Kingston is a city with a latte of coffee shops, and for good reason – with three post-secondary schools and a combined total of over 30,000 students, the city hosts a lot of people who need a lot of coffee.
But which coffee shop serves the best cup of joe? Where is the best place to study? And which is the one you take a date to eat out at? I decided to investigate.
After touring all across Kingston, I decided to share my top three places. They were ranked on drink, food and atmosphere.
Drink: Balzac’s offers coffee in a cone, which is exactly what it sounds like – a coffee served in an ice cream cone. Balzac’s knows you’re only ordering it for the Instagram, which is good because I did not enjoy drinking the coffee. Although I did get a sweet photo of it, if you want to get a quality drink, get the caramel macchiato.
Food: Other than average pastries, Balzac’s doesn’t have food. That being said, they are a “lunch box-friendly environment”, which means you can bring your own food in, as long as you buy a drink.
Atmosphere: Balzac’s has the best atmosphere of the three, by far. There’s a ton of seating space with plugs and it’s fairly quiet. With a lot of natural light and an open concept, you feel like one of those Instagram students who know what a bullet journal is and how to use one. Basically, you feel incredibly put-together and productive in Balzac’s, because that’s the kind of vibe they have.
Drink: Coming all the way from Australia, the owners of Northside brought some fan favourites from down under to Kingston, the Melbourne Magic drink being one of them. Words can’t express my love for the Melbourne Magic I had. The drink is basically the first half of an espresso pour with a little bit of steamed milk poured over it. It’s as magical as it sounds.
Food: I never thought the day would come that I’d spend $13 on avocado toast, but I bit the bullet and ordered the Aussie favourite. It was life-changing. I quite literally had to take a moment after my first bite. The only thing that’s stopping me from eating it for every meal is the price.
Atmosphere: NORTHSIDE doesn’t offer public wifi because they’d like their guests to be able to disconnect when they walk in. There are even sections of the small shop that you aren’t allowed to be on your laptop in. However, there’s an easy, relaxed vibe that’s incredibly soothing to the soul, especially with the minimalist décor. It isn’t really the place you go to get work done, but if you’re looking to relax and take a breather from life, it’s the place for you.
Drink: I’m not always a fan of espresso drinks, but I gave Crave’s Maple Latte a shot – and I give it a thumbs up. It was sweet but it definitely tasted like maple. I wouldn’t think to put maple in my coffee, but clearly I’ve been missing out.
Food: On my first visit, I got a Margharita sandwhich. It was so good that after I ate one for the review, I went back again and got the same sandwich. During my second outing, the sandwich was definitely not up to par – too much pesto and not enough tomato. Because Crave makes all their food in-house, it’s sometimes a hit-or-miss situation depending on the day. That being said, they have a great refund policy and a huge selection of food and drinks if you find you want to try something new.
Atmosphere: Crave is a hit with students, and no wonder. With dedicated study spots in the back, electric and USB plugs at every table, long hours and good coffee, it’s the number one study spot for a lot of students. That being said, since it’s so popular, I wouldn’t consider taking a date to Crave because you’re guaranteed to run into at least three people you know.
After testing those listed as well as several other shops and seven cups of coffee later, I can see colour and taste smells, but I’m not too caffeinated to decide on a winner: Crave. They have good coffee, good food and a good atmosphere; while I thought NORTHSIDE had better food, and Balzac’s had a better atmosphere, it’s the combination of all three that’s key, and Crave does it so well.
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