An almost definitive ranking of campus coffee shops

Photo by Blake Israel

If I’ve learned one thing from my time on campus, it’s this: Georgia Tech runs on coffee.

From the finicky machines at North Avenue to the coffee vending machine in Crosland Tower, it is an unarguable fact that coffee is an integral part of the Georgia Tech experience.

While coffee’s importance is a well-established fact of campus, the question of where to get the best coffee is far more contentious.

Coffee shops like Blue Donkey and Kaldi are campus staples with consistently long lines and even more consistent regulars, but which coffee shop can truly claim that it has the best coffee on campus?

It’s hard to answer that question, but I strongly believe that there is an almost definitive ranking of all the coffee shops on campus and that one shop truly does rise above the rest.

Starting in one of our very own dining halls, we have Ramblin’ Coffee & Sweets, the coffee shop in West Village. At the beginning of the semester, Ramblin’ Coffee & Sweets offered two options: hot or iced coffee.

Generally, the coffee was unnecessarily bitter, watered down, and somehow, no matter what temperature you ordered it, always lukewarm — not a great combination for a cup of coffee.

Two weeks ago, ​​Ramblin’ Coffee & Sweets introduced a completely new menu, and it changed the entire experience.

With the addition of an espresso machine and a variety of flavored syrups, the coffee was radically different.

It felt like going to a completely different coffee shop, and I actually began to look forward to going to West Village in the morning.

However, within a span of a week, the toppings began to dwindle, and soon Ramblin’ Coffee & Sweets had returned to its humble beginnings: hot and iced lukewarm coffee.

I hope that one day Ramblin’ Coffee & Sweets returns to its short-lived former glory, but until it does, it will remain at a solid third place on the list.

Moving further into the heart of campus, we have Kaldi — a relatively new addition to the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons.

With lines stretching out the door every day, Kaldi has quickly become a student favorite which is why I was disappointed when I tried the coffee.

Kaldi’s coffee is the very definition of okay.

Even as I try to recall what it tasted like as I write this, I find it hard to come up with any defining characteristics.

There was nothing particularly bad about it, but there also wasn’t anything particularly good about it.

However, I believe Kaldi’s lackluster coffee works to its favor because where it truly shines is in its teas and specialty beverages.

What Kaldi lacks in ingenuity in its coffees, it more than makes up for in its extensive tea menu and its seasonal specialties, such as the Oatchata beverage.

Even though I would strongly recommend the chai lattes and matcha drinks, the coffee still remains painfully mediocre–landing Kaldi at number two.

Finally, we have the ever-timeless Blue Donkey. Surviving a student center renovation, the Blue Donkey has remained a campus classic and it’s easy to see why.

Best known for its iced coffee selection, Blue Donkey hosts a variety of beverages and pastries and all of them are well worth praise.

The best way I can describe Blue Donkey’s coffee is that it feels like a summer breeze.

The different coffee flavors are all discernibly different while also being subtle enough that you’re not overwhelmed by them.

The coffee is always beautifully smooth and a delight to drink, and possibly most importantly, they actually put less ice in your drink when you order your coffee with light ice.

Always consistently good, it is no surprise that Blue Donkey claims the number one spot and the title of the best coffee shop on campus.

If you disagree with me and my completely arbitrary ranking, that is completely understandable — there is a reason why it is called an almost definitive ranking and not a definitive one.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter where you get your coffee as long as you get your caffeine buzz.