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Battle of the Brews

March 22, 2010

Erica Bellman
Battle of the Brews

Most of us have seen the sun set and rise from one of CMC's computer labs or lounges. Pulling an all-nighter to pound out a paper or stuff your brain with facts is never enjoyable. Alone and delirious, a supply of caffeinated liquid is often the only thing keeping you from passing out and drooling all over the keyboard. Here is where you face a problem that, at this moment, seems to loom larger than the 12-pager you've put off until the night before it's due. With trembling hands and bloodshot eyes, you gasp, "WHERE am I going to get my fiiix?!?!" So your aching brain doesn't have to weigh each coffee spot's pros and cons, here they are.  Your choice will soon be clear as a perfectly caffeinated morning. May the strongest win the title of Best Brew in this Claremont-wide java showdown...because no one likes a weak cup o' joe.


For your sipping satisfaction, Collins offers bleary-eyed diners with 2 dramatically different coffee selections: pre-brewed or just-made by the espresso machine. The pre-made coffee (regular and de-caf) is definitely the lesser choice -- if it is available at all.  More often than not, the carafes are empty and the sleepy drinker is left with an empty mug.  When available, the pre-made coffee is not terrible: piping hot, somewhat strong, and only occasionally flecked with stray grounds. The Collins espresso machine, however, is a stand-out star... of Claremont's coffee scene, anyway.  Mark Munro '12, a Portland native and daily coffee drinker, prefers this option.  "I mostly just drink Collins espresso," Munro confessed, "Coming from Portland, I've had better. But it gets the job done, you know?"  Drinkers can select a regular or non-fat latte, cappuccino, espresso, or cafe americano.  For variety and freshness, choose a Collins coffee.  3.5/5 beans

Frary Unless you're willing to guzzle a dozen cups of this Pomona dining hall's tepid, tasteless stuff, you should plan on steering clear. Although it's available in both regular and de-caf, this beverage is undeserving of the hallowed title "coffee." A sip of this pond water will nauseate and disgust you. Frary's luke-warm, lackluster java is not worthy of your mug.  0.5/5 beans

Mallott The Scrippsies are really trying to get it right. A special java bar boasts an assortment of flavored creams, a bounty of Tazo teas for non-drinkers, and a stack of take-away cups for grabbing on your way to class in the morning. Sadly, the brew falls short of the expectations this cozy nook excites. The coffee, though steaming and hot, lacks a full-bodied flavor and tastes somewhat soapy. No matter how much hazelnut cream you add to your cup, the Mallott coffee disappoints. A lack of real mugs also takes away from the drinking experience; it's hard to savor anything in a paper cup without feeling like you're at McDonald's. Tip: opt for the chai latte at Scripps, a sweet and spicy cold beverage that almost makes up for this java blunder.  2/5 beans

Harvey Mudd Not applicable...unless you're satisfied with a stream of beige water from a plastic dispenser.  0/5 beans

Pitzer Pitzer's brew may not have the most delicious flavor, but it certainly outdoes most of the other 5Cs. Certified fair trade beans make this java good for the world (so Pitzer), as well as your energy level. A bit on the burnt-tasting side at times but more flavorful than any of the previous brews, head to Pitzer if you crave a more rich cup o' joe with an aroma that will instantly perk you up. 3/5 beans

The Motley

The Motley has something that none of the dining halls do: ambiance. If thumping indie rock, couches so cushy and worn-in they swallow you whole, and masses of studious (and trendy) Scripps students sound like your scene, the Motley is the establishment for you. The Motley sells a variety of caffeinated drinks: from a double-shot of espresso to a frothy soy latte, the Motley menu is not lacking in diversity. The regular drip coffee is hit-or-miss with regard to flavor and temperature; depending on the pot, a cupful could be full-bodied and robust or weak and lukewarm. Big bummer: extra $1 charge for take-away cups, so be sure to bring your own thermos.  This spring, luckily, 5C iced coffee enthusiasts will not have to battle the soggy paper straws that ruined sipping experiences this fall. For the closest thing on campus to an true coffee house, pop in the Motley for a pick-me-up. 4/5 beans

The Honnold Cafe

If anywhere on campus were to strive for strong coffee, it should be the Honnold Cafe. Late-night study sessions practically require caffeine. Like at Collins, Honnold's make-your-own brew machine is this java spot's redeeming feature. Skip the pre-made coffee and ask for a pod of cafe. In many delicious flavors like mocha and French roast, these single-serving capsules of grounds will do the trick. Although Honnold lacks a sturdy and satisfying house roast, you will find energy, balanced taste, and warmth in a cup of coffee from the library cafe. 3/5 beans

The Rest... Still not content with the 5C coffee selection? The Village offers an assortment of places where you can snag a decent brew. Starbucks and the Tea Leaf & Coffee Bean are two such locations. At either spot, the brand name evokes certain expectations: commercial, a bit over-priced, an a generic ambiance mark both coffee shops. The regular roasts at both Starbucks and the Tea Leaf & Coffee Bean are quality, but come without the cozy comforts of your favorite hometown establishment.

Munro ('12) offered some insight into the surprising absence of a true coffee shop in Claremont. "Coffee isn't as much a culture in Southern California," Munro mused. "Back [in the Northwest] the coffee shop, due to culture and climate, is a spot to have conversations and commune." The nearest you may get to a local hang-out is Some Crust, though the baked goods certainly outscore the coffee at this locale. The Claremont Juice Company, if an ice-cold java is what you crave, is another option for the caffeine-deprived.

The Last Drop

So, who wins the Battle of the Brews? The Motley wins out by a 1/2 bean, just outdoing our very own Collins dining hall. Will Dudding '11, a recent transfer student, offers a fresh palate in this judging.  Dudding praised the "smokey flavor" of the Motley's house brew, before adding "while the Collins coffee may be less than par, it beats anything on campus at [his] old school." Claremont is far from a Northwestern coffee haven, but it's also not a wasteland. If you're in need of a cup o' joe, head to one of these local spots for the best coffee Claremont has to offer...or consider tricking your dorm room out with a French press.

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