Sacred Grounds

Author: Meghan Thomassen '14

For Notre Dame students and faculty, achievement at such a high level doesn’t come from a healthy balance of eight hours of sleep every night or ever-flowing fonts of motivation, it comes from coffee. And when winter rolls around, getting out of bed in the chilly morning or sticking it out in the drafty library can daunt even the most devout students without a steamy cup of brew in hand.

Unfortunately for undergraduates, the coffee served in the dining halls is dismal. Even the novelty of drinking out of classic porcelain mugs can’t distract from the bitter, burnt aftertaste. The only way to remedy such a potion is to add liberal amounts of milk or hot chocolate, for a more toasted-mocha beverage.

On the other hand, Starbucks charges unwitting visitors, well-heeled administrators and sleep-deprived students $4.25 for one wickedly delicious Pumpkin Spice latte because the drink is just that good (read syrup-laden). Despite their ridiculous prices, the caffeine titan should win an award for fostering interdisciplinary collaboration at Notre Dame — it’s the center of origin for office hours, study groups, job interviews, first dates and peer advisor meetings.

Those who know, appreciate and live on coffee — real coffee — will make their way to the newly added Au Bon Pain (ABP), whose hazelnut coffee is dreamlike. The blend is sweet, full-bodied and bright. Although the new café in the library charges a little more than the average cup of joe around campus, it’s worth it, especially since ABP has the option of soy milk to mix in with your drink.

The layman’s cup is the ubiquitous Green Mountain coffee, whose regular and flavored options can please any crowd — just look at the line outside Waddick’s between classes. At just $1.25 for a small, the Golden Toast French Roast or Pumpkin Spice coffees satiate students enough to resist the gravitational pull of Starbucks.

Off campus, the king used to be Quincy’s Café, whose slow-drip Intelligentsia heightened the stylishly-distressed shop into sacred grounds. But when the owners opted for a larger space on Ironwood Road, Quincy’s lost its well-known location on Edison Street, as well as its pedestrian appeal to students searching for an atmospheric study spot, perhaps leading to its recent closure.

Downtown South Bend successes like Chicory Café and Main Street Coffee House catch a lot of the lunch business and free wifi-hunters. Chicory Café, a French Quarter-style coffee shop, has unusual culinary specialties like beignets and jambalaya, and serves Fair Trade coffee. Their original lattes, like the condensed milk latte, are religious experiences in themselves.

Main Street Coffee House offers fare similar to any coffee-plus-sandwich shop, but their freshly ground beans stand out. Their signature blend is a delightful medium-roast with a variety of South American beans.

Best of all are the professors and students who independently select, grind and brew coffee in their offices and dorm rooms. Walking to office hours is like walking into the head of the teacher, aromas, texts and all. When you see a student and teacher walking together, whether it be in O’Shaughnessy Hall, across South Quad or through LaFortune, you had better believe that their destination has something to do with that life-giving libation served in a humble mug.

Meghan Thomassen was this magazine’s autumn intern.