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Candid Coffee Reviews

Sweetwaters+Coffee+and+Tea
Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea

Grand Rapids is a city filled with hundreds of local shops ranging from small business artisans to bakeries. Coffee shops are another go-to that people love to enjoy. Whether it be a cold, snowy morning, or a hot sunny afternoon, coffee shops are always a place individuals can go to enjoy a refreshing beverage and friendly conversations. Not only that, but several students often find themselves studying in local restaurants or cafes to help themselves remain focused, yet also hydrated. For the past few months, each Sunday I have gone to a new coffee shop to enjoy a comforting drink, while also learning more about the local options. Below you can find a breakdown of each place, as well as the overall atmosphere and rating for each shop!

Starbucks

In order to start off my review with a well-known, name-brand shop, I ventured over to Starbucks. Due to this chain being incredibly popular and worldwide, I wasn’t expecting anything special for the drinks due to them fitting a nationwide standard. I ordered a matcha latte from Starbucks, and my predictions were correct. While the drink was still good, it wasn’t anything over the top or incredible. However, despite the lacking elements of their drink, the atmosphere was perfect for getting homework done, allowing me to quickly complete my assignments. This is a good place to get a drink if you’re looking for something incredibly quick and easy, yet has some beverage variety.

Stovetop

Found off of Fulton Street, Stovetop is a cute, urban cafe. Immediately when walking inside you’re greeted with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. The baristas are incredibly friendly and very knowledgeable of the drinks they’re serving. The atmosphere is clean and neat, with wooden floors and tables to match, and green plants scattered around the room. Not only that, but local artists are featured on the walls, with their art displayed and available for purchase. The drinks available were pretty standard for a coffee shop, with classic coffee roasts, lattes, and teas ready for sale. If you’re in a pinch and looking for a quick, easy breakfast, don’t be shy to add a snack to your meal! They offer bagels, cinnamon rolls, overnight oats, and more! Overall, this coffee shop was a pretty good place to spend a Sunday morning!

Sparrows

Attached on the side of Kingma’s Market, Sparrows Coffee is a convenient location to pick up a quick drink. While their matcha latte was not my favorite drink, the overall environment still allowed me to enjoy my morning. The barista was incredibly friendly, cracking jokes and helping explain everything on the menu. Not only that, but this shop also sells cinnamon rolls from a local bakery. These pastries are no joke either, with a single cinnamon roll being the size of my hand! Not only does this cafe serve local food and drinks, but it also has merchandise available for sale. This ranges from coffee mugs to shirts to tote bags. One side of the store is a garage door, allowing for ample amounts of bright sunshine to filter in, immediately brightening up the store. Because I went during a colder month, the garage door was unfortunately closed, but during days with spring-like weather, the garage door opens up to allow for patio seating as well!

Cafe de Miro

Cafe de Miro

Coming in as my second favorite cafe, I will continue to recommend Cafe de Miro to each and every one of my friends. This Turkish cafe is located off of Breton in a cozy strip mall near Core Life Eatery. Not only does this place count as a coffee shop, but it also serves delicious food, making this the perfect stop for anyone looking to enjoy drinks and food with some company! I ordered the Chai Tea Latte and was not disappointed. The flavor was delicious, with subtle hints of honey added in. Having arrived early in the morning, the cafe was rather empty, allowing for a nice environment to get some work done on the computer. However, after some time, people began to trickle in, eventually leading to a full cafe. This only confirms my belief that this cafe deserves to be high on my list, as many local people seemed to be regulars.

Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea

This coffee shop easily makes the top of my list. Located Downtown near NoodlePig, Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea is an incredibly cute, homey, and delicious shop. This shop serves several custom and house specials, bringing a whole new level of flavor to the pallet. The cafe also puts out free samples of the “Flavor of the Day,” allowing people to try a popular drink before buying it. In a display case next to the counter, freshly baked goods are also available for sale. This includes classic breakfast goods such as bagels, croissants, and sandwiches, while also offering donuts, cake pops, and protein bites. These options offer a great variety for people to enjoy. Several of their food choices also cater to people’s dietary needs, allowing people who are gluten-free or vegan to also enjoy the delectable options! Seating in this cafe is also very convenient, with outlets for charging computers widely available, as well as lots of counter and table space to spread out. Overall, this cafe is a wonderful place to spend some time at whether it be alone or with friends and family.

Lyon Street Cafe

As within the name of this cafe, this shop is located on Lyon Street. Parking is somewhat inconvenient due to having to find street parking, however, parking is free. Everything within the neighborhood is also easily within walking distance, making this the perfect place to stop by after a nice stroll. Lyon Street Cafe offers a multitude of your classic coffee shop drinks, including lattes, teas, and macchiatos. While this cafe does offer a few food options inside, it’s also conveniently located directly next door to the Nantucket Bakery. This allows customers to make a quick stop over to pick up a delicious snack to pair with a refreshing drink. The environment created by both this shop and its customers is also nothing short of warm. Everyone is friendly and with the wood tables and booth seating, it’s hard not to feel comfortable.

Bitter End Coffee House

Open 24 hours, this cafe is always available to cater to your beverage needs. Despite being somewhat small, it just adds to the cozy feeling this cafe provides. It adopts a somewhat eclectic atmosphere with its numerous wall decorations ranging from paintings and drawings, to statues and comedic quotes. Make sure to bundle up when coming here because the inside is a bit chilly. However, after ordering a hot chair tea latte, I was warmed right up. Not only was the flavor delicious, but the smells coming from the drink were as well. Zoë Burkley (’24), who has accompanied me to each of these cafes, stated “I enjoyed the atmosphere. I also liked that they had refillable black coffee in various flavors, allowing me to try several options!” With it being a cute, cozy, and popular cafe, make sure to stop in sometimes, any time of the day.

Madcap Cafe

Once again located Downtown, Madcap Cafe is a great place to add to your morning repertoire. Despite being more on the expensive side, this cafe is a great place to enjoy a small coffee with company. Surrounded by big open windows, the sun is able to shine brightly through, illuminating the cafe and warming the store. The windows also allow you to watch the busy world of Downtown Grand Rapids, from a comforting seat inside. Being in the heart of downtown, this also allows you to easily explore the area and make some stops in other stores. Zoë and I were able to spend our morning enjoying coffee and strolling around Downtown, eventually picking up bagels from Terra Bagels located on the corner of the block.

Lantern Bar and Coffee Lounge

If you’re looking for a place that provides a calm and relaxed atmosphere that’s quiet and cozy enough to get work done in, yet also popular enough to have a faint conversational background. This cafe has two floors, with the serving counter upstairs, and seating downstairs. All of the furniture is dark wood, with the floors as tiles and a few comfortable couches and chairs. There’s soft, jazz music that also plays, creating a nice background noise, while the lighting allows for a relaxing ambiance. I ordered the Cafe Miel with oatmilk, and it was delicious. The barista helped me pick a drink based on the preferences I told her, and she did not disappoint. I would recommend this place to anyone looking for a place to relax and take a break.

Common Ground Coffee House

Nestled away in a quiet corner of Grand Rapids, Common Ground Coffee House is a simple, yet classic cafe. Unlike some of the other cafes visited, this place isn’t a “modern” cafe with clean, fresh looks. Instead, it remains a homey cafe that many locals can be spotted at. The drinks offered there are what you would typically find at other cafes, but they still offer special house drinks, such as a Lavender Honey Latte. A few pastries are also available for purchase, making for a nice treat to include with your drinks. If you’re looking for a place to relax with some friends, this cafe is a small and quiet place to do so!

Rowster Coffee

Rowsters Coffee

Finally, the most recent coffee shop that I have visited is Rowster Coffee. Located off Wealthy Street, this cafe is extra cozy. With windows facing the street, a countertop is available for seating, while against the wall are comfortable couch-like chairs and wooden tables. The end of the coffee bar is also extended to transform into extra seating for customers. All of these choices allow for conversation to flow easily if trying to talk to friends, while also creating seating options perfect for studying. I once again ordered a Chai Latte, and it was one of the best ones I’ve had yet. The foam on top was not overwhelming, and instead perfectly complimented the spiced, sweet flavor of the chai. Wealthy Street Bakery is also located only a few steps over, allowing for a quick and accessible place to get some great pastry breakfast. Or, if you don’t feel like walking over, Rowster also has some options in-store, such as freshly delivered bagels, donuts, and quiche!

Overall, having visited over ten coffee shops over the past ten weeks has led me to discover new shops and local favorites. Despite liking some more than others, this has been an eye-opening experience that I have come to look forward to each week. However, my coffee explorations will not stop with this article; I’ll continue visiting new coffee shops each week and finding more drinks and shops to enjoy. Be sure to check out one of — or all of — the coffee cafes on the list to ensure you have a great experience exploring local shops!

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About the Contributor
Anna Alt, Editor
Anna Alt is a senior at Forest Hills Eastern. This is her second year on the Hawk Herald staff and first year as the Editor-In-Chief. In school you can find her in National Honors Society, Kids Food Basket, Volunteer Club, and most commonly, struggling over her AP Chemistry notes. Outside school, however, you’ll often see her on (hopefully not in) the Grand River rowing with her team. If she’s not spotted there, then she’s at home with her favorite chocolate chip cookies on the couch watching the wondrous show “Bluey.” After graduating, Anna hopes to pursue a career in either Pediatrics or Neuroscience.
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