Trying the best and worst of local coffee.
Lead of PR
September 17, 2021
In the words of Comedian and Spider-Pig John Mulaney, “My dad pulled into the drive-thru, and we started cheering. And then, he ordered one black coffee for himself. And kept driving.” (“Comeback Kid”)
I, much like John Mulaney’s father, drink black coffee.
It all started with my grandfather. Much like when young kids gain consciousness, I vividly remember the first time I had coffee. It was in the parking lot of Conner Prairie. I was barely 8 years old and my grandfather was waiting to drop me off at a day camp over the summer. I was curious about the piping hot drink in the styrofoam cup we had just picked up at the gas station. Much like how parents give their kids beer to discourage them from drinking, my grandfather offered me a sip.
How that would backfire on him.
I ended up liking the taste of not only coffee, but black coffee at that. My mother discouraged me from drinking straight black coffee, diluting it with milk and sugar, but after a few too many packets of Splenda, I reverted back to black coffee.
Now, I like specialty coffee drinks and I understand the appeal of a mocha or a latte, but if I am looking for the flavor of a coffee, I’m going to get a black coffee. I went around to local coffee shops and chains and ordered one black coffee. Whatever was handed to me, I tried.
Dunkin Donuts isn’t exactly known for their coffee. That’s not to say they don’t have good coffee. I know folks who religiously drink only Dunkin, and while I respect them as people, I can’t say I was amazed by the coffee I was served. It wasn’t the best of all the coffees I tried, and it wasn’t the worst. When it was handed to me, it was cool enough to drink immediately but also hot enough to enjoy. There were no particular flavors to note, it wasn’t bitter like black coffee is assumed to be, and I didn’t ask for or add sweeteners so it wasn’t sweet either. A good, basic black coffee for about $2. To put a number on it, I’d give it a solid 4/5 mugs.
Indie Coffee Roasters
This little, not-well-known spot in downtown Carmel is one of my favorites to visit. With a dog mascot and amazing seasonal flavors, I am always excited to visit. In fact, Indie Coffee Roasters has my favorite non-black coffee, coffee drinks. In the spring they serve a Bumble Bee Latte, a honey oat milk latte with lavender. You can get it hot or iced and both ways it is a favorite. I already love honey, lavender, oat milk and coffee separately, so to put them all together - DIVINE.
As much as I’ve ranted and raved about black coffee, I had never actually ordered one from Indie Coffee Roasters and I was interested to see what I would get. This spot is on the expensive side (for coffees) and I usually believe that my money would be better spent on one of their specialty items; however, I ordered “one black coffee” and got a 10-oz hot drip coffee for $3. The coffee itself was pretty unique compared to all the other coffees I had had. It had a fruity, sweeter aftertaste. It wasn't as bitter as the other coffees, but it was slightly more acidic overall, 4/5 mugs.
Also in downtown Carmel, Java House is a very streamlined chain. I’ve been there a few times, and I always find the atmosphere enjoyable. I ordered one black coffee. In all lists there is a favorite, but there is a least favorite as well. Of all the coffees I tried, Java house is my least favorite. When it was first handed, the initial sip was bitter and could really only be described as "gritty." While texture-wise it didn't have any grit, it did, however, have a gritty taste. I tried to let it sit or settle for a bit, but even a few sips later it was overly bitter. There were times when a sip was very appealing, but it still had a distasteful aftertaste. At about $3 a cup I wasn't quite sure it was worth it, 1/5 mugs.
The first non-coffee-shop on the list, McDonald’s wins as the most affordable option, as they usually do. Much like Chip Mulaney (John Mulaney’s father), I went to the drive thru, ordered one black coffee - drove to the first window to pay, drove to the second window to pick up - and kept driving. McDonald’s also wins for hottest coffee. You would think they would learn after getting sued, but I had to wait to drink my coffee.
McDonald’s black coffee serves as a basis for what coffee is. As a major fast food chain and corporation, I’m not surprised to find a consistent, acidic drink when I take a sip. You get what you paid for, and I paid a dollar.
3/5 mugs, for just being black coffee.
Of all the coffee shops I visited, this is the one I frequent the most. Westfield High School’s own Mimi’s Cafe creates an amazing experience whenever you go. While she offers specialty drinks from an espresso machine and amazing tea varieties (the new peppermint matcha is AMAZING and her raspberry, cranberry hibiscus is AT LEAST 5/5 mugs), every day I can, I order a regular black coffee. Mimi’s serves Hubbard and Cravens coffee, but she does an amazing job preparing it, making for a delicious cup every time. I am maybe biased because of Mimi’s kindness and just because I have it so frequently, but if you haven’t yet, go have a Mimi’s coffee. The regular coffee is $2, but even some of her special drinks are only $5. For Mimi 5/5 mugs.
This is also the time that I should share: Mimi’s has merch! The RockShop is selling Mimi’s Cafe shirts for $20 and stickers. $3 from every shirt, and all the money from the stickers goes to the Kat Stevenson Memorial Scholarships, honoring Mimi’s late daughter, Coach Kat.
A Westfield hotspot, Rivet has become a Rail/Park place staple after only a few short months of being open. With delicious specialty beverages - my favorite being a Latte Miel with oat milk - and amazing food options, I was excited to visit this local shop for their black coffee. I was given a $3 drip coffee, and like most of their coffees, it was very strong and very delicious. While this is one of the more expensive options, I am fine with paying for such a high quality coffee - I use their ground for my personal cold brews - and supporting a local business. 4/5 mugs, for locals
Starbucks being the most well-known on this list, I rolled into the drive-thru as I had done many times before. I got to the screen and I asked for a small black coffee. Despite not using the lingo, I got a tall medium roast pike place coffee for $2.45. The coffee was fine. It is one of the cheaper coffee options, both from Starbucks and this list, and I was pleased with the service and speed with which I received my coffee. It was wonderfully warm, had nice acidity and wasn't too bitter, a great coffee. 4/5