Coffee Near Campus: A Caffeine Addict’s Review

Reviewing six coffee spots near SCC’s campus


Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

This isn’t even counting places that don’t have a card.

Jasmine Contreras-Lewis, Editor-in-Chief

Right now, I have 25 coffee shop punch cards. I drink a lot of coffee from a lot of places, and collecting them is a fun consequence of my indulgence. In the absence of quality on-campus coffee, I get my caffeine elsewhere. Over time, I’ve come to realize that each shop has its own strengths and weaknesses. I wouldn’t go to the same place for a black coffee that I would for a fruity energy drink or an almond/maple latte.

So, where’s the best coffee nearby? Over one very energizing week, I went to six nearby coffee shops and ordered the same thing from all of them: a hot americano with oat milk. The order was pretty middle of the road and simple. The delivery varied.

A disclaimer: Your experience may vary based on your barista’s experience and ability. I have been to all of these places (sans Ladybug) a number of times so I will attempt to balance a single drink evaluation with my knowledge of the shop itself if they happen to vary.

Name: Black Coffee Northwest Café
Name of the game: Community Involvement and Traditional Drinks
Distance from campus: One mile
Busy Times: 10-11:30 a.m.
Rates/Discounts: Average pricing. They have a rewards program linked to cards/phone numbers, which is less interesting than a punch card but it’s better than nothing. Some may find it convenient, but I like being able to see what I’ve accumulated and find I get freebies more frequently when punch cards are present.
Review: The americano was the perfect temperature— just hot enough to not drink. It gives me a moment to smell the roast and get settled. Unlike every other shop I review, Black Coffee Northwest’s americano comes with four shots of espresso compared to the average two. It’s smooth and flavorful, but not bitter. It’s the second-best americano I drank throughout the experience, but I consider Black Coffee Northwest to be the best coffee shop overall as their drinks are always consistent in their delivery. They lack variety for more dessert-like options, but Black Coffee Northwest’s strength comes from their more traditional drinks.
Environment: Black Coffee Northwest is by far the most spacious coffee shop on this list. The interior is homey and comfortable, adorned with couches, window seats and tables of varying sizes. With exposed wood and metal fittings, the aesthetic is somewhat industrial. The hanging lighting is strong enough to see anything you might need to see without being aggressive. This café has a drive-thru as well, which is always a bonus.

Name: Red Rock Café
Name of the game: Affordability and Friendliness
Distance from campus: One and a half miles
Busy Times: 10-11 a.m.
Rates/Discounts: The best on this list. The drinks are averagely priced, but Red Rock Café offers $1 off coffees and 50¢ off Lotus energy drinks to SCC staff and students. However, you have to prove you are who you say you are. This normally would not be a concern, but SCC is not currently issuing ID cards.
Their punch card is “buy 13, get one”. That said, they have several promotions that fill it quicker. On Tuesday, drinks net you double punches. On Thursday, buying four drinks nets you a fully punched card, functionally a freebie to redeem later.
Review: Red Rock is one of my favorite spots on this list, but unfortunately, it didn’t deliver as well as it usually does. The americano was served warm, not hot. The flavor wasn’t bad, but it was slightly bitter when compared to some other competitors. I wasn’t familiar with the barista, so I’m pretty confident in my assessment that she was new. Red Rock Cafe’s strongest assets are their specialties and sweet drinks, such as their authentic Vietnamese lattes, Mexican mochas and Lotus energy drinks. They are also one of two locations I’ve found in the greater area that possess maple syrup year-round. At most places, it’s a seasonal flavor. Red Rock is the place I go when I want to have a nice chat. I find the people to be amicable, and they have good stories.
Environment: Red Rock Cafe is drive-thru only. Note that the building doesn’t stick out when driving by, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for the big sign in front.

Name: Richmond Beach Coffee Company
Name of the game: Peace and quiet
Distance from campus: 1 mile
Busy Times: 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Rates/Discounts: Average pricing. Their “buy nine get one free” punch card is great.
Review: Richmond Beach Coffee made the best americano on this list. The flavor was full and smooth, without bitterness. The temperature was perfect. Due to some communication issues, my americano arrived without oat milk, but the gentleman at the counter was more than happy to remedy that. Richmond Beach Coffee Co. sports a large food menu with an in-house kitchen, but I haven’t eaten anything there so I can’t comment on the food either way. The regulars that arrived after me were served before me. The wait was a bit longer for this reason, but it was still not a particularly large inconvenience. I don’t frequent this place as they don’t have any sweet drinks that I enjoy.
Environment: I visited on a bright day, and I recommend that for anyone else wishing to dine in as well. There were many windows facing the sun, which resulted in a stunning opulence that made the mismatched fittings in the small dining area feel quaint yet authentic. The plants around the windows were mostly real, and they really accentuated the beauty of the day. This was the quietest place I visited. Richmond Beach Coffee Co. also comes equipped with a drive-thru, but do note that the menu is significantly larger inside than out.

Name: Diva Espresso
Name of the game: Cozy study spot
Distance from campus: One mile
Busy Times: 8-11 a.m.
Rates/Discounts: Average pricing. They do have a rewards system, but it uses an app. I find it troublesome to have apps on my phone for every little thing, so I didn’t use it. If I frequented this place, I would consider it.
Review: Diva Espresso made a very good americano. The flavor was comparable to the other places, but the roast was well done. They actually left the carton out for me to adjust my own level of oat milk, something that was unique and appreciated. Diva Espresso has the best selection of ready-made foods, meaning it has a strong list of options for picky eaters or people who don’t always want a pastry with their coffee.
Environment: Softly lit with light chatter in the background, this is probably the most soothing place on the list. The day was overcast, so there wasn’t a lot of natural light, but it wasn’t hard to see either. Diva is a place that everyone will like due to its direct route from the campus and good selection, so it makes an ideal study spot.

Name: Gourmet Latte
Name of the game: Variety is king
Distance from campus: Two miles
Busy Times: 7:30-9:30 a.m.
Rates/Discounts: Average pricing. They have a rewards program linked to a plastic rewards card. Gourmet Latte is a chain, so this does mean you can use it at any of their locations. Review: This Americano was fine and did its job of giving me enough energy for the day, but it didn’t keep my attention past the first few minutes. Gourmet Latte has a large selection of rotating menu drinks and the standard fare for coffee stand food. So long as there’s not a line, Gourmet is a quick place to grab a nice drink.
Environment: Gourmet Latte is drive-thru only.

Name: Ladybug Bikini Espresso
Distance from campus: Less than one mile
Name of the game: Night Option
Busy Times: 5-6 p.m.
Rates/Discounts: Interesting flat price model. The smallest option starts at $8. All drinks are priced according to size, and additions/modifications are free. This is still more expensive than the same drink at another place, but it was interesting to note. Ever the opportunist, I considered going back to ask for a 12-ounce cup of syrup. but ultimately determined it was a bad deal.
Review: In the interest of fairness, I went to a coffee shop that is not really about the coffee, if you get what I mean. The only other time I’d been to a bikini barista, it was by accident, and I felt awkward about walking away without buying something, so I purchased the worst $13 latte of my life. Naturally, I did not have high expectations for this one.
While talking to the woman at the drive-thru, I learned she had accumulated years of experience as a barista prior to her work here. I don’t think this is typical for all of the women who work here, but she served me a pretty solid americano.
Environment: Ladybug Bikini Espresso is drive-thru only.

Dishonorable mention:
Coffee machine in PUB
Name of the game: Soullessness
Distance from campus: On campus, on the second floor of the PUB.
Specialties: Annoying me with its mere presence
Busy Times: Never
Rates/Discounts: Low price
Review: I lack the words to describe my personal hatred of this machine. It does not make americanos (much less offer oat milk,) and its dull gray exterior reminds me of a prison. I begrudgingly admit that the price is reasonable, even low.
Will you spit out whatever hot liquid this rectangle gives you? Probably not. Will you ever say you found happiness in it? Absolutely not.


Overall, Black Coffee Northwest is my choice for the best coffee near SCC. They put tremendous effort into their involvement with the community to the extent that they sponsor leadership programs and maintain a community center containing a music room and an area for volunteers to make protest posters. Their mission is inspiring and they make a great cup of coffee.