For most college students, coffee is essential. Through the drudgery of an 8 a.m. class and the late nights studying for exams and writing papers, a cup of coffee goes a long way. It helps to alleviate some of the exhaustion that slows students down so they can push through to the next morning — and the next cup of coffee.
“Without coffee, I’d go insane,” second-year Batten graduate student Kelly Xiong said, as she sipped on her Greenberry’s coffee in the lobby of Alderman Library.
On a quest to find the best coffee on or around Grounds, many different factors were considered — the cost, convenience, taste and environment of the coffee shop. The possibilities were endless with Shenandoah Joe’s, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Sheepdog Coffee, Starbucks, Grit Coffee Bar & Café, Bodo’s Bagels and Greenberry’s to choose from.
When a poll was taken from the coffee-drinkers roaming Grounds, 32 out of 40 students decided that in the dizzying landscape of coffee shops that scatter Charlottesville, Grit Coffee Bar & Café stands out, housing the winning cup.
Nestled behind the shops and perpetual movement of Elliewood Avenue on the Corner, Grit stands as a beacon of light for the tired, stressed and caffeine-deprived. Approaching the shop, one may see friends sitting together on the tables outside, talking and laughing with their lattes in hand, the baristas pouring fresh drip coffee and dancing to the music together and most prominently, the phrase “Coffee with Room” written on the front of the building.
“Grit is the best coffee because it’s the best atmosphere,” first-year College student Ben Albright said. “You can actually sit, and it’s normally quite full of students, so there’s an energy there.”
Albright said he enjoys the variety of options Grit offers, from espresso drinks and cold brew to lattes or just normal cups o’ joe.
If given the option fourth-year College student Jacqueline O’Reilly said she would choose Grit over all of the other coffee shops.
As O’Reilly ate her Brazos taco and sipped on her coffee, she noted the friendliness of the workers, who knew her by name and upgraded her coffee from a small to a medium. She admired the superior taste of the coffee and convenient location of the store, but most of all, the environment — one that she felt compelled to impact.
O’Reilly said was sitting in Grit one day, looking out the window at the empty dirt patches along the railroad tracks when she envisioned a way to ameliorate the area.
“I knew a barista, so I asked for the owner’s email, and I reached out to him and asked if he ever wanted to do anything with the space, like a garden, and he said, ‘Go for it,” O’Reilly said.
Funded by donations from student clubs at the University, the garden provided a place for students to escape and relax. The aesthetics of the garden have undoubtedly aided in generating a comfortable atmosphere, something that students like first-year College student Sami Strohm appreciate.
“I like Grit because the people working are always so nice, the atmosphere is super laid-back and lacks chaos, and the coffee is just genuinely good,” Strohm said. “And they serve iced coffee in big mason jars, which I love.”
Some students testify that other coffee shops, such as Shenandoah Joe’s or Einstein Bros. surmount the quality of Grit’s coffee.
Second-year Engineering student Jackson Collins stands by the coffee at Einstein Bros. Bagels in Rice Hall, praising the café for being conveniently located and serving the specific kind of sweetener that he prefers. Third-year College student Anna Makarova argues for the Shenandoah Joe latte.
Despite these dissenting opinions, most agree that Grit steals the prize.
“It’s little things that make [Grit] the best,” O’Reilly said. “I’d say that this is the best coffee because of the actual environment.”
And sitting on the top floor, sipping a cup of coffee, overlooking the peaceful garden and students milling about on the way to class — it’s safe to say this is true.