A chronicle of cappuccinos

The best cappuccino in the world, so far, is not the one I drank next to a group of Scottish yoga moms in Glasgow or the one I had down in Milwaukee, looking out at a snowbank. I would say that the best cappuccino can be found at “that good café between the fry shop and the ‘Tigre’ by my school in Italy.” The cappuccino there is perfectly sized, the foam has just the right texture and the beans are roasted to a mellow, medium roast. The name of this café escapes me every time I try to think of it, but the experience of drinking their cappuccino never leaves me. Since arriving at Lawrence, I made it my personal goal to find the best cappuccino nearby in order to fill the cappuccino-shaped void left in my life. 

I started my search close to home, in the Warch Campus Center. The Café felt most convenient, because if I were to enjoy the cappuccino, I could then spend my spare culinary cash on more than ice cream. The Café-ccino was a severe let-down from the moment I began to order it. The only size I could get was a 16 ounce, which is far too large to be a quality cappuccino. The milk flavor was bland, and I doubt that it was even whole milk. This resulted in a disappointing foam texture. The overall drink felt more like milky coffee than actual foamed milk and espresso.

After this disappointment, I ventured down to Andrew Commons where I had heard a rumor there was a cappuccino machine. If you are ever looking for it, it is seated between the cold-water machine and the hot water machine. At first it felt like magic: with the press of a button, my mug was filling with hot, milky coffee. As I held the button down, I also read the label for the cappuccino, reading “French Vanilla Flavor.” In that moment, my heart skipped a beat out of fear as to what I was about to drink. With one sip, I knew that this was not for me. The overly sweet, hot, milky coffee barely resembled a cappuccino; it only had the smallest hint of foam on top and overall had a syrupy texture. The French vanilla flavor was very off-putting and I did not take more than four sips before giving up on it. Perhaps the machine’s only saving grace was that it also produced hot chocolate.

With two Bon Appetit disappointments under my belt, I moved off campus. The first spot that I wandered into was Lou’s Brew, which was conveniently close to my dorm at the time, and could have been a lovely alternative to the Café. The experience had a more positive start than my prior two, although when ordering I was asked if I wanted it “wet” or “dry.” I am still unsure as to the full meaning of this question, as the only dry cappuccino I can imagine would just be coffee grounds and milk powder. Once I had ordered my wet cappuccino, I was given an appropriately sized mug for a cappuccino, which was filled with what looked to be a tasty cappuccino. The first sip was enough to tell me that this was, in fact, only an almost-passable cappuccino. The coffee had little flavor and the flavor it did have was unpleasant. The milk was bland and did not create a pleasing foam texture. Drinking this cappuccino left me unsatisfied, frustrated but at least caffeinated.

Just as I was about to give up hope, I stumbled upon Seth’s Coffee Drive Thru. It sits just on the other side of College Avenue, hidden away behind the castle and in winter, a few large snowbanks. Although it is a drive-thru, they do have a walk-up window that provides a lovely experience. On a good day, you might even run into a favorite Lawrence professor. Their classic cappuccino is exactly the right size, and if you bring your own mug it can even be served to you in ceramic. The milk has a good flavor and as they use whole milk, the resulting foam has an amazing texture. The coffee flavor is well balanced and does not leave any bitter aftertaste. The only thing that could improve this cappuccino would be a place to sit out of the cold for a minute in order to drink it. While there are more cappuccinos to try in Appleton, I am content with Seth’s filling my cappuccino-shaped void.