Coffee crawl

David Taintor

The Goat
408 Water St.

The proximity to campus and my house make The Goat an easy stop for me. A plain cup of coffee runs about $1.65 with endless refills (oh yes, endless). That’s not even the best part. The best part about The Goat is the size of the mugs. Huge. Like FRIENDS-sized mugs, the way a cup of coffee should be. I take at least three cups in my to-go mug I bring to class from home so I value getting more coffee for my buck. The Goat delivers.

The lattes are great too. I’m a hard sell when it comes to flavored lattes – too much syrup and I can’t drink them. Especially if I’m towards the end of a cup; I might as well just drink the syrup straight from the bottle. Not worth paying for the flavor. The Goat, however, makes a great latte without killing the coffee I’m paying for. Lattes run around three bucks.

Rating: Four beans out of five. A little more expensive, but the mug size alone makes you feel like you’re getting you money’s worth.

Racy D’lene’s
404 Riverside Ave.

Turns out that I have a hard time doing homework at home anymore, too distracting. Guess that’s what four years of college will do. So chances are you’ll find me at Racy D’lene’s on a Saturday morning once my homework starts piling up. A “For Here” cup of coffee runs $1.25 with 50 cents for refills, which is really easy to scrap up if you only have change on you. While Racy’s offers a house blend and organic brew, sometimes the regular cups are served a little bitter. Sometimes the coffee is great, however. Hit and miss. The lattes aren’t my favorite, too sweet, so I stick to the coffee. But for a treat, the cranberry cherry smoothies taste like real fruit. Ambience is relaxed and mellow. The mismatched couches and chairs, games and awesome selection of music make the coffeehouse a down-to-earth place worth stopping by.

Rating: Three beans out of five. Coffee isn’t stellar, but the atmosphere is chill.

Infinitea Teahouse
112 E. Grand Ave.

I’m new to tea, having my first loose leaf tea just last semester. Infinitea is a great place for newbies. While the selection of teas is overwhelming if you don’t know what you like, the owners are great with giving advice and making recommendations – they have yet to give me something I don’t like. I’ve recently fallen in love with peppermint tea. And if you’re looking for a caffeine kick, the Maté packs a punch that left even an avid coffee drinker like me feeling a jolt. Tea is served to go, but I recommend getting a pot. The pottery is pretty cool and there’s something about holding the little ceramic teacups (more like miniature mugs) that adds to the whole feel of the place.

Rating: Four tea bags out of five. Choices can be overwhelming but in a city full of coffee houses, this teahouse definitely holds its own.

– Theresa Schneider

Brew your own
Growing up, I looked forward to the days my father brewed coffee in the morning. The activity seemed very mature; the collections of mugs, the low, bubbling sound of coffee brewing, the elegant wisps of steam rising from the surface.

I loved the smell and despised the taste.

“Give it time,” my grandmother would say to me, who often likened coffee to the “nectar of the Gods.”

Eventually I grew into $5 sweetened espresso drinks – A frappuccino here, a mocha there – with no serious interest in the actual caffeinated components of the drink. Armed with a paper cup and a healthy dose of whipped cream, I spent an increasing amount of time (and money) at coffee shops, feeling satisfied, as if I were a newly initiated member of the coffee elite.

That was then. Today, I straddle the line between obsession and abuse. I guess my grandma was right, after all.

Every morning, usually still half-asleep, I slog into the kitchen and begin the brewing process over again. It’s become something of a ritual. I’ve traded the sugary-sweet caramel mochas for simpler cups of black coffee.

Here are a few of my favorite places to get a fix, I mean, cup of coffee in Eau Claire:

Just Local Food
1117 South Farwell St.

Coffee may not be the first thing that comes to mind at Just Local Food, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. For anyone living between campus and downtown without any convenient locations, it’s a great option.

Just Local’s approach is unique in that they offer drip-brewed coffee for a “pay what you want” donation. Simply drop in a few quarters, or dollars if you’re feeling flush, and leave with a cup of organic, fair-trade java.

The brew-of-the-day changes periodically, but usually rotates around the Farmer to Farmer brand – in either medium or French roast. The French roast is deliciously robust and, unlike other similar roasts that can be too smoky and harsh, is incredibly smooth. Not being an actual coffee shop, it’s not exactly a coffee destination spot, but for a quick cup on the way to school, it doesn’t get much better.

In addition to the fresh brewed coffee, the Co-op offers a great selection of whole beans, both in bulk and bags. Paired with a friendly staff, Just Local is just an easy decision.

Starbucks
953 West Clairemont Ave.

This may seem like too tame a choice, given the availability of locally owned cafés in the area, but Starbucks’ impact on the coffee world is undeniable. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in consistency. The goal of their new signature Pike Place roast, a smooth and subtle coffee, is to be a perfect cup of coffee, enjoyed at anytime throughout the day. Brewed all day long, on the hour, guarantees it will taste right every time.

This extreme attention to detail is what sets Starbucks apart from other national coffee vendors. Last spring, every Starbucks in the country shut down for several hours in an attempt to retrain their baristas, likely causing instant narcolepsy for Manhattaners deprived of a constant stream of espresso. The result was a better brew, and a more focused staff.

It’s a somewhat unknown fact that Starbucks is the largest purchaser of fair trade coffee in the world, although they do not offer it exclusively. Nonetheless, any time, anywhere, Starbucks is dependable for delicious coffee.

Harmony Corner Café
2855 Mall Drive

Somewhat new to the Eau Claire coffee scene, Harmony Corner Café opened in June of 2008. It offers a unique experience in an unlikely area of town. Owned by the Brice family and located near Savers thrift store, Harmony Corner offers several brewed coffee selections at competitive prices.

Interested in sustainable business practices, Harmony Corner Café offers exclusively organic and fair trade coffee. Connected to the Old Elbow School Shop, of the same owners, the atmosphere is cozy and laid back. The Brice family is helpful and welcoming, making this a great destination spot.

Racks of cooling scones and cookies line the checkout counter, only adding to the appeal.

– David Taintor

Schneider is a senior English and Spanish double major and staff writer of The Spectator.

Taintor is a junior print journalism major and online editor of The Spectator.