Caffeine is the lifeblood of college students. We begin our day with coffee, we sprinkle in some pop at lunch and we crack open an energy drink over homework in the evening.
As we prepare to come back to campus next semester, we have to get our caffeine situation on lock. I’ve spent the last three years going to all the local coffee shops I can find, and I’m here to report on the best ones.
Because if you’re going to spend $6 on a coffee before waltzing into class fashionably late, you might as well support a local business while you do it.
Cafe Diem first opened its doors in 2000 under the leadership of owner Bill Malone. In the 20 years since, it has experienced massive success. Malone actually spoke in one of my management classes last year and he’s a great entrepreneur.
But we care about the coffee. Cafe Diem’s menu changes with the seasons, so you’ll get something new every time you stop by. Last fall I popped in for a turmeric chai latte, and that was IT. The pumpkin muffin was pretty great too.
Stomping Grounds is a great place to study and eat. They serve breakfast all day (which I always take advantage of) as well as hot coffee, iced coffee and tea. The dining room has a calming atmosphere while still fostering conversation between guests. Stomping Grounds is on Welch Avenue just south of Campustown Court, so that means it’s within walking distance of campus and one of my favorite spots in Ames.
Whenever I go, I order a hot café mocha. It comes in a big mug and tastes like a more adult version of a hot chocolate. Because it comes warm, you’re forced to drink it slowly, meaning the caffeine doesn’t hit you all at once. I can concentrate and do homework for a good couple of hours with just one mocha.
The Cafe is a little farther away in the north of Ames. Like Stomping Grounds, it’s more of a sit-down place with food as well as coffee. My friends and I first went to The Cafe last year when we started “Boujee Food Nights” where we would find a moderately-priced restaurant, order food we thought was fancy and pretend we were rich while eating.
It’s not coffee, but my favorite drink from The Cafe is their orange juice. It’s super tangy and smooth, and it doesn’t have pulp, which is a win in my book. If you’re over 21: my first drink on my 21st birthday was The Cafe mimosa and it’s still the best mimosa I’ve ever had.
One final honorable mention is Morning Bell downtown. They sell ground coffee as well as cups, so if you’re in Ames this summer, mask up and say hi to my friend Vince behind the counter!
Before this article ends, I do have to address the elephant in the room. We may not be “on campus” next year, and even if we are, you may not feel comfortable going to a coffee shop. No problem! A lot of the shops on this list have curbside pick up options, or you could make coffee at home! One of my favorite things in my residence hall room freshman year was my Keurig. I could make coffee, hot chocolate, hot apple cider or just warm up water with it. If you are looking to make coffee, go ahead and buy grounds in bulk and use a reusable K-cup for each brew. It’s cheaper and helps the environment.
No matter how you get it, caffeine is essential for a lot of us. And Ames is ready to deliver.