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Opinion: Columbus coffee shop competitive with Boston brews

A latte from Stauf’s in Columbus (left) and a latte from Equal Exchange Café in Boston.  Credit: Mark Spigos / Lantern reporter

A latte from Stauf’s in Columbus (left) and a latte from Equal Exchange Café in Boston.
Credit: Mark Spigos / Lantern reporter

A few weeks ago, The Lantern reported on the “underrated” Columbus coffee scene. Shortly thereafter, I had the opportunity to the travel to Boston, which was recently voted the 17th best “coffee city” in America by “Travel + Leisure” magazine, a list in which Columbus was not a part.

As a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast, the trip seemed like a great chance to test the merits of an up-and-coming coffee city like Columbus against those of an established one. It also meant I could fully justify going out for coffee more than I already do.

Overall, the two beverages were very comparable in freshness, taste and quality. The major difference between Stauf’s and Equal Exchange can be seen in their respective atmospheres. While the Columbus spot has the feel of a first rate neighborhood coffee shop, the Boston shop’s character seems trendier, with a considerably more urban vibe.

Stauf’s Coffee Roasters (Columbus, Ohio)

Stauf’s has been a mainstay in the Columbus coffee scene since it opened its doors in 1988. Located at 1277 Grandview Ave., the coffee shop has made its mission to achieve the finest cup of coffee possible.

A quality cup of coffee begins with a quality coffee bean. Stauf’s sources its Arabica beans from more than 20 countries around the globe, roasting them to order in their gas-fired roasters.

With such a variety of fine, flavorful blends to choose from, I usually order a French Press; at just $3.95, it’s a very affordable way to enjoy four cups of freshly brewed coffee. However, during this visit, I wanted to allow the baristas a chance to show off their skills.

So, I ordered a latte — a classic beverage that is a great indicator of both the quality of ingredients used, as well as the level of craftsmanship displayed by a café’s employees.

At Stauf’s, a regular 16-ounce latte with a double shot of espresso goes for $3.40. Served in a white ceramic mug, my beverage was a gorgeous, creamy brown color. The frothy surface was adorned with a “latte leaf,” the quintessential example of simple, tastefully-done latte art.

Though there was plenty of seating available within the cavernous interior of Stauf’s, I chose to take my drink on the outdoor patio — a great place to experience the adorable dogs of Grandview.

With both my appetite for atmosphere and presentation satisfied, I found myself equally pleased with the quality of my beverage. The latte was extremely well-crafted. With a healthy portion of foam on top, the taste was balanced and smooth with minimal bitterness.

Between the friendliness of the staff, the relaxed, pleasant atmosphere and the satisfying product, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters is a microcosm of the increasingly versatile coffee scene across Columbus. Whether it’s used as a hangout spot, a site for a job interview, or a place to study, one thing always remains true about Stauf’s: It’s a wonderful place to grab a really good cup of coffee.

Stauf’s Coffee Roasters is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6:30 to midnight Fridays, 7 to midnight Saturdays, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.

Grade: A

Equal Exchange Café (Boston)

Located at 226 Causeway St. in Boston, in the shadow of TD Garden — the home of the Boston Celtics and Bruins — Equal Exchange Café has a very different feel from Stauf’s. At about a quarter of the size of Stauf’s, the Boston coffee shop’s walls are painted several shades of green — giving it a vibrant and chic atmosphere.

Equal Exchange Café’s motto reads like music to the ears of any coffee lover: “Organically grown, fairly traded, locally roasted, consciously consumed.” Refreshingly, there were also signs directing customers to dispose of their waste in one of three appropriate containers — the trash bin, the recycling bin or the compost bin.

In the spirit of equality and for the sake of comparison, I chose to order another latte. Whereas Stauf’s regular size was 16 ounces, Equal Exchange’s was just 12 ounces. What’s more is that it was still 10 cents more expensive, at $3.50.

The latte was served in an “Ecotainer,” a disposable cup made from fully renewable resources. The beverage itself was nearly identical in color to the Stauf’s latte, but was decorated with a more complex ornamental heart design.

Because of the smaller size of Equal Exchange, there weren’t any tables available. There was, however, a small, brightly colored nook with bench seating and reading material located in the back corner of the shop.

So, I settled down on a pillow and drank my Boston-made latte — which, though pricey, was excellent. Made with what was clearly very fresh espresso, the drink was slightly stronger and less frothy than the latte at Stauf’s. It was worth every penny.

Grade: A-

One comment

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