While this would have been nice and all, I decided I could do one better. Jordan and I scoped out four independent coffee shops in the Milwaukee area and decided to run our own taste testing.
The verdict? It was one awesome, romantic and jittery Saturday!
(Before I begin, please note that this is not a true taste test. If it was, I would have ordered the same thing at every place, but I ordered whatever I was in the mood for, bah-phooey on controls and variables within experiments!)
First stop: Stone Creek Coffee, 2266 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
South Kinnickinnic (KK) is THE place to go if you want independent coffee shops - our first three stops were along KK! (Which made traveling a breeze, for sure.)
I got a cardamom spice latte. It was good, the combination of spices and sweet was nice, but it got overpowering at the end.
Jordan got an iced caramel frappe. I liked his drink much more than mine - it was sweet, but not overpowering so. And the caramel tasted genuine, not like a syrup.
Their roast was smooth, and not too bitter, just the way I like it.
The atmosphere was the most like a standard coffee shop of all the places we went to. It wasn't overly cozy, but very neat and non-cluttered. The barista was wearing a tie and a vest, which was a nice touch.
Second stop: Sven's Cafe, 2699 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
The Bay View Bash was happening right outside of Sven's, so I thought the place was going to be packed. Luckily, it was about 4 pm, not exactly prime eating/drinking coffee hours, so it wasn't too full.
Jordan and I shared a small flavored coffee (chocolate raspberry). To be blunt - it was terrible. There was very little chocolate flavoring, it was bitter, and tasted like gas station coffee.
Their roast was weak, like they used too much water and too little grounds.
The atmosphere was, as Jordan so perfectly put it, "like eating inside a Goodwill". It went overboard with the "cozy", and made it feel crowded and claustrophobic. And it kind of smelled weird inside.
It's only saving point was Jordan's sandwich. (Since we didn't eat at every place, we didn't include food in the equation.) It was delicious, and again, as he put it, he could "eat it everyday". But then again, my sandwich sucked.
walk off the caffeine browse through thrift stores)
Third stop: Anodyne, 2924 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Jordan got a honey bee latte. He said his was "the best coffee he had all day", and it was mixed well.
The roast was interesting. The flavor was intense right at the beginning, and I got worried it was going to turn bitter in my mouth, but it finished very smooth. It took most of my drink to get used to it, which made for a fun time for my taste buds.
The atmosphere was awesome. They had a coffee bar opposite the register, plenty of open space, simple tables with clean lines. They had some roasting equipment on the far end of the store. It was a great combination of modern and comforting.
Fourth stop: Rochambo, 1317 E. Brady St.
After stopping to pick up a few friends, to share in our coffee-induced high, we made it to our final stop of the night. Rochambo was the only place we visited who did not roast their own coffee; they carry coffee roasted by Valentine Coffee Co.
Rochambo claims to have the best Irish coffee in town, so by golly, I had to test it. For $6.00 a pint... well, let's just say I got my money's worth in whiskey, but not necessarily in coffee. And while the whipped cream on top was homemade, it was also, oddly enough, not sweetened. A disappointment there.
Jordan got a concoction called Summer Sun, which offset my cost; for $4.00 a pint, it was very reasonable.
The roast was smooth and rich, but nothing earth-shattering.
The atmosphere kind of felt like being in a college frat boy's house. It was a little shabby, a little arty (but not classy arty, more like art for art's sake), a little slap-dash. Not the worst thing for a coffee shop, but if this experience has taught Jordan and I anything, it's that we like our coffee places simple and tidy.
(It also taught us that 8 hours is too short a time span to visit 4 coffee places. Oh my goodness, the jitters!)
Jordan and I loved our coffee extravaganza. We want do it again soon, maybe hit up Madison and Chicago for some fresh blood. If you're a like-minded espresso fiend, try it out in your own town. Believe me, there are worst ways to spend a Saturday afternoon... Cheers!