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Dirty Pumpkin Chai from Java Joe's

Eating with Wolves: Review of local fall coffee

It’s that time of year when sweater weather is creeping around the corner, and that means it’s time for a fall coffee review. 

The Daily Lobo presents: Eating with Wolves. In this edition, Daily Lobo reporter Natty DeAnna, an experienced barista, rated local coffee shops on their house coffee and seasonal drinks.

For anyone out there looking to kick off their fall season by consuming warm beverages, DeAnna tasted recommended seasonal hot drinks along with their classic roasts.

Each coffee shop was rated for their house coffee and specialty seasonal hot drink. Our reporter then reviewed based on multiple criteria: Flavor notes, freshness, taste and ambiance. 

This is everything DeAnna said:

Epiphany Espresso

3600 Cutler Ave NE #2

House Coffee: Sumatra – Medium/Dark

A fuller-bodied brew with earthy undertones and notes of chocolate and caramel.

Freshness: 9/10

Taste: 8/10

Seasonal Drink: Maple Spice Latte

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Slightly sweet and spicy maple-flavored latte topped with whipped cream.

Flavor notes: Maple, Nutty, Cinnamon.

Freshness: 10/10

Taste: 7/10 (Could be a bit spicier)

Ambiance: 9/10

It was around 8:30 a.m. when I walked in. The lobby wasn't crowded, so there was no wait. The music had the most upbeat feel out of the three establishments with some soft pop, which was a nice change of pace.

The house coffee was full-bodied and full-flavored, which I like. It was a little bitter, but the flavor was the most apparent of the three coffee shops I reviewed.

The Maple Spice Latte was not overbearing at all, and it gave off some adult Cinnamon Toast Crunch vibes. It was topped with whipped cream and heated to the perfect temperature for drinking.

The baristas were sweet and helpful in suggesting their favorite of the two seasonal drinks that they offer. They also gave me information on the house coffee. However, the seating was not my favorite because it's limited in the small space.

There is a variety of seats consisting of metal chairs, a bar-style seating area in the back and a few tall tables. It gives the option to stand while you do work if that’s your jam.

Located in Green Jeans near I-40, this coffee shop is probably the furthest from campus of the three reviewed and has the least amount of food options, since they only offer pastries and a few grab-and-go snacks.

Since it is located in Green Jeans, it does have an advantage location-wise, being that there is quite a bit of seating throughout the entire structure. There are also many places to grab a bite to eat that are all within a pretty compact area.

Java Joe’s

906 Park Ave SW #3045

House Coffee: Brazilian - Medium

A full-bodied taste with woodsy, earthy and nutty notes.

Freshness: 7/10

Taste: 7/10

Seasonal Drink: Dirty Pumpkin Chai

Spicy pumpkin pie-flavored chai latte with a shot of espresso and topped with cinnamon.

Flavor Notes: Pumpkin, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cardamom.

Freshness: 10/10

Taste: 10/10

Ambiance: 10/10

It was about 8:30 a.m. when I walked in, and there were a few people in front of me in line and a few scattered throughout the lobby. The wait wasn’t long at all, however. It was warm inside, and the music playing was ambient acoustic, which is nice for the early morning.

The house coffee was full-bodied but not too overbearing. It was lacking a bit in freshness, with an oily layer on top and a hint of bitterness in the aftertaste.

The barista who helped me was extremely hospitable and gave recommendations for seasonal drinks — they have a handful to choose from. I took his recommendation for the Dirty Pumpkin Chai, and it was my overall favorite seasonal drink for this review.

It had a heavier pumpkin flavor that pairs nicely with the spiciness of chai and a shot of espresso to rev-up the caffeine and flavor profile.

Nestled in downtown, this shop is a little journey from campus, but the cozy ambiance inside makes it worth the journey. This coffee shop was the biggest of the three. It has a medium-sized breakfast and lunch menu and outlets near the wall seating which consisted of wooden chairs accompanied by tables.

Duggan’s Coffee Shop

2227 Lead Ave SE

House Coffee: Mexican Chiapas – Medium

A lighter-bodied medium roast with nutty, chocolatey and spicy undertones.

Freshness: 8/10

Taste: 7/10

Seasonal Drink: Pumpkin Spice Latte

Mild pumpkin flavor with spicy notes of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Flavor Notes: Pumpkin, Cinnamon, Nutmeg.

Freshness: 10/10

Taste: 6/10

Ambiance: 9/10

It was early in the morning, around 7:30 a.m., when I walked into the café. The atmosphere was very chill since there were just a few people chatting over coffee in the lobby. The lobby was warm, and the seating wasn’t terrible since there were booth and chair options. There were also a few outlets scattered throughout.

The house coffee was a little burnt and bitter-tasting, and it was lighter in flavor. A lighter roast does mean it has more caffeine, so try to go for a lighter roast if you really need a jumpstart.

The Pumpkin Spice Latte was not my favorite. They use a syrup rather than a sauce for pumpkin flavoring, which is awesome if you prefer a lighter flavor profile, but for me it was not a winner.

This coffee shop was the second smallest shop I visited. It does have a small breakfast menu and limited hours, but it is really convenient for students since it’s just a short walk from campus.

Overall Stats:

As for my favorite, Java Joe’s was a clear number one. The overall ambiance, super honest and helpful service from baristas, food options, closeness to campus and breakfast put it above the rest.

In terms of convenience, Duggan’s would be my next choice since it has all of the classic coffee offerings and a decent seasonal selection while being within walking distance from campus.

However, if I was looking to have an entire experience, I would definitely choose Epiphany because of the many options it has around it that add to its overall ambiance and convenience. Plus, the staff is super sweet.

Natty DeAnna is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @deanna_natty

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