[cosi1]With the weather turning cold (finally!), the Arts and Culture staff decided to warm up by trying out the best winter drinks from four local cafés within walking distance from the Union. The taste and presentation of the drink, as well as the café’s atmosphere, were considered. So on a chilly Sunday night, eight of us wrapped up in scarves and gloves and got our taste buds ready. We tested the Snowmint Mocha at Beaner’s, an Organic Chai at Green River Café, an Eggnog Latte at Cosi and a Frosty Pumpkin Mocha at Espresso Royale. Only a little bit of snow could have made our night more festive and wintry.

The Holiday Drink Crawl 2007 began at Beaner’s with the Snowmint Mocha. The presentation was impressive, with peppermint candy pieces sledding down a snowy mountain of whipped cream. If you can enjoy this drink in front of a roasting fire while wearing a Santa sweater, you’ll have the perfect holiday atmosphere. The grande drink was about $4.50.
Next was an Organic Chai Tea Latte from Green River Cafe. The chai tea was steaming hot, a little spicy and a little sweet. The soy and 2-percent versions tasted about the same. The drink was reasonably priced at $5 for a large (20 ounces). I happily had two servings. Yum.
[cosi2]Our next destination was Cosi, where we tried their seasonal Eggnog Latte. This drink consists of eggnog with shots of espresso. The espresso taste was strong among the creamy “nog.” I loved the festive brew, but found just a little bit to be enough.
We ended our drink adventures at Espresso Royale, with a Frosty Pumpkin White Mocha, topped with whipped cream and caramel. I had high hopes for the tasty-sounding concoction, but was disappointed with the outcome. There was virtually no pumpkin taste, and this drink was the Grinch that stole my holiday drink buzz.
Overall, my holiday drink recommendations are the Chai Tea Latte from Green River Café and Cosi’s Eggnog Latte – for those with a sweet tooth.
I loved the presentation of Snowmint Mocha at Beaner’s, topped with mounds of whipped cream and bits of candy cane. The peppermint mocha had a sweet, milky flavor that would be perfect for people who don’t like coffee that much; it had a slightly bitter mocha flavor with a minty aftertaste.
Next came the Organic Chai with 2-percent milk from the Green River Café. I loved this one. It’s served steaming hot, and even though it has a gingerbread-esque, spicy taste to it, the texture is thin and light so it’s not overly filling. I really liked the comfy, laidback vibe inside of Green River: it was homey, with warm lighting and quirky design elements. If you like a sweeter flavor, stick with the 2-percent milk, not soy milk.
Despite a description of a half-eggnog, half-coffee blend, I couldn’t really taste any eggnog in Cosi’s Eggnog Latte. Unless you’re a big fan of coffee, I would shy away from this one: the coffee flavor is very strong. I have to give points for the presentation though: the drink was served in oversized white cups with sprinkles of cinnamon on top.
Finally, we hit up Espresso Royale and drank a Frosty Pumpkin Mocha. Similar to the eggnog latte, there was an overwhelming taste of coffee and not much of a pumpkin flavor. My favorite thing about Espresso was the outdoor seating, complete with heaters that allow you to sit and observe East Lansing nightlife in comfort.
Overall, I’d select the organic chai (with 2-percent milk) from Green River Café as my top pick.
At a popular destination for coffee-lovers, we enjoyed a Snowmint Mocha at Beaner’s. The drink in itself leaves a mint sensation in your mouth that takes the coffee feel out of the experience. But this place couldn’t compare to the Green River Café – without a question, my favorite spot. The café is fairly big and has a very home-like feel, including a background of instrumental music. This is definitely a great place to sit down with friends and people-watch and relax for a couple of hours. The Organic Chai was very flavorful, but what really grabbed my attention was the place’s ambiance.
The Cosi waitress was very friendly and she showed us the menu, although the Eggnog Latte poster had already grabbed the group’s attention. The latte tasted more of coffee, and the eggnog taste didn’t stand out. After a few sips I was done; I would drink it again, but only with a large group of people and in really small quantities.
[beaners]Espresso Royale has a college-filled atmosphere, though I had never once thought about stopping and getting something to drink while walking down Grand River. I felt warm and comfy on the outside section, probably because of the heaters hanging above us. The Frosty Pumpkin Mocha came with whipped cream and smelled sweet, with a taste to match. The coffee taste was distinct taste, but this mocha ended up being my favorite drink of the night.
I thought when I heard “Snowmint Mocha” that I had found my true love. It has a good amount of espresso taste, but I don’t really care for white chocolate mochas and really couldn’t have had much more than a taste test. The Beaner’s in the Union is much too cramped, and I definitely prefer the Grand River location for studying or chatting on a cold winter day.
I’m extremely partial to chai teas, and Green River’s organic version tastes healthy, pure and simple. The cafe also has a soy option that not every place offers. Plus, Green River always has cool music playing (usually jazz) and exudes a funky vibe, not to mention great sandwiches to go along with your organic beverage.
I took a risk with the eggnog, hoping the espresso they add to their holiday ‘nog would make it a little more approachable. It turns out it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought, but espresso and eggnog is a weird combo. I’ll probably avoid this when looking for a nice warm holiday drink on a cold snowy day.
Espresso Royale is probably the best place to relax and study or grab a quick coffee between classes. They had more holiday options than the other coffee houses, though I didn’t particularly care for their pumpkin mocha. It was too much white mocha and hardly any pumpkin.
At the Union Beaner’s location, the employees were quite helpful in helping us select a drink. Under their suggestion, we sampled a holiday favorite, the Snowmint Mocha. Because I’m not a big fan of coffee, I wasn’t sure I’d like it; however, the creamy mixture of mint and espresso went well together and had a very enticing scent. Though I could still taste the coffee flavor, the mint took away some of coffee’s characteristic bite.
As we entered Green River Café, I enjoyed the bright colors and unique lamps featured at the café. Without much experience in the organic or the chai tea areas, I didn’t know what to expect. However, when I tasted the Organic Chai Tea Latte, I was pleasantly surprised. It reminded me of fresh baked pumpkin pie, and had a unique, spicy-sweet taste. I would definitely suggest this drink for those cold winter days.
Cosi was also equally colorful, but their drink didn’t quite measure up to Green River Café’s. The waitress was very friendly and suggested a traditional holiday drink with a twist: an eggnog latte. I wasn’t very sure I’d like this one as the concept of eggnog has always kind of disgusted me, but I was willing to give it a shot. I was surprised to find not eggs, but coffee when I finally sampled my beverage. The drink mostly tasted like sweetened coffee and didn’t really impress me.
Since it was crowded inside Espresso Royale, we decided to sit outside, and the heated outdoor patio with a fireplace warmed us right up. Here we sampled the Frosty Pumpkin Mocha. Like the eggnog latte, it mostly tasted like sweetened coffee, but it was very smooth and warmed me up.
[greenriver1]If you’re looking for a few places to get some warm and frosty drinks with the weather cooling down, the first place you might want to try is the ever-popular Beaner’s. Here you’ll find the Snowmint Mocha, and if you like whipped cream and peppermint (which top it off), this is the drink for you.
The Green River Café also is a quaint spot to check out when looking for warm drinks. The Organic Chai Tea Latte is sure to hit the spot, with numerous blended spices. Before it hits your taste buds, be sure to let it cool off; it’s served very hot.
However, Cosi offers some stiff competition. If you’re a fan of eggnog, you’ll love their Eggnog Latte. On the plus side, if you’re looking for something to munch on as well, Cosi serves plenty of breakfast, lunch and dinner food.
The Frosty Pumpkin Mocha from Espresso Royale is sure to arouse your festive spirit; it’s a pumpkin-spiced white mocha with, once again, lots of whipped cream. The pumpkin taste is almost non-existent (especially when you make it to the bottom), but it still retains the sweetness and thick texture. Overall, this drink was the best, and the place also had the best atmosphere, so they’re my number one pick.
Beaner’s Snowmint Mocha had by far the best presentation, with whipped cream and peppermint candies on top. I usually get white chocolate mochas, so the added peppermint was a nice change. However, it didn’t stay hot for very long, and that’s a must on cold winter walks back to my dorm.
The Green River Café’s Organic Chai was delicious with 2-percent milk, but I’ll pass on the soy. The atmosphere there reminded me of the café in my home town, with its jazz music and great sandwiches. And I really liked how the café had recycling bins; I’ve never seen that before in a restaurant.
Though I’ve been told Cosi has great food, their Eggnog Latte fell short of my expectations. Perhaps it is because I’ve never had eggnog before, but after several sips, I could not acquire a love for the new, unusual flavor. On the other hand, they had real mugs, and drinking hot beverages out of a real mug is always a refreshing experience.
The Frosty Pumpkin Mocha at Espresso Royale had a pretty basic coffee taste, but was still delectable. I loved how the cup was practically overflowing and there was heated outdoor seating next to a great fireplace. So, if I had to choose one of these places to drink coffee every day for the rest of my life, it’d definitely be Espresso Royale.
I have to admit that I was more than happy when Arts and Culture decided to do a winter drink crawl this month. A hot, delicious coffee drink is my favorite accessory this time of year. I expected a lot out of our first drink, the Snowmint Mocha at Beaner’s, but it didn’t quite measure up. The peppermint flavor was great, especially with the candies on top, but for a coffee drink, I just didn’t taste enough of the espresso. Maybe with an extra shot of espresso, this would be the drink for me. [espresso]
Green River Café was a pleasant change from the crowded Union. The eight of us were the only ones in the café, so we had plenty of room to enjoy our Organic Chai Tea Latte. The friendly baristas served up two incredibly hot cups of chai, one with 2-percent milk, and one with soy. I was slightly disappointed with these though – the lovely spices of the chai weren’t as strong as I like.
The Eggnog Latte at Cosi was the most interesting drink we tasted. I’ve never had eggnog before, and I am not sure this drink convinced me to try any more. It was really thick and sweet, but also very rich to the point where a small taste was more than enough. I liked the atmosphere of the restaurant and easily could have sat and enjoyed a different, less eggnog-esque drink there.
Our last drink was the Frosty Pumpkin Mocha at Espresso Royale. Like the Union, Espresso Royale was packed, so we sat outside. With the festive fireplace and the practical heaters, this café was cozy and familiar. The pumpkin mocha had a pretty weak pumpkin taste, but the espresso was nice and strong.
Overall, I had the best experience at Espresso Royale. The café was extremely cozy despite being crowded, and the drink was festive and strong – my favorite combination.

By the end of the night, after a few burned tongues and a lot of spilled coffee (who knew that splitting a piping hot mocha could be so difficult?), we ended up with our votes divided in half: four TBG-ers loved Green River’s Organic Chai and four of us fell for Espresso Royale’s Frosty Pumpkin Mocha. So the next time you’ve got a craving for something comforting and delicious, you might try flipping a coin – or better yet, try both!

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