It was 5 p.m. on a chilly autumn day, and Katie Cavanaugh ’16, Mary Gong ’16 and yours truly were walking briskly through Frosh Quad, leaves swirling behind us, our mouths set into determined lines. Our mission? To visit Sweets & Beans and Tunnel City Coffee and decide once and for all which is the better coffeeshop.
An older man greeted us in front of Sweets & Beans, asking us if we had time to learn about women’s rights. We wasted no time answering him eloquently with a drawn out “Ummm,” which I’m sure served to accurately convey the seriousness of our mission. Refocused on our task we entered Sweets & Beans’ candy-colored atmosphere, ready to decide its fate.
I ended up deciding on a white mocha and a white chocolate crepe. Gong and Cavanaugh then stepped up with significantly more poise and know-how: Gong ordered a macaroon and a raspberry iced tea, while Cavanaugh stuck with a simple hot chocolate.
The wait was short, as the place was completely empty, and as we sat down, we enjoyed the calming indie music wafting from the store’s speakers. The seating at Sweets & Beans is odd; the only real table there runs all along a large window, making it impossible to face each other.
Brimming with excitement at having my first coffee ever, I took a hearty sip. I’m not sure what I expected it to taste like; maybe a fair mix of sweet and bitter – perhaps a combination of comforting and shocking.
I was sorely disappointed when my mouth was filled with an awful bitter taste, and I proceeded to sprint to the sugar basket, grab six packets and pour them all in, my displeasure showing clearly by way of a disgusted pout. I condemned the coffee to a score of negative one while trying desperately to mix in the pile of sugar I had poured.
Gong and Cavanaugh enjoyed a couple of laughs at my expense while they tried their own orders. I noticed Gong staring at her iced tea, and when I commented on this she replied, “Well, the raspberry iced tea is very sour. You would expect iced tea to be sweet. But it’s not. It’s sour.”
“Is that a pro or a con?” I asked.
“Con,” she replied, nodding her head somberly. “But the macaroon is good. It’s not too sweet.”
However, after trying it, Cavanaugh soon jumped to the iced tea’s defense, stating confidently that she liked it and that raspberries are supposed to be sour. Trying her hot chocolate, Cavanaugh gave a decisive answer: “Good hot chocolate. Not as good as Dunkin’ Donuts. But I’m partial to Dunkin’,” she admitted. “It’s kind of like dark chocolate, actually. It’s interesting. I like it. It actually tastes like chocolate.” Score one for the hot chocolate.
The crepe, though expensive at $5 and difficult to eat due to the triangle it had been flattened into, was absolutely delicious, an opinion backed by Gong when she tried some for herself. Sadly, Sweets & Beans offers a meager selection of crepes, and the same goes for drinks and pastries. We decided not to judge too harshly on that, though, seeing as they did have a large amount of candy and ice cream.
Nearing the end of our tasting session, Cavanaugh asked to try my mocha. After taking a sip, she scrunched up her face and reeled back in surprise.
“Woah. That’s really sweet, yo,” she said. “That’s really sweet.”
“What? No, it’s horrendously bitter,” I responded.
“Oh wow. that’s sweet,” Cavanaugh insisted. “That makes my hot chocolate taste better.”
“But … it’s so bitter,” I replied meekly, realizing that maybe I should’ve left the coffee tasting to my more experienced counterparts. After I had been thoroughly scolded and deemed atrociously unfit to judge coffee, we cleared our area and started to head for Tunnel City Coffee.
Tunnel City Coffee has a more adult ambiance, with lights turned down lower and dark wood as far as the eye can see. There was a larger variety of pastries and drinks both simple and elaborate and plenty of seating room.
Stuffed and exhausted from the psychological stress that comes with being food critics, Cavanaugh and I stuck to simple pastries, ordering chocolate covered pretzels and a sugar cookie, respectively. Gong still had room for more, however, and ordered a small cup of apple cider and a pistachio macaroon. We left the café quickly, as it was almost closing time, and ate our food as we walked.
“The pretzels are absolutely delicious,” declared Cavanaugh, also observing that they were fairly large. The sugar cookie was predictably good. Despite this, we all agreed that Sweets & Beans’ crepes would win any day of the week, despite being difficult to eat.
Gong happily observed that on top of being great, her apple cider was cheaper than the raspberry iced tea and the macaroon was perfect in taste and size. In turn, Cavanaugh noticed that the hot chocolate at Tunnel City Coffee was 50 cents more expensive.
Our final decision? If you’re looking for a quick and cheap fix to your craving for sweets, Sweets & Beans is the way to go. With simple pastries, an assortment of candy and amazing crepes, it’s perfect for grabbing a quick snack. It is also open until 10 p.m. every day, which is great for nocturnal college students. However, if you’re looking for a place to relax and for a larger amount of options ranging from the simple to the elaborate, we’d point you to the classic Tunnel City Coffee. It is the perfect place to study, and the only big con we managed to find is that it is only open until 6 p.m. every day.
But heck, what do we know? We’re only college-age culinary prodigies. Go see for yourself.