An indie review of Ames’ indie-est coffeeshops

What did Giovanni Boccaccio, Johannes Scotus Eriugena, and Anaxagoras of Clazomenae have in common? Correct! They never had the pleasure of enjoying coffee. However, we are modern and all need caffeine in the morning, but are too lazy and hip to make our own espresso. If you’re already shelling out three to six dollars per drink, why not ensure that your legal hit of addictive psychoactive substances is the best possible? I traveled around our fair metropolis, buying coffee from each coffeeshop and rating it on eight criteria: taste of drink, sturdiness of cup, wittiness of saying on cup (Starbucks only), ambience of store, the “judgmental indie” test, quality of stereotype of patrons, quality of barista’s charcoal sketches, and abundance of local newspapers. When all data had been compiled, I created an elaborate equation to rate each coffeehouse, where x = overall score: x=(NwsPprs*101+Ambnce*498+QltyPtrns*372+WitOSyng*42+TstDrnk*0.63+StrdnsCup*89+QltySktchs*207+JdgmntalND*615)/(23*53*7) <- With a proper analytical equation and $20 in my pocket, I put on my argyle sweater vest and set out to hit up Ames’ best spots to grab some java. Cafe Diem This Main Street staple is a really cool place to get jacked up on caffeine in style. Local artwork, semi-dim lighting and obscure music encompassing indie-folk, ethnic, and early Coldplay makes this coffeehouse stand out among the poseurs. Many various local newspapers and portable board games are available for use, and the cups are made of corn, which is extremely self-aware. The type of patrons–an ethnically and age-wise diverse group of thinkers–is very desirable for the self-conscious coffee drinker, and the actual coffee is fair trade, categorized by third-world country of origin, and fairly strongly brewed. Score: 9.8266/10. Starbucks Cool. Modern. Upscale. Starbucks is the epitome of commercialized indie, the sole exception to the rule of using an apostrophe to denote possession, and the only place where teenage girls and suave businessmen can freely drink their respective coffee creations side-by-side in harmony. I walked in to discover Starbucks in full bloom, my eyes filled with wonder at the fashionableness that simply emanated from the walls of the store, and settled on a VentiHalf-SoyNonfatHalf-CafOrganicIcedVanillaPumpkinSpiceFrappuccinoExtraHotDoubleBlendedOneSweet’N’LowOneNutrasweetLightIce, and although the order singlehandedly destroyed the economy of Indonesia, the resulting concoction changed my life forever. The Israelites called it “manna;” the Red Hot Chili Peppers knew it as “heroin;” but I had finally found my soul’s true sustenance. There weren’t enough local newspapers, though. Score: 9.527/10 Stomping Grounds The lack of a proper sign does nothing to diminish the appeal of Campustown’s coolest coffee spot. Abstract art, a variety of chair options, and a full bistro-style menu do much to give Stomping Grounds a laid-back, yet sophisticated ambience. However, sophisticated can become snotty here: the cafe has a no-outside-food rule, and the clientele are not as accepting as those at Cafe Diem. Java, though, is the main point here (besides free Wi-Fi), and albeit with a long wait, this coffee does not disappoint. Essentially Cafe Diem meets The Cafe. Score: 8.6357/10 Panera Bread As a young child growing up in suburban Missouri, I can still recall strolling past the St. Louis Bread Company in the mall smelling the wonderful scents of the store. Now known as Panera, one of the best "gourmet fast food" chains in the nation, it still retains the wonder and happiness of the original Missouri stores. However, the Ames store often feels like a commercial assembly line, with its high ceilings and multiple lines, and is almost always packed during mealtimes. In truth, Panera is more of a bread company than a coffeehouse, and this is clear from a simple breakfast of a bagel and a latte: the bagel is fresh, flavorful, and arguably better than any New Yorker could have made, but the coffee does not live up to the rich flavor found in Starbucks and Cafe Diem drinks. Overall, though, the ambience is of vital importance, and Panera falters on this account. Score: 7.4758/10 Over the course of this journey, I learned much regarding Ames’ coffeeshops. Sure, they can be cool, or indie, or ridiculously expensive, but what really matters is the patrons surrounding you. Whether or not they are attractive and/or scholarly-looking is the true test of a cafe, and Cafe Diem, therefore, is the perfect place to sip espresso and reflect on the Bereitschaftspotential of epiphenomenalism, or at least pretend to.