Coffee Break

When I first became a student at Duquesne last year, I knew my adventurous side would never let me stay on campus 24/7. Beautiful as it is, I also needed to explore the city! And wow, I’ve found a treasure trove of cool boutiques and delicious restaurants (more to come on those later). However, I needed something to concentrate on, something to focus my searches around the city. Finally, I settled on finding the best coffee shop in Pittsburgh. Little did I know how many there were! I have to admit that I haven’t tried them all just yet, but I have found two truly delicious, not-so-hidden gems within walking distance from Duquesne!

The closest coffee joint to Duquesne’s campus is Nicholas Coffee Company, in Market Square.  Simply entering is stepping into a cloud of what a coffee shop should smell like: coffee-roasting machines working, with a tinge of roasted peanuts (they do this just outside the door). Nicholas offers a variety of drinks, including some really quality teas and, of course, all the tea and coffee paraphernalia anyone could ask for. Nicholas roasts its own beans, which you can buy in bags at the store. Lattes are not painfully expensive, and the baristas are usually willing to make whatever combination of flavors you can imagine, if you can’t find an appealing option already offered. Last, but not least, there’s a great community feel to Nicholas. Each employee is ready to chat about anything, from coffees offered that day to general small talk. There are so many “regulars” there, yet they will often take the time to learn your name. If I have a late morning and I’m in the mood for a latte, I prefer to take a quick jaunt down to Market Square and Nicholas instead of waiting in line at one of the places on campus. They don’t have a seating area—instead, there’s seating outside. And I have to add: there are some wonderful people-watching opportunities available in the square at all times. I usually go on Fridays after work as an end-of-the-week treat.

A little further away but no less delicious is Presto George, located in the Strip District. Like Nicholas, they make their own coffees and teas, in addition to selling flavored syrups. This in and of itself practically guarantees a wide variety of choices in flavored coffees and lattes, but the first time I wandered into Presto George, I was taken aback by how many they offered. They get pretty creative… and with that, delicious. Might I suggest a “Milky Way” latte for those with a chocolate sweet tooth? Or, those who prefer vanilla to chocolate could reach for a “Lucky Lady” instead. Every latte I’ve experienced from this shop (and trust me, a good latte should be an experience) has been absolutely wonderful, which is a surprisingly hard task. For example, a latte should not have large bubbles in the foam, nor should the foam take up more than a quarter of the top part of the cup, and that’s pushing it pretty hard. Presto George is another place which doesn’t have any space to sit, but I figure that’s part of being in the Strip District. I prefer to grab a latte from here and continue on my way down the Saturday morning market.

Coffee, I think, gets a bad reputation for being ridiculously expensive. Let me promise you, not everywhere charges the same for a foamy latte or a “tall” cup of coffee as those big, well-known chains. To my confusion and frustration, however, people are often unwilling to throw away that green-labeled cup even once in favor of another, lesser-known (possibly generic) cup. I’m guessing this is because the chains are familiar and have a name to uphold. At the coffee shops on this list, both the coffee and lattes are high quality and less expensive than big-brand beans.

Questions on what constitutes “good” coffee or lattes? Comments, perhaps on other coffee places? Do you have suggestions for other shops, or a new quest for me? Please comment below! Also, check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube channel!

Have a great day, and best of luck in your own adventures!

A latte in a not-so-familiar cup.

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