Every college town needs its own trendy coffee shop where undergrads can hide out on Sundays equipped with lattes, muffins and Macbooks. Luckily, the Amherst area has a plethora of hot spots to choose from. Each coffee shop in the Pioneer Valley has its own set of quirks and secrets, and there is enough variety for every college student in the area to find one that they can call “their spot.” Here is a compilation and review of the Pioneer Valley’s most popular hangouts:
A favorite amongst Amherst locals and students alike, Rao’s is located in downtown Amherst, nestled off of Main Street next to Johnny’s Tavern. Equipped with dark wooden tables and chairs and soft rock or jazz quietly playing on the overhead speakers, Rao’s is a great study destination. Due to its popularity, open seats can be hard to come by, so try to get there in the morning if you plan on studying on a weekend. Rao’s also stays open until 11 p.m. on weekdays and features outdoor seating during the warmer months. Must try: ice blended beverages. The Rao’s version of a Starbucks Frappuccino, these delicious frozen treats come in a variety of flavors such as mocha and chai and are the perfect cooling refreshment on a warm day. During the winter months, try a vanilla mocha, made with Raos’ signature homemade vanilla powder.
Amherst Coffee carries a unique air of sophistication. A popular spot for professors, this coffee shop prides itself on a simple menu with strong coffee that speaks for itself. With high ceilings and tables and a full cocktail menu and bar off to one side for the cafés nighttime patrons, Amherst Coffee mixes classic with contemporary and feels a little more urban than many of its coffee shop counterparts. Tables can fill up, but this is definitely a good atmosphere for working if you can get a spot at either the large center table or one of the high stools along the windows. The food selection is limited but the drinks are the perfect mix of classic yet bold. Must try: Amherst Coffee’s latte. The coffee shop’s strong espresso blend will have you wide-eyed for even the lengthiest of papers on a Sunday afternoon, and if you’re lucky, the barista will skillfully craft a beautiful design in the surface of your foam.
The classic college coffee shop, Starbucks is the perfect place for those who love the familiarity of a perfectly customized beverage that they can get anywhere. Centrally located on Main Street, this Starbucks has some seating options, including a large study table and some leather armchairs, but space is somewhat limited. In addition to its globally popular fixed menu, Starbucks is known for its seasonal specialty beverages and has recently teamed up with La Boulange to serve a new line of delicate pastries. This is the perfect place to go if you are grabbing something quickly and want to find comfort in a dependable drink that you already know and love. Must try: the newest addition to Starbucks’ menu, the Caramel Flan Latte. A sweet and indulgent treat for dessert or a mid-morning pick-me-up.
For anyone willing to drive the extra 20 minutes down Route 9, The Roost in Northampton is a very popular spot. Located in the center of town, the coffee shop has ample parking and seating, with booths, tables and a long bar perfect for students with laptops. The décor is casual with an assortment of wooden tables, metal chairs and comfortable dim lighting. The menu at The Roost is one of the most extensive food and drink menus for coffee shops in the area, boasting a wide selection of breakfast options, salads, sandwiches, soups and even an assortment of cheese boards and appetizers for sharing. The café is always bustling with a wide mix of students, families and adults having work meetings, but it is never too difficult to find a spare seat, especially if you are traveling alone or with one person. The service is quick and the food is delicious. Must try: Rooster Rolls, The Roost’s signature breakfast sandwich, featuring baked eggs on a fresh baguette with a list of delicious topping combinations. Essential for a lazy Sunday morning.
Perhaps the most unique of Amherst’s coffee shops is the Freedom Café, located on the UMass Amherst campus. Founded in 2011, Freedom Café is a completely non-profit organization that sends all of its proceeds towards rescuing human trafficking victims around the world. When you walk into the café’s quaint first floor area, you have the option to choose the amount of money you would like to donate to the cause. Residents living on the second floor of the building are currently covering the rent and other capital expenses in the café. There is not much seating room, but stop by this café and support its amazing concept and cause! The café is also always looking for volunteers to take shifts as baristas. You can volunteer alone or in a group. For more information on Freedom Café’s mission, hours and volunteer details, visit their website at www.freedomcafenetwork.org.