Comparing Coffee Shops

Have you ever compared coffee? Probably, because why else would you drink the coffee you do?

While we were on vacation, my husband and I took a little trip to Gardnerville, Nevada, to do some sightseeing when I spied a light blue cinder block coffee house in the downtown district that looked interesting. Suddenly, I had an urge to go in. The place appeared to be an old, unique business. The name was Nevada Coffee. 

Its menu was simple, just a few hot or cold flavored coffees, teas, and locally made ice cream. John ordered mint chocolate chip ice cream and I ordered a caramel latte. The roast of the coffee was perfect and the caramel’s sweetness was just right for my palette. It tasted like real melted caramel. I’m not sure if it was house made but I know for sure it wasn’t the imitation flavored corn syrup from a pump bottle because I watched the barista add it in.

As I sat there sipping my perfect cup, I had an idea. I decided to taste how different coffee shops made the same cup of caramel latte on our upcoming four day trip home. After all, I like to do research and it would give me something to look forward to. As I finished my perfect cup, I knew the next few lattes had to measure up because the bar had been set. 

The second caramel latte was not on our trip home yet; it was at Lake Tahoe. I ordered, thinking this is Lake Tahoe, this is going to be great! As I watched the teenage girl barista behind the bar, I noticed the other employees seemed slightly stressed. She hurriedly added a few squirts of corn syrup and a little steamed milk and handed it to me. We walked out to their outdoor seating and after the first sip I knew this was not going to be easy to drink. “Ugh,”  I looked at John, “ this one tastes like Starbucks. Even worse.”

The ratio of coffee-to milk-to imitation flavor was way off. 

The next one was on our four day trip home. Still in Nevada, we stopped in one of the small towns to a place that looked like a converted house. The place was cute and had galvanized tubs for bathroom sinks. The two teenage girls behind the counter weren’t too busy so my order was done quickly. After the first sip the burnt taste of the dark roast and imitation caramel flavor hit my taste buds. Another bad choice. I choked it down because I wasn’t wasting my money. I thought to myself, next time I’ll ask about the roast.

Next morning we were in Utah. We needed a bathroom break so we stopped at a convenience store. Inside, it surprisingly had a coffee shop. Perfect. The barista was a woman, probably in her early thirties. I asked about the roast this time. She was stocking packages on the wall, “We have three organic roasts that are available,” she said, and then added something about where they buy their coffee but I let it fly past me, afterall, I wasn’t a local. 

“I’m sorry, I mean I would like a caramel latte. What roast is it?”

“It’s a medium.” she smiled.

I ordered and took a sip while waiting on John. It was harmonious. I quickly looked around for corn syrup bottles but didn’t see any so I’m not sure about the caramel flavor.

The fourth was from Gunnison, Colorado. The shop was a busy little place in an outdoor shopping mall. John ordered a large chocolate chip cookie and I got a little caramel latte. It was almost $10.00 for our breakfast treat, which I’d gladly not do again. I swear, before they handed it to me, a very sweet skunk swam around in my cup. Dang it, not again. Dark roast, too sweet, and not enough steamed milk.

Last day of my research we traveled through New Mexico. I almost didn’t do this one because I am not a fan of New Mexico flavors. I walked into the little shop. It was bare and uninviting. I looked at their menu. It was overloaded and overwhelming-like they were trying to please everyone, hot and cold coffees, smoothies, teas, and flavored drinks. I asked the petite female employee behind the counter what kind of roast was the coffee.

Blank stare.

I thought I’d better clarify my question. “Is it a light, medium, or dark roast?”

Still, a blank stare with an I don’t know tacked on.

I glanced around and saw all the clear, flavored bottles and considered not ordering, but by now my conscience got to me for making her uncomfortable so I went ahead and ordered. It was an exact duplicate of the one from Gunnison. I choked it down anyway for the next few hours because again, I wasn’t wasting my money.

I know I’m a slightly difficult person to please because I do have a refined way about me, but I try not to complain too much, especially if it was my choice to buy from the business. I will say I am very particular about clean places and all the establishments were nicely clean.

I don’t have to tell you which place was my favorite. I do wish more coffee houses adopted the philosophy of making an expensive cup of coffee worth the money we paid, as I believe Nevada Coffee from Gardnerville does. I’ll gladly visit there again if I ever get the chance.  Fingers crossed it keeps its perfect roast and its balanced ratios when that chance happens!

2 thoughts on “Comparing Coffee Shops

  1. I really liked the atmosphere of Nevada coffee too. It was enjoyable to sit, hang out and enjoy my ice cream while we planned activities during vacation.

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