Coffee Squatting

Coffee. I have to confess an obsession for too-expensive mochas. I just can’t help myself. But I also have to confess a confusion around the world of coffee. Our society has developed a fanaticism. In the work-centric world of the United States, coffee is a must. We need it to stay awake to look sharp to work harder. We need the coffeehouses for a quiet place to sit down and read emails or type up presentations. The society and culture around coffee is astonishingly vibrant. So… how about we assess some of the best and worst places in the Triangle?

Top 5 Places to Drink Coffee in Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill

1. Cup A Joe- Raleigh- I may be a little biased, considering I got engaged here, but I’m an “environment” coffee drinker. I take my laptop and start hacking away at my novel and I need a few things… good, cheap coffee and a sense of depth. Depth… meaning I feel like I’m actually IN a place. I feel surrounded, by other coffee drinkers and other people. Some coffee shops just can’t offer space and Cup A Joe (both locations) offers that. I also love pairing my coffee visits with people watching. At the Hillsborough St. location, you can set up in front of the street-facing glass windows. Always a treat.

2. Jubala Village Coffee- Never had a bad drink here. Really enjoy the clean, open space and the option of disappearing into your own world. The staff is tremendously nice and the comfort level is high.

3. Starbucks (by the 55/54 intersection) – I’m sure some people will hate this, but I like Starbucks. As a drinker of fru-fru white mochas, they make a sweet drink that is consistently delicious. I know people want to push the whole “local coffee” and “small business” thing… but if you want to push that, you should also make good coffee. There are a lot of places that make a miserable white mocha. I choose this Starbucks location because it’s a bigggggggggg place. A lot of sprawling tables and, once again, that feeling of immersion.

4. Benelux Cafe – I grab this every Sunday in Moore Square. Like Starbucks, their drinks are just consistent. I know what I’m getting when I order a white mocha, I know how it’s going to taste, and I know that I’m going to like it. The place is a little small, but I can hope that their new location in Cameron Village will add a bit of depth.

5. Bean Traders (near Southpoint)- Again, a little biased… My writer’s group meets here every Thursday. I enjoy the staff immensely and feel that they’ve catered to our group immensely. The coffee, too, is always quite good.

Honorable Mentions: Sola Coffee (Raleigh), Really ANY Chapel Hill coffee place (though I’m fond of Cafe Driade, Open Eye Cafe, and the Caribou’s), and Cafe Helios… I’m actually mad that I didn’t put Cafe Helios up above. It’s a really great environment to work, nice and open aired… great pimento sandwiches, too.

Top 5 Places that I NOW Avoid
1. Starbucks by Southpoint – It’s across the road from Southpoint… and unfortunately, very small and hard to find a seat. It stays busy enough that you end up cramped and uncomfortable and unproductive.

2. Francesca’s- Coffee places should be used to the idea that people are there to plunk down and get things done, right? Well, I have a lovely story about an overaggressive manager that accosted me twice in 30 minutes about buying something… Though I’d been a consistent purchaser before… though I planned to buy something to go… I just don’t get it.

3. Mad Hatters Cafe- Cool name, and some dank quesadillas, but the coffee is so-so.

4. Starbucks at Crossroads- Same thing… No seating room. I’ve been in there often and had to walk right back out because all the tables are already taken.

5. Straw Valley Cafe- Sorry. Some people swear by this place, but I’ve never been comfortable there. They do that whole… buy your coffee and then find another building to find a table thing… Has a wandering garden feel to it… but meh. No thanks.

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