On any college campus, coffee indisputably reigns supreme and the University of Michigan is no different. Students prioritize their time for it, walk into class late with it, use expensive Keurigs or stop at the many coffee shops around campus (anything to avoid the dining hall coffee). Some of us drink it habitually, purely utilizing the caffeine. Others look to enjoy it, or at least pretend to for Instagram. When we meet someone who claims not to drink it, we’re hugely surprised. So for those of us who make it no secret that we’re utterly and totally dependent on coffee, here’s a closer and quirkier than usual look at the most frequented coffee shops.
The Walk-In Pinterest Board: Lab Coffee Shop
The epitome of a hipster coffee shop. Snuggly placed right onto Liberty St., a stone’s throw from State. The shop features the classically huge pour over, pressed flower decorations, famous matcha, and a great selection of strangely flavored but delicious deserts. Colorful books about succulents sit underneath actual succulents. Trendy Chance the Rapper themed cards and knick knacks for sale line the back shelf while Frank Ocean plays in the background. The employees are, you guessed it, so hipster and repping every flannel Urban Outfitters ever sold.
Depending on who's there, it’s a laid back environment. But at peak hours of the day, it’s hectic and you won’t find seating or even a place to stand with any personal space. Being this crowded and popular, it’s a talkative place. Late afternoon sees fewer customers and a quieter space. Plus, the matcha is everything it’s praised to be, as are the sea-salt lattes.
As for that first date, it’s memorable and the look and menu already give more than enough to talk about.
The Pit Stop: Espresso Royale
Maybe it’s just my personal vendetta against them or maybe more than one of us shares the theory that Espresso Royale is really only loved for not being Starbucks and sits abrasively close to both ends of central campus. And maybe it was a Starbucks employee who convinced me of their coffee’s glaring shortcomings and the vendetta is really just my thought that not liking them the way everyone else does is such an original though. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of their coffee but it does the trick on Monday morning before an 8:30 a.m. Regardless, I had to pay an extra $0.80 for soy despite it being the 21st century in which no one orders real dairy anymore. On top of that, they clearly consulted no Pintrest boards and could really update the look.
But at the same time, Espresso doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t, and I have to give credit where it’s due. For the most part, people run in, grab their coffee and maybe a snack, and rush out. Very few stay and set up at their tables. Not to mention, they make the meanest zucchini bread that you’d never know was also vegan. No complaints about the pumpkin chocolate chip or banana bread either.
As for first date ability, they’re kind of great. In the basement of the South U location or the throngs of plush chairs at the State St. location, it’s not obvious you have no idea what to say to the guy who just paid for your almond milk vanilla latte extra vanilla since he paid when everyone else is talking, minding their own business, face-timing mom. It’s laid back and cozy.
Good Luck Finding a Table: Literati Coffee
Pina Colada Macaroon. Enough said.
(The older sibling to Lab. If it were a font, and not a coffee shop, it’d be Newsprint. White, light, wood aesthetic. Consulted at least fifteen Pintrest Boards. Second floor with a bookstore underneath makes the experience. For the mature coffee palette, seeking an Ethiopian pour over, this is your place. If your date is into books, look no further.)