By Katherine R.
Every day at 3:30 p.m., right after the bell rings, many students at Buffalo Seminary stream out of their classrooms to get a cup of coffee. The most popular place to do so right now is Starbucks. However, is that necessarily the best place? Perhaps we have been overlooking the quaint, local Caffe Aroma which is located just steps away from our go-to Starbucks’ Elmwood Avenue location.
Of course, there are many things to consider when deciding upon the perfect location for your after school pick-me-up. To test out the two most convenient options (due to their proximity to SEM’s campus), I decided to go to both businesses after school along with Mary Goetz, a sophomore at Buffalo Seminary, and Abby Paolini, a sophomore at City Honors, to get multiple perspectives. The consensus was less clear than originally anticipated and neither establishment was an obvious winner.
To start things off, Mary ordered a black coffee at both Starbucks and Caffe Aroma in order to compare the two. The winner in this category was Caffe Aroma by a long shot. She described her Starbucks coffee as “burnt and gross,” while the coffee from Caffe Aroma was slightly less strong and much smoother. Of course, coffee is a highly subjective drink, but in terms of the better brew, Caffe Aroma reigns supreme.
To further analyze the beverages, both Abby and I ordered specialty drinks. I ordered a caramel macchiato at the two spots and Abby ordered a small pumpkin cream cold brew at Starbucks and a pumpkin spice decaf at Caffe Aroma. Starbucks definitely had better specialty drinks than Caffe Aroma, however they were very, very sweet. Caffe Aroma’s drinks much more closely resembled coffee than the sugar-filled Starbucks refreshments. That being said, coming from the perspective of two coffee lovers, Starbucks’ drinks were much more consistent with what we ordered and overall better tasting.
Aside from drinks, it is essential to get a pastry or another snack after a long day of classes. I decided to go with a chocolate croissant to taste test at both establishments. As much as I wanted to like Caffe Aroma’s better, after all it had a decadent chocolate drizzling and golden-brown flakes, it only took a few bites to realize that Starbucks had taken another victory. While sadder and flatter, the pain au chocolat at Starbucks had one important difference – it was filled with real chocolate. The Caffe Aroma croissant was instead filled with some oozy, orangy-tasting chocolate filling which overpowered the entire dish. It was almost impossible to finish due to its richness and thick texture. After all of this I began to wonder which was the better cafe after all?
Despite mixed reviews about various pastries and beverages, there was one thing that we could all agree on. The ambiance at Caffe Aroma far surpasses that at Starbucks. Although Starbucks was fully decked out for Christmas when we went, the synthetic tree and plastic tinsel could not mask its cold, corporate atmosphere. Caffe Aroma, on the other hand, was cozy and a much nicer place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and conversation. It was warmly lit by fairy lights and the wall was covered with paintings of various frogs and nature scenes that served as reminders that it is a local business that supports local artists. That brings us to the question of what is the better business to support.
Of course, I would be lying if I said that the ease of online ordering and the consistency of the quality of the items on the Starbucks menu haven’t made it a reliable go-to spot for after school. However, I think that Caffe Aroma is worth considering if you are ever looking for a more mellow atmosphere to enjoy your drink of choice. Especially as Starbucks tries to stop the Elmwood location’s unionizing attempts and more and more local businesses are closing, perhaps there is more value in who we buy our coffee from than we know.