Ah. Nothing says snooty intellectual college life like a steaming hot caffeinated beverage, equally pretentious company and some good, old-fashioned studying. So when we embarked on our latest crawl, we thought it would be appropriate to revisit cafes as a theme–only this time, the Clog kept a keener eye on study-ability, and ordered cappuccinos (at the behest of special guest Clogger/Arts blogger/ caffeine fiend, Rajesh Srinivasan), rather than lattes.

We also came up with a somewhat arbitrary–yet ever so apropos–overall rating scale. From worst to best: Steamed Milk, Weak Coffee, Single Shot, Double Shot or Triple Shot.

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We began our epic (and by “epic,” we mean “involving a lot of walking”) journey at Northside staple, Brewed Awakening, partially because we thought we’d work our way south and partially because it closed first–6 p.m. on Saturday nights. Boo on that. The atmosphere was conducive enough to studying–everyone in the place was doing it, and the prices were low at 95 cents for a drip coffee, but something was still missing …

April Isabel Angeles: It doesn’t look like they do food …
Evante Garza-Licudine: Those bitches. Give ‘em a zero.

It turned out that Brewed does do food, just not a lot of it. And not close to closing time. Fortunately, their cappuccino was described as “the friendliest cappuccino in town” by our guest caffeine connoisseur, though we’re still not sure what that means.

Price (Small cappuccino): $2
Overall Rating: Single shot.
Foam Factor: High. Heart!

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Before departing from Brewed Awakening, we briefly debated whether or not the coffee heart in our foam was intentional. And then we set off, over the river and through the woods of the twilit campus. To Yali’s Cafe, we were going. Unfortunately, our witty dialogue-punctuated capering was mostly in vain, because Yali’s was closed.

Price: Unknown!
Overall Rating: Empty cup. Empty non-compostable cup. Ugh.
Foam Factor: Un. Freaking. Known.

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Next up, the motley Clog crew traipsed over to the rather democratically-named People’s Coffee and Tea on Shattuck Ave. A wave of warmth met us as we entered the packed, but weirdly silent cafe, noting the, erm … eclectic decor along the way. We also noticed some rather quaint bookshelves filled with old-looking books that weren’t being taken advantage of, because literally (har) everyone in the joint was absorbed by their laptops. Except the Clog.

Jill Cowan: (Whispers.) I feel like I’m disturbing people by speaking.
Ruby Lee: (Peeking in at the back room’s mural.) I don’t think I’d want to sit in outer space.
EGL: Everyone looks the same. Very hip.

(After obtaining our cappuccino … )

RL: It’s, like, not real. It weighs nothing!
Rajesh Srinivasan: SO MUCH FOAM! (Sips.) Nice balance between foam and … I mean, it’s not too dry or too wet.*
RL: That’s so Goldilocks. (Sips.) The other one was more milky. This one’s stronger.
RS: Harder, better, faster …

After sighing a bit over the adorable individual teapots and noticing the “Long’s Drugs”-like snack selection and extensive menu that included omelettes, the Clog headed back out into the cold.

Price: $2.25
Overall Rating: Double Shot
Foam Factor: High. Wow.

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As we marched to campus hub, the Free Speech Movement Cafe (yeah, we went there), the Clog discussed the cafe’s often acronym-ized name.

RS: Whenever I think of ‘FSM,’ I think of ‘S and M.’
EGL: Really? I think of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

We arrived and ordered our beverage. The cafe was almost empty, but the Clog knew the truth–during the day, the place is always packed. We, then, decided to focus our attention on the tiny cappuccino.

AIA: The foam is less airy. The espresso part is thicker than all the other ones. Also, the newspapers are distracting.
RS: It’s kinda mucus-y.
JC: I kinda like it. I’m kinda into that.
RS: Jill Cowan is into mucus-y foam.

Price: $2.10, but tiny!
Overall Rating: Weak coffee (But plus brownie points for awesome food.)
Foam Factor: Low-ish, and mucus-y.

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Cafe Milano was next on our hit list. Despite its proximity to campus, more than one Clogger told tales of its uncanny similarities to Platform Nine and 3/4.

AIA: It’s, like, Harry Potter status.
RL: One time, I was going to office hours there, and I passed right by it.

Once seated in the cafe, we assessed the atmosphere only to find that electrical outlets were few and far between, and Wi-fi was NOT FREE. Despite this nasty little realization, we decided we should be sporting and stay, if only because the sandwiches were reportedly “epic,” and it was a nice, open space. When our cappuccino arrived, it was lukewarm, as was the Clog’s general response.

RS: It’s not as light as Brewed but still pretty light.
RL: It’s heavier than People’s.
AIA: It’s kind of milky-tasting.

Price: $2.25
Overall Rating: Weak coffee
Foam Factor: Off the chart.

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By this point in our journey, the Clog was getting mildly exhausted (despite being totally hopped up on espresso) and a little hungry. So we took a quick detour to Blondie’s and then made our way down Telegraph Ave. to our final destination–veritable Berkeley institution, Caffe Mediterraneum, where the people are characters and the foam is always a work of art. Also, it is the self-proclaimed birthplace of the latte. (Take that, Italy!) Also, Dustin Hoffman was there. Anyway, we digress.

We ordered our cappuccino and headed upstairs, where spotlessness and transparency were apparently not the top priorities.

AIA: It smells funny up here. Hey, there’s a secret door! (Points as someone emerges from a shelf.) I feel like Alice in Wonderland.
EGL: There are always hobos outside.
RL: I always hone in on the interesting conversations.

The drink itself was well worth the longer wait. It was served in a ceramic cup, and had a foam heart that was undeniably intentional. We also observed that just one person was using a laptop. So much for studying.

RL: I feel like I’m in a real cafe.

Price: $2.50 with two shots of espresso.
Overall Rating: Triple shot (for not studying.)
Foam Factor: Low, but tasty and pretty.

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Thus, a simultaneously wired and tired Clog staff (plus an Arts person) concluded a six-cafe crawl, knowing exactly where we’ll be dragging our computers when we need to buckle down (People’s) and where we’ll go to relax and enjoy the (slightly smelly) view–Caffe Mediterraneum. Bon appetite! Er … Ciao?

*Editor’s note: That’s what she said.
Image Source: Jill Cowan


Comments:
Tom said:
Dec 1, 2008 at 8:02 am

Entertaining article Jill. I raise my mug (o’ Coffee) to you!