campus. Do note, I am evaluating the regular iced coffee at Grins; they also have cold brew, but it’s not included as a part of the meal plan as the others in the bracket are.
The iced coffee is tangy, not in a good way, with an aftertaste that doesn’t let you forget the inferior level of coffee you just sipped. It’s flavor is harsh, but simultaneously weak, depriving me of the instantaneous pick-me-up I require of my coffee. No amount of cream and sugar can save this one.
Food for Thought: As a Central Library regular, the location of this coffee shop is excellent. This is an important factor to consider, as some of the other locations (Grins, Commons) are often not easily accessible during study sessions. Located in the library, right near Stevenson, I can easily grab a latte to hold off my 3 p.m. crash.
When it comes to the quality of the iced coffee, I regard it to be a solid option. It definitely covers the required criteria: fairly smooth and sufficiently strong for my caffeine cravings. Importantly, this coffee is lighter than the other options in the bracket, likely because it is iced coffee rather than cold brew. The flavor is neutral, not sweet nor bitter, perhaps a bit more earthy than the other options in this bracket.
WINNER: FOOD FOR THOUGHT
This is a no brainer. Any alternative would likely be superior to Grins iced coffee. But, Food for Thought also is a relatively high quality option. The iced coffee definitely does the job and tastes good.
FINAL MATCH-UP: MUNCHIE MART VS FOOD FOR THOUGHT
A difficult match-up. Munchie’s cold brew cold brew tastes superior to the Food for Thought counterpart, but the location is a drawback. Food for Thought is perfectly located for a mid-study caffeine boost; Highland, Kissam and Commons aren’t centrally located for most study locations. Still, it wins my vote. The taste is bright and sweet and is the perfect balance of acidity and mellowness. Trust me, it’s worth the walk.