Brews Through: Comet Coffee
Over the past weekend, Ann Arbor was hit by a heavy 8.5-inch snowfall. Right when you thought it was over, the blizzard would start up again right where it left off, which makes it nearly impossible to leave the comfort of your slip-free, warm apartment. Netflix is too convenient and you settle for the Keurig. You convince yourself Swiss Miss hot chocolate will suffice. And naturally, trudging through the tundra to any crowded library or coffee shop becomes less and less appealing.
This week, I’ve decided to stay close to home, at the heart of campus.
Often overlooked for its economical seating and sophisticated nature, Comet Coffee is an Ann Arbor gem. Centrally located near campus, the coffee shop is accessible from Nickel’s Arcade. The hanging plaque and mint-colored table set completes the arcade’s picture — the classic barber shop, the campus florist and a boutique in its close vicinity. It feels like walking into a postcard.
Since 2009, the coffee shop has served drip coffee to order and prides itself on its quality espresso. The menu is modest. It’s not the place to order a customized, non-fat, grass-fed, gluten-free, free-range, sugar-free, vegan, zero calorie frappuccino in a hand-woven hemp sleeve — if that’s what you want.
But, it is the place for coffee crafted with care. They have an extensive selection of pour-overs if you like to enjoy coffee beans like different wines, and they have teas if you are on a caffeine diet. Though the food selection may make sticking to any other type of diet difficult — it’s hard to find a vegan chocolate chip cookie that tastes richer than a regular cookie with two sticks of butter in it.
Ahead of the curve, Comet has already mastered the art of making espresso drinks with oat milk. They are one of the only two places in Ann Arbor I know of that serves oat milk, which, in my humble opinion, is part of the next generation of plant-based products. With oat milk, you can still be eco-friendly and healthy, which almond milk won’t let you do without contributing to the California drought.
I am an avid Americano drinker, but sometimes I crave milk. Or milk-containing hot drinks, especially when it’s negative-degrees Fahrenheit out and the streets are covered in snow. My go-to is a cappuccino. It seems to be the perfect ratio of espresso and milk for me — a latte is too much, a macchiato too little. If you want to change it up, I recommend trying Comet’s oat milk cappuccino with a pastry on the side — your body will thank you. And so will the environment. I don’t have any dietary restrictions, but I genuinely think it tastes better this way.
Besides the high-quality drink and food, the place itself is worth spending an afternoon. During the summer, the outdoor seating is a good turnaround point if you’re walking your dog or need some shade, but the winter weather calls for indoor warmth. I forget there’s a blizzard and mounds of snow on every other part of campus when I’m here. And that’s a metaphor for Comet being a haven from other things besides snow — the encroaching thesis deadline, graduation, life.
Comet keeps two of their four tables for non-laptop use. And, not surprisingly, the customers respect those rules. People come to Comet to enjoy conversation and company of a person or a good book. They also have window seating, which is comfortable for catching up on emails or writing a column. I would add watching lectures, but because the piped-in music is too good, I wouldn’t recommend headphones.
Today, they play all of the songs that are mentioned in Haruki Murakami’s book “Norwegian Wood.” The music, like the book — like the coffee, like the baristas — is thoughtful. Whether sitting here with a warm ceramic cup takes you back to Tokyo in the 1960s or just a break from today’s top hits, it’s a pleasant getaway.
I can’t help but look at the ring collection in the antique store across from Comet and imagine how old the rings are, who they belonged to, where they’ll go next. And wonder where I’ll be in a year too. It’s a good place for people-watching and making eye contact if you like having imaginary conversations with strangers like me. The pendant globe lights that hang in the arcade and inside Comet are reminiscent of a Parisian city street, though I can’t say for sure because I’ve never been.
It’s kind of a miracle that a place like this exists in such close proximity to campus buildings and Skeeps, for however much longer it remains. I distinctly remember my first time walking into Comet as a freshman, feeling slightly intimidated by its intimacy. As I sit here four years later, comfortable calling Ann Arbor my second home, I hope others get to experience the comfort of a place like this.