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What do I have to do to get a cup of coffee in this town?

Just a skin-and-bones framework of a project/page I’m working on. Random coffee houses (chain and independent) that I’ve visited, and whether or not/to what extent they’re vegan friendly. Not sure where I’ll be going with it.. guess we’ll figure this one out together.

Claire’s Cornercopia (New Haven, CT) Let’s ignore the fact that I live and die for the food offered at this veg mecca (although their vegan baked goods usually fall just short of my expectations). The coffee (hot or iced) is bold and they offer soymilk as well as raw sugar. Lattes are always perfect & strong. Also have several unsweetened flavor syrups (including “chocolate”), but I don’t particularly like them. Lots of other veg-friendly drinks as well, including fruit & soy smoothies,  lemonades and iced teas.

Dunkin Donuts “D” is for desperate (me) and dumb (them). Quite possibly the most backward-moving chain I’ve ever seen in life. While their site used to offer nutritional info for “coffee with soymilk,” I never once came across a store that actually offered it. Now, that option isn’t even listed on the site. They also don’t offer raw sugar. However, I did find a few to be receptive to my bringing in my own soymilk and asking them to steam it for a latte. Still others refused, citing the fact that “we can only use our products with our equipment.” In that case, in times of desperation I will get a few shots of espresso and mix up my own latte. Soymilk tastes awful in their regular coffee for some reason, so I don’t usually get it. Soy creamer seems to work better. I try to just all-around avoid DD. Except for their hashbrowns which are, weirdly enough, vegan.  All of their bagels (except ones that contain cheese or egg, or the multi-grain which has honey) are vegan, but I much prefer local bagel shops over DD.

Edge of the Woods Natural Market (New Haven, CT) While most of the pastries here seem to fail (see my previous post regarding this), the coffee is amazing. They usually offer their house blend and 1 flavored coffee each day. Granted it is dispense-your-own-thermos-style, they only brew one at a time and the place is pretty hoppin enough that they are brewing it frequently. Never had a latte here, the coffee is that strong/good. They leave the soymilk out for all to use and offer raw cane sugar AND Sucanat. I still have yet to sample their lunch/dinner buffet or any of the sandwiches or veggie burgers. Vegan cheese danishes are a pretty decent pairing with your coffee, albeit overpriced. I find the service to be a bit snooty and/or condescending, I one time asked a girl behind the counter if they had any tofu breakfast sandwiches (no) and then asked for/borrowed/gratefully returned a jar of jam.. without her ever offering one spoken word or looking up. Also miffed they don’t open til 8:30 with the rest of the grocery store, since I’m normally high-tailing it out of this area 007-style pre-8am, no further details needed.

The Haymarket Cafe (Northampton, MA) Offer tons of amazing vegan baked goods & foodstuffs, and the coffee is delicious and bold. Their lattes & iced coffee are impeccable as well. Offer soymilk (out with the rest of the milks/cream) & raw sugar. Also have a bunch of fresh juices & smoothies, most of which contain yogurt but they will gladly sub soy milk & an extra banana to make it vegan. Highly recommend their tofu scramble for breakfast and hummus/avocado sandwich for lunch. All baked goods have been pretty good thus far, but stay away from the peanut butter cup. Way too hard/chewy and rich. Big letdown.

It’s a Grind (West Hartford, CT & others) I hate pre-brewed coffee put out in those thermoses that you have to operate yourself. It gets cold and you never know how old it truly is. And if a place only offers this type of coffee, they should atleast give you free refills if for no other reason than to use up the coffee faster so they can keep the fresh pots coming. That being said, the coffee here is shit and a refill is 80 cents. Tanks filled with old shit that no one wants to buy again for 80 cents because,as they learned with the first cup, it’s old and/or shitty. They charge 50 cents extra for soy (mind you, a quart of Nature’s Promise soy is about $1.69). They ran out once for a few days straight…but this place is less than a block from Whole Foods! I mean really? I do enjoy their abundant selection of sugar-free syrups (so my mud coffee can now be mint flavored) and perusing the funky sugary flavors (peanut butter, cake batter)… but that’s about as far as the novelty takes my desire to ever be in this place…..Also, WHAT’S a grind?

It’s Only Natural (Middletown, CT) Yeah yeah, it’s technically a restaurant, but I almost never walk out of this place without indulging in a post-dinner cup of coffee & dessert. Vegan cakes galore keep me salivating over this place for weeks in advance. But enough of that. Their coffee is smooth, bold and always piping hot. Also comes to me with my own tiny pitcher of soymilk & they offer raw sugar. Often tempted to stop in just for a cup of joe after my clinical at the hospital down the street.

John Bale Book Co. (Waterbury, CT) Coffee’s OK, service is beyond wonderful. I discovered this gem in the slums of downtown Waterbury when I was forced to be there for a 4-week stint in jury duty. I loved the warm, atticy smell of old books & just browsing the aisles while I wait for my lunch to be prepared. The owner let me know that if I called the night before and let her know I’d be in for lunch the next day, she would make sure she had a vegan sandwich or wrap ready for me. They also gladly checked all of the ingredients in different breads/wraps etc. for me. The coffee wasn’t much better than the stuff offered at the courthouse for free. They offered raw sugar & soy (which you have to ask for), as well as sugar-free & regular Torani flavored syrups which they leave out on the coffee station. Sadly, they insist on using Kirkland (Costco) brand soymilk which curdled in their highly acidic coffee. The first time this happened, I brought my coffee back up the the counter & ordered a latte instead, which came free of charge. The soy seems to hold up better when steamed for some reason, shrug. I went back again and again simply for the great service & yummy veggie/avocado sandwiches and homemade soups.

Main Street Cafe (Cheshire, CT) No website, really? I started frequenting this place once a good friend of mine got hired there over the summer. Originally it was Greenwich Coffee, which always made me mad because it WAS IN CHESHIRE. If I wanted Greenwich coffee, Greenwich anything I’d go to Greenwich; it’s not remarkably far, and for the record I’ve never really associated it (or any other town) with offering any product which was superior to that offered in other CT towns. Geography and new ownership aside, the coffee here (as Main St Cafe) is pretty good. The lattes are alway perfect, but that’s probably because my barista friend knows just how I like them. They also offer a dark chocolate syrup which is vegan, and when mixed with their coconut syrup in an iced latte, it’ll cure any hangover or post-hookup regret/disgust (hypothetically speaking). Pretty sure soy is usually extra, but again I usually get the hookup from my friend. Veggie/hummus wrap is definitely acceptable for a quick lunch on the go.

Panera Bread (chain) Offer soymilk (Pacific brand), which never fails to curdle in their coffee unless steamed into a latte. Offer sugar-free vanilla syrup. Coffee is pretty good quality otherwise; they offer a dark, decaf, light and/or flavored roast and even though they are in dispensers, they are labelled with brew time (which has never been older than about 30 minutes). Solid five out of ten.

Blue State Coffee (New Haven, CT)

Starbucks Coffee House coffee tastes like I’m licking the inside of a Folger’s can. Espresso pales in comparison to local places, but hey, it works in a pinch. Also, some locations now offer coffee brewed with the “Clover” brewing system, which is basically a reverse french press (the grounds are vacuum-sucked from underneath). Coffee comes out pretty good but still not as rich or dark as I’d like. They offer soymilk – in fact, a special, extra creamy “blended just for Starbucks” variety by, which means it never curdles. Also worth mentioning is their new “make-your-own-frappuccino” campaign launched earlier this summer, meaning you can request your frap to be made with ANY milk (including soy), flavor (including sugar-free caramel), light frap base (if you’re watching your calories) and extra coffee (yes PUHLEASE). A major gripe at Starbucks’ is their insistence on adding my soy for me – yes, I get it, it’s liquid in a box which may or may not defy physics and splash all over your counter. I’m sorry, but I need to pour, sip, stir, sip, pour, sip, stir etc. before my coffee is just right. So please don’t make me be that bitch and just hand me the carton of soy already… I’m an adult. Plus I always clean up my spills with my vacated straw wrapper. Major plus here is the variety of sugar-free syrups; caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, cinnamon dolce… Oh, if only they would add coconut to that list!

Rao’s (Amherst, MA) It’d be total coffee blasphemy to patronize the Starbucks adjacent rather than this local gem. Espresso so fresh, so rich, so perfect it barely even needs a sweetener. In fact, a soy latte from this place is the only time I can bear without a syrup or sugar. I’ll even occasionally embark on a regular hot coffee from this place, as it’s decently strong and full-flavored. Also the only place I’ve thoroughly enjoyed coffee beans purchased from a shop and brewed in the home. Seating itself is usually in abundance as the place is made up of 2 or 3 big rooms with random, mismatched tables and chairs as well as an outside patio. Offers a vegan carrot muffin which I have never sampled, but do appreciate the gesture. Make this place a leisurely stop on any trip through Amherst and you will not regret! Only downside is they don’t open til 7:30am, whereas Starbucks opens their doors promptly at 5.

Tisane Euro-Asian Cafe (West Hartford, CT) It’s dark, sometimes extremely cold and smells funny, but this hybrid coffee shop-martini bar offers hands down THE best espresso in the Greater Hartford area. Soymilk costs extra if it’s in a latte, but otherwise no extra charge. They offer my favorite brand, Silk Original, but my only complaint is that it sometimes curdles just a bit in their cold drinks (worse in iced coffee than in espresso-based). A couple of sugar-free flavor syrups available, the typical hazelnut, vanilla, and even Irish cream. Staff here is mostly friendly and to be frank, not bad to look at. They are all very conversational save for a few duds who make me cringe upon entering. It also serves as a cultural epicenter, offering a gay night on Tuesdays, Service Industry Night on Wednesdays, and plenty of vegetarian (and some vegan) fare. I know this is supposed to be a coffee review, but the summer sangria is amazing (I recommend the red). Long story short, even when I’m running a half hour late I will still make the detour to grab my iced Americano from this place every single morning.

Whole Foods Cafe

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