Crazy for Coffee

Finding the best place to get a coffee in Palo Alto

Caffeine: whether it is obtained from coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages, this glorious physiological drug that diligent students use and even abuse to gain alertness during a night of endless homework or in the morning to prevent falling asleep during class is consumed ubiquitously. The pleasant and addicting effects of this drug, including wakefulness and increased intellectual effort, are caused by caffeine’s stimulation of the central nervous system and a consequent increase in neuron firing; caffeine triggers dopamine release, which creates that excited, invincible feeling typically felt after coffee consumption, according to Orthomolecular Psychology.

While coffee consumption is a popular source of caffeine, the downside to buying it daily is its huge wallet draining effect. In the U.S. alone, 18 billion dollars were spent in 2013 on specialty coffee. So before you caffeine addicts blow away all of your allowance on this dazzling drug, I advise you to get the most bang out of your buck and titillate your taste buds with the most orgiastic tasting coffee or tea out there.

Peet’s Coffee and Tea – 3 star

While there may be a Starbucks down every few blocks in Palo Alto, there are higher quality coffee brands like Peet’s Coffee and Tea, the coffee shop that helped the germination of Starbucks by training its founders and providing the brand with its first beans, according to New York Times. Peet’s serves everything from espresso drinks like lattes (costing $2.95 for a small), to various flavored, melt-in-your mouth Freddos (gotta check for the price), such as the Chocolate Caramel Swirl Freddo, which is exactly as decadent as it sounds. Each sip fills your mouth with chocolate-flavored frothy coffee and hints of thick, caramel. The lattes, which contain one shot of espresso and 10 oz of steamed milk for the small size, are much richer and bolder than those from Starbucks. The beans used to make the espresso are smokier and of a darker roast, which makes the Starbucks lattes and espresso drinks in general taste bland and diluted in comparison.

Philz Coffee – 5 star

Now with two locations in Palo Alto, both downtown and in midtown, Philz Coffee has taken the city by storm, practically forming a cult of devoted Philz addicts. What makes Philz stand out is that they do not serve any espresso drinks, but only mouthwatering drip coffee and tea, with each cup handcrafted by a “Phriendly” barista. Philz sorts its different coffee blends by light, medium and dark roast, offering a unique blend to satisfy every individual’s taste buds. Popular coffee blends include the Tesora, a medium roast coffee with low acidity and a nutty aroma and the Silken Soul, another medium roast that is a mixture of the Silken Splendor and the Philtered Soul. The Silken Splendor complements the Philtered Soul, making a heavenly blend by reducing the sour acidic taste of the Philtered Soul while maintaining its buttery, caramel aroma and topping it off with a smooth, silky finish. Philz also offers an enticing Chai Tea, made not from a powder mixture that most other shops use, but brewed from actual tea leaves and spices. Rather than using milk, Philz uses heavy cream and sweetens the drinks with brown sugar. However, Baristas can also use replacements like milk, soy milk, honey or stevia upon request. Chai Tea is most commonly ordered “sweet and creamy,” which is the maximum sugar and cream amount put in, making the tea decadent and rich rather than watery. Coffee drinks are most commonly ordered “medium medium,” meaning medium sugar and cream, and more of either can be added by the barista if requested. The prices of the drinks are also another efficient quality of the store, with all coffee drinks costing $3 for a small and $4 for a large, which takes away the hassle of scrambling for change. Teas generally cost less, however, and specialty drinks like the popular Mint Mojito, a rich iced coffee with fresh mint leaves that add a unique kick,  costs $3.50 for a small. First timers may feel disoriented at Philz because of its untraditional drink-ordering system. To order, customers wait in line for an available barista along the counter. Once a barista becomes available, tell him or her the desired blend as well as the cream and sugar content, and move on to the cash register station to pay for the drink. The barista will then call the order and ask the customer to taste test the drink for perfection. Overall, Philz offers a unique coffee drinking experience and will definitely tantalize taste buds.

Coupa Cafe – 5 star

This cozy Venezuelan café can be found in various locations on Stanford University’s campus as well as its Downtown Palo Alto location on Ramona Street. What makes Coupa stand out is not only its comfy environment for lounging around with friends or cramming in a study session, but its tantalizing hot chocolates, various flavors of chai tea lattes and decadent coffee drinks. Coupa uses organic arabica coffee beans, which come from Ethiopia, and other high quality international beans for their coffee and espresso drinks, such the Café Mocha ($3.50/small) and comes with either Chuao Abuela chocolate or Spicy Mayan chocolate. The Chuao Abuela Mocha is an exceptional option if customers are in for a chocolate flavored drink but want an extra energy boost from the espresso. The hot chocolates ($3.50/small) come in Abuela, Spicy Mayan and Mint options and all taste fairly similar, but lack the hint of espresso taste of the Café Mocha. The Spicy Mayan is just as decadent as the Abuela but comes with a kick of cinnamon and may leave your tongue and throat feel tingly from the spices. Coupa’s real treasure, however, is their Tiger Spice Chai Tea latte ($2.85/small.) While there are other flavors like Elephant Vanilla, Orca Spice and Flamingo, the Tiger Spice knocks all of these options out of the park. The cinnamon and various spices compliment the dreamy cream-flavored taste, making the drink taste almost like melted marshmallows with spice. Unlike many other places, Coupa baristas also do latte art, using the milk foam to draw shapes like hearts, which makes the experience even more enjoyable.