The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

Fall-ing in Love With Campus Cafés

Deputy Arts Editor Lainey Gregory ranks the best fall drinks from cafés around UChicago’s campus.
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Lainey Gregory
A maple latté enjoyed outside Plein Air.

Autumn is here, and there is no better way to celebrate than watching the leaves change colors with a warm drink in hand. Many cafés on campus sell fall favorites, while others offer classics with a twist. The best fall drinks exemplify the following qualities:

Flavor: The best fall drinks should incorporate seasonal flavors, without being too overwhelming.

Coziness: Drinks that scored highly in this category captured the spirit of the fall season. Cozy drinks are best consumed next to a warm fire while reading a good book.

Creativity: Autumn flavors tend to get a little repetitive (I do not want 10 pumpkin spice lattes). I awarded points to cafés that developed innovative beverages.

In writing this review, I consumed an obscene amount of caffeine in the course of 72 hours. While I do recommend most of these drinks, I do not recommend trying all of them at once!

8) Fairgrounds: Sage Chaider

Flavor: 3

Coziness: 3

Creativity: 8

Overall: 14

The Sage Chaider was one of the most creative concoctions on this list. Fairgrounds combines sage, chai, and apple cider into the ultimate fall amalgamation. The first sip of this drink had a sour bite and was extremely bitter. The chai and apple flavors were hidden underneath a stifling sage flavor. While this was a bold attempt to create a new drink, the aggressive sage made this beverage undrinkable.

7) Ex Libris Café: Ice Maple Spice (Hot Version)

Flavor: 4

Coziness: 5

Creativity: 9

Overall: 18

Ex Lib has quite the reputation for developing new and inventive drinks. This fall, their menu features the Ice Maple Spice, an iced cold brew flavored with a maple spice syrup. I honestly question the choice of a cold drink for fall, considering the weather. Sadly, when I visited the café, I learned that they were temporarily out of cold brew. The baristas happily offered me a maple spice café au lait with oat milk instead. While I applaud their ability to improvise a drink on the spot, it did not make up for the burnt flavor of the coffee. The powerful sweetness of the drink did not mix well with the disappointing coffee flavor.

6) Starbucks at Saieh Hall: Iced Pumpkin Chai Tea Latte

Flavor: 7

Coziness: 5

Creativity: 7

Overall: 19

It wouldn’t be a complete review of fall drinks without the inclusion of Starbucks. Thankfully, they offer new drinks each year that depart from their classic (but overhyped) Pumpkin Spice Latte. This drink had a pleasantly light, airy, pumpkin-y fragrance. The Pumpkin Cream Cold Foam was the star of the show, and a great way to incorporate subtle pumpkin flavor into the drink without the use of a potentially overpowering syrup. But after the pumpkin foam dissolved, the remaining chai was mediocre and lacked the bold flavors of traditional chai. Despite being milk-based, the drink was surprisingly watery.

5) Hallowed Grounds: Pumpkin Spice Latte

Flavor: 8

Coziness: 8

Creativity: 5

Overall: 21

Despite their undoubtedly cozy vibes, Hallowed Grounds does not offer an “official” seasonal drink. They do, however, offer a pumpkin spice syrup. I ended up ordering the drink that has become synonymous with the fall season: the Pumpkin Spice Latte. This particular latte had a subtle, sweet pumpkin flavor, though the coffee itself was lacking slightly in intensity, resulting in a pretty good warm, cozy treat.

4) Cobb Café: Café de Olla

Flavor: 8

Coziness: 7

Creativity: 8

Overall: 23

Though not technically seasonal, the Café de Olla is being released at Cobb Café in early November (and I think it fits the vibe of this review). Café de Olla is a Mexican spiced coffee, flavored with syrup made from cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. The coffee is dark and rich, and the sweetness of the syrup complements the dark roast well. The Café de Olla is a pleasant departure from the monotony of typical fall drink menus.

3) Plein Air: Maple Latte

Flavor: 10

Coziness: 8

Creativity: 6

Overall: 24

Like a few other cafés on this list, Plein Air highlighted maple as the flavor of the season. I was very impressed with the maple-forward flavor of the drink, which maintained a strong flavor without being too sweet. The milk was smooth, and the espresso was complemented delightfully by the maple simple syrup. Plein Air excels at making excellent coffee, which gives them an edge on student run cafés which have to make do with subpar Metropolis coffee beans. The unbeatable smooth texture of Plein Air’s frothed milk always adds a nice touch to drinks of any season.

2) Harper Café: Vanilla Cinnamon Latte

Flavor: 9

Coziness: 9

Creativity: 7

Overall: 25

Harper Café allows you to customize your drink with their endless syrup options. The barista working recommended a mixture of vanilla and cinnamon syrups to craft the perfect fall treat. The resulting drink had a nice calming coffee flavor, with only a slight hint of sweetness. The latte was the perfect temperature, with a creamy, smooth finish and beautifully frothed milk foam. The vanilla and cinnamon blended nicely into the drink and accentuated the richness of the coffee. I believe that Harper Café is truly a gem—definitely worth the trek towards the midway.

1) Grounds of Being (GOB): Maple Latte

Flavor: 9

Coziness: 10

Creativity: 7

Overall: 26

When I asked the baristas at GOB for something seasonal, they replied that they didn’t have anything like that on the menu. However, they quickly noted that they could make me the fall drink from last year, a latte sweetened with Vermont maple syrup. While the Maple Latte has been a little bit overdone on campus this year, GOB does it better than everyone else. Creamy, smooth milk combined with the bold, semi-sweet maple flavor perfectly accented the espresso base. I absolutely loved this drink, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a drink to capture the essence of the fall season.

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