National Coffee Day arrives in time for Blacksburg fall

Originally published by the Collegiate Times as Lifestyles.
Published in print edition, front page, on Tuesday, Sept. 29. 2015.

The first official day of fall was last week, which means it is now acceptable (kind of) to order pumpkin-flavored everything. Tuesday, Sept. 29 is national coffee day, and rainy weather is forecasted for Blacksburg all week long, making this the perfect time to explore coffee shops and cafes around town.

Photo by Ben Weidlich/Collegiate Times
Beginning with on-campus options, Virginia Tech students can use their dining plans at Deet’s Place. Seasonal and classic favorites include their pumpkin pie latte, pumpkin pie chai and the Swanson special, which was a student original, mixing hot chocolate, the Deet’s house blend Hokie coffee, steamed milk, whipped cream and sugar.

Deet’s place offers six regularly-rotated flavors and seasonal flavors like gingerbread and peppermint for the holiday season. Imported from Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Africa and more, all beans are roasted in-house behind the counter at Deet’s and distributed throughout campus, including to Dietrick Hall and West End.

"We have to watch what temperature and change the gas levels and change how the air flows through the roaster in order to get the best roast,” said Kaitlin McKenna, a junior hospitality and tourism major and the general student manager at Deet’s. “A lot of places, like a Starbucks, would not roast their own coffee; they'd roast it elsewhere and get it sent to the stores themselves, but we roast it in-house.”

McKenna also explains a common misconception in that darker coffee does not necessarily have more caffeine. One of Deet’s current specials is the single-origin elephant bean, the “maragogipe,” which McKenna explained as a mutant bean originating in Brazil. Its taste is unique but hasn’t reached a consensus, inviting coffee enthusiasts in to visit Deet’s for a cup.

Bollo’s Bakery and Café in downtown Blacksburg also features daily specials and will start evening specials from 6 to 8 p.m., offering a free house mug of coffee or tea with the chosen pastry of the month. October’s pastry of the month is pie.

"The thing that makes us unique is that we're locally owned and operated downtown,” said Barbara Wright, the pastry manager. “Our coffee is always fresh, and we have a lot of fair trade and organic coffee.”

In addition to local roasters, like Red Rooster, and state roasters, like Honduras Coffee, Bollo’s also receives coffee from more distant roasters, like Equal Exchange. Bollo’s offers favorites like pumpkin lattes, espresso drinks and mochas, and it also boasts strong coffee and freshness: the cafe receives coffee shipments multiple times per week.

Idego coffee shop, a third-wave coffee shop, also strives for a strong taste, so inherent flavors of coffee are evident. Paul DeArras, the owner, specializes in fully-developed lighter roasts. Their beans are picked 10 to 14 months prior to ensure freshness and rotated seasonally.

"You still get the taste of the coffee with lighter roasts,” DeArras said. “I have a coffee right now that's super ripe-black, cherry-tobacco, and you get to taste that without it being a sour or weird cup of coffee."

A unique trait of Idego coffee, in addition to its source of beans, is that the cafe handcrafts all of its flavorings and almond milk. The pumpkin spice flavoring contains real pumpkin.

DeArras explains that another misconception with lighter roasts is that they are not sour if they are fully developed. This past summer, DeArras and his family packed up and went on a two-week road trip around the country, stopping in coffee landmarks including New York City and Los Angeles. After returning, DeArras applied what he’d learned to his own coffee shop and found that he preferred Idego’s own mocha.

"We really want to focus what we do so that what we do is at a high level. Instead of doing a bunch of things okay, we do a few things very well,” he said. "There's a lot of good coffee out there, and we wanted to recalibrate some of the things we're doing based on that."

Back on-campus but not yet available through the FLEX portion of Hokie passports, EspressOasis is a chain coffee shop with more than 12 locations in hospitals and universities. The cafe ensures its freshness by brewing espressos two weeks prior to arrival and throwing them out after three weeks.

Offering more than 40 flavors, from lemon to white chocolate to banana, EspressOasis is able to create more than 200 variations and rotate its flavors seasonally. Some of its fall drink specials include a pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin spice mocha, harvest chai, banana bread latte, toffee nut mocha and blended cider lattes.

Customer favorites include the mocha Milano, which is a mix of chocolate, hazelnut and caramel, and the “Walter White” and “Frank Underwood,” which are nicknames for a blackberry mocha and a redeye Irish crème, respectively.

"I think it's a great community that coffee provides for us,” said Jennifer Barber, a senior biology and animal poultry sciences major and the general manager at EspressOasis. “I would definitely consider myself a coffee enthusiast, not only for the coffee but for the community it brings."

Barber usually opens the shop in the mornings and looks forward to the smell of coffee to start her day.

“I love that I can provide that to people and that everyone is always happy to see me, and I can provide something that's such a necessity for the setting I'm in, for college,” Barber said. “So many people come up to me in desperation like, 'I need caffeine,' and I'm like, 'You're at the right place.'"

But no matter the weather or time of day, National Coffee Day is an excuse for coffee aficionados and newcomers alike to celebrate their love of their choice (safe and legal) drug by indulging – in liberal doses, of course.

"I'm a big coffee addict,” McKenna said. “I like that it's bitter, but it can also be sweet with a little sugar in it. It's just a comforting drink. Whenever you have coffee, you feel at home.”

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