One of my greatest concerns when I have to move in to a new place is access to good coffee. I am no all-rounder when it comes to coffee (meaning I can’t just enjoy any coffee) and I’m not a snob either. When I moved to the US, specifically in Lawrence, Kansas, I suspected the prevalence of Starbucks in the area (not a fan; I’m always a Dunkin’ guy), yet I believed that I would come across a number of independent, locally-owned (not to mention hippie-ish) coffee shops since Lawrence is a college town full of vibrant hipster atmosphere (perhaps).
Where to go
Well, my suspicion wasn’t wrong when I first came here in Lawrence. Starbucks are easy to find whenever Dillon’s grocery stores are, since in Lawrence they’re allied. If Starbucks is your thing and you crave for a cold venti of frappucino while in Lawrence, just head to one of the Dillon’s stores closest to you. Of, if you’d rather have your coffee while sitting down, you can visit the Starbucks at downtown Lawrence on the historic Massachusetts Street. I can never say much about Starbucks’s coffee; I always consider most of their non-sweetened offerings watery and their sweetened ones saccharine. If you think their cold brew is good, most other coffee shops in Lawrence blow it out of the water. Now, let’s move on to the places that blow Starbucks out of the water.
When I was in Indonesia, I was always a Dunkin’ guy. Why? Their hot coffee (essentially an Americano) tastes great, although it may not be consistent from one store to another. Here in Lawrence, there are only two Dunkin’ stores; one is on the West 6th Street and Michigan, the other is on the West 23rd and Louisiana. Even though the West 6th Dunkin’ is much closer to where I live (about three blocks away), I always prefer the West 23rd Dunkin’ for several reasons. The first is better coffee; the brew at West 23rd Dunkin’ seems to be stronger, darker and thicker which is evident when you order either an espresso or an Americano. The second is more professional service and barrista-ship (is this even a word?). Do try Dunkin’s cold brew. I always prefer it over their iced coffee.
The Roasterie Air-Roasted Coffee (https://www.theroasterie.com/)
The Roasterie is the official coffee partner of the University of Kansas (KU). It originates from neighboring Kansas City. You can find it almost everywhere on campus, at the Memorial Union building, the many foodcourts and the libraries. Their beans are locally sourced and they employ KU students, meaning that they provide much-needed on campus employment. Their coffee I sometimes find hit-and-miss. If you have to go for The Roasterie, settle for their dark roast Americano/drip coffee or their espresso if you prefer something stronger and briefer (I usually go for the double espresso). Their regular and decaf options are too light for my taste. For a KU student, paying for their regular roast and decaf is also considered unnecessary, except if you want some of their more unconventional offerings, such as the Bavarian or cinnamon coffee. Since The Roasterie is the official coffee provider for KU events, you can always get the regular and decaf for free at almost any university events that serve free refreshments.
Java Break (http://thejavabreak.com/home/)
Java Break was the first coffee shop I visited in Lawrence and I can’t say much about it. It has a great place downtown, at the basement of a historic building, very spacious and hippie-ish. The barrista is nice, albeit grumpy-looking and sleepless because the place is open 24 hours. I haven’t tried many of their coffee drinks, but their regular coffee is even weaker, in my opinion, than The Roasterie’s regular. Their Java Break specialty (with some interesting spices) tastes nice, but it is a bit watery. However, if you happen to be downtown late at night and in need of some not-so-serious coffee and a place to hang out without resorting to one of the bars, Java Break may be the place for you.
UPDATE: I went to Java Break yesterday to study with some friends and I had a cup of Lawrence Slammer (pictured with a KU Jayhawks cap) for the first time. It was good! It’s a shot espresso diluted with the Java Break regular coffee, and it’s a great idea! It’s even better with a dash of turbinado (raw cane sugar) and a pinch of cinnamon powder!
La Prima Tazza (http://laprimatazza.com/)
La Prima Tazza is located just across the street from the downtown Starbucks and is easily the better of the two. It is housed in a historic building with a great vintage atmosphere that somewhat manages to not be too hipsterrific, which perhaps explains why it attracts people from different age groups instead of only the hippie youngsters. There are many house blends to choose from, but if the drip coffee is not your thing, the espresso is strong and rich. Making it a macchiato is even better. If you feel a little adventurous, you can try one of the coffee specialties. I have only tried the Indonesian specialty, a drink that I never actually found in Indonesia. It’s a strong and flavorful drink, a mixture of two shots of espresso and spiced milk. Give it a try!
Alchemy is a locally owned coffee and bake shop. It is a quieter place altogether because it is located a little inside, about ten blocks away from the downtown coffee places listed here. I came to Alchemy for the hyped cold brew and it delivers! It is perhaps the best, the richest cold brew I have had so far, bar none. I forgot to ask about the beans and the method used, because I was there when it was about to close. Alchemy also makes the best blueberry pie I have ever had! My biggest gripe with Alchemy is the rather unfortunate operating hours, opening too early (at 7 am) and closing too soon (at 6 pm) which prevents me from having a refreshing glass of cold brew after classes. Still, I’ll be back and have more awesome coffee drinks to go with the blueberry pie!
I will continue to explore Lawrence and its surrounding areas for more coffee. So, I will keep this page updated! See you!