There’s no doubt about it, indie is in. Whether it’s applied to music, film or clothing, the indie label is sure to draw out the inner hipster in all of us. It should be no surprise, then, that indie coffee shops are growing in popularity.
Independently owned and sometimes locally sourced, these shops are a charming alternative to your nearest Starbucks. While convenient, these corporate coffee chains take less care with the preparation of their drinks and the satisfaction of their customers.
The same is true in Grand Junction. Colorado Mesa University’s branch of Starbucks in the University Center is no doubt the most convenient stop for students. While staffed by friendly managers and some of our peers, this Starbucks is good for a quick stop in between classes; certainly, it is not a location that demands quality. If you are more interested in the craft of a drink, rather than the speed at which it is prepared, GJ has a small selection of independent shops.
I decided to taste many of the independent coffee shops in GJ, and settled upon four to evaluate. While many of these locations have a large menu with a wide variety of drinks, from coffee to tea to blended smoothies, I decided to base each test upon the quality of what many consider a staple of indie coffee: the cappuccino.
Made with double espresso, hot milk and steamed milk foam, the cappuccino demands both well-roasted beans and quality preparation. At each stop, I rated a cappuccino on its quality of taste and preparation, as well as cost.
The first stop was Roasted, a hipster hangout located on 5th St. and Colorado Ave. Roasted was packed, as it almost always is when the weather begins to warm.
The cappuccino I ordered took a while to prepare, had a dark coffee taste and a rather standard amount of foam. However, like many of Roasted’s espresso drinks, it also had the bitter aftertaste of black coffee.
It was too wet for my liking, with foam that was slightly grainy, the cappuccino was, at least, bold in flavor. Like many of Roasted’s drinks, it was also reasonably priced, at only $3 for 12 ounces. Grade: B
Next, I continued to Octopus Coffee, a freestanding coffee shack painted teal. Its bright orange logo dangled eight arms above the shop’s name, making it a conspicuous building in the Mesa County Library’s back parking lot. Despite the temptation of a surprisingly inclusive menu, I settled upon a cappuccino again, for the sake of objectivity.
Unlike the cappuccino at Roasted, this drink was not bitter at all. With a smooth, but rather mild flavor, Octopus’s cappuccino had the velvety texture of foam that I was hoping to find in my drink. Slightly more expensive, at $4 for a 12 ounce cup, Octopus delivers a fairly good drink at a location convenient for those in-transit. Grade: A-
My third stop was Jitterz. Another free standing shop near REI on 7th St. and North Ave. Once again, I ordered a cappuccino. The drink I received was very wet with minimal foam, making it more similar to a latte than the foamy counterpart I was hoping for.
The taste of the espresso was on the mild side of standard. Costing just $3 for 12 ounces, the Jitterz cappuccino was a decent drink, but I would be hesitant to label it a cappuccino. Even so, I will likely visit their second location with a bakery, which is opening sometime this May in East Orchard Mesa, according to manager Karissa Abeyta. However, there I would opt for a different drink. Grade: C
I ended my coffee tasting at Four Winds, an independent coffee shop and Christ Center. Frequented by some of the Christian groups on campus, the shop’s warm atmosphere made me ready for my fourth and final cappuccino. Bitter like Roasted’s drink, this cappuccino had a thin layer of foam that was slightly too heavy. At $3.30 a drink, this cappuccino is comparable price-wise to its competition, but with a slightly harsher flavor. If visiting Four Winds, I would opt for one of their three chai latte options (spiced, chocolate or vanilla) in place of an espresso-based drink. Grade: C+
Of course, some of the attraction of indie shops is their atmosphere, a fact that certainly shouldn’t be discounted. While you’re not likely to find the same “hipster scene” you may find in Denver or Boulder at a coffee shop in GJ, any of these local shops serve a more unique flavor, and generate a more creative atmosphere than your standard Starbucks.