Take a study break at one of Bloomington’s cool coffee shops

Staff Writer Nora Doyle ranks Bloomington’s best coffee shops

Nora Doyle, Staff Writer

Bloomington is the perfect town for anyone who loves coffee. With over 15 local coffee shops to choose from, options are in abundance, making it difficult to pick which shop to grab a cup of coffee from, or spend a couple hours studying at. Each shop will be ranked according to coffee quality, location, price, studying ability, and overall display of the shop. I have selected random locations, and I will be ordering a classic iced vanilla latte with whole milk, for a simple, yet effective comparison. 

The first coffeehouse review is for Brilliant Coffee Company. To put it simply, this coffee shop lives up to its name. 

Coffee quality: 5 stars 

This latte contains the perfect ratio of milk to espresso. The espresso is also very strong and flavorful. The vanilla syrup is also wonderful. I would say that this is one of the best lattes I have ever had in terms of the taste of the espresso, and because of the fact that it actually tastes like coffee…not just milk. 

Location: 5 stars 

This shop is at 217 W 6th Street. It is on one of the side streets of the square, so it is the perfect location if you are walking around shopping on the square. In terms of parking, it is actually not that bad considering it is near the square. There is parking right in front of the shop, however the better parking is on Morton St which is right behind the shop. There is plenty of space in front of the apartments behind the shop, and along the street with Zankos and Bubs. There is no need for parallel parking, which makes this location perfect. 

Price: 5 stars 

This is one of the only coffee shops that I can justify buying a 20 ounce latte. It is also one of the only shops that offers more than 2 sizes. A 20 ounce iced vanilla latte is $6. Compared to a 12 ounce latte at other shops that is usually $6, that is a good price for the size.

Studying ability: 4 stars

As much as I love this shop, it is more of a stop by and grab a coffee place. The main shop is very small, with only a small window bar as a sitting space. However, you can walk right into a big room with lots of tables and sitting space. The area is really nice, but it is used more as a meeting spot and less of a studying place because it is a pretty small area. If you like to study with a little bit of chatter, then it is still a great studying place. 

Overall display: 5 stars

In terms of visual appearance, Brilliant Coffee Company is one of the most unique, eye-catching shops I have ever seen. It has a dark interior, with lots of touches of brick. It also has a gelato display with a variety of flavors, which adds to the appeal of this shop. It also has one of the largest menus I have ever seen, with so many options that make it very hard to choose just one drink. Very few coffee shops have a menu with as much variety as Brilliant does. (You can tell your parents it is also one of the few coffee shops in Bloomington that serves spiked coffee.) Brilliant Coffee Company is a great place to visit and study at, and I would recommend it to anyone. 

Needmore is truly the hidden gem of coffee shops in Bloomington. All of their coffee is locally roasted, and it comes from ethically sourced small scale farmers around the world. They also donate all of their used coffee grounds to local gardening groups to add sustainability to their success. They also sell their own coffee bags for you to take home and brew yourself. 

Review: 

Coffee quality:5 stars 

(Quick side note: the first time I went to this shop, I got a plain cold brew, and it was the best cold brew I have ever had.) 

This was by far the most unique latte I have ever had. Normally, most vanilla lattes taste the same, but this one was astonishingly different. When I went to order the latte, they informed me that they make their vanilla syrup with cardamom, which is a spice that according to Needmore, “tastes like Christmas.” The addition of this spice made this the most “natural” tasting latte I have ever had. It was not overly sweet, and the hints of the different flavors and spices made it very enjoyable. If you prefer more of a savory latte, and less of a sweet one, then you would love this latte. It took me by surprise, but I will definitely be getting it again. 

Location: 4.5 stars 

Needmore is at 104 N Pete Ellis Dr. which is pretty close to Target and Panera by the college mall. It is a little bit further down the road, so it is more hidden, but it is still in a great location. There is a small parking lot in front of the shop, but there is also plenty of parking in the strip mall right next door. However, there is quite a lot of construction in that area right now so just be warned, it can be a little hard to get in and out of the area.

Price: 4.5 stars

I was not shocked by this price; it is pretty normal for most coffee shops. It was about $5.75 for a 16 ounce latte. However, all of Needmore’s coffee is roasted in house, and their money earned is given to local farmers. Because they are a fair trade company, their prices are great, and their environmental efforts are outstanding. 

Study ability: 5 stars 

Because Needmore is a hidden gem, it is never crowded when I go, which is great for studying. They have a couple tables for studying, and none of them were completely full when I visited. The store itself is very quiet and peaceful, so if you need a place to study, then Needmore is perfect. 

Overall display: 5 stars 

This store is charming and unique. It is not huge, but it is big enough to not feel overcrowded. Their walls are decorated with pictures of the local farmers that they work with, and you definitely get a feel for their mission statement just by being in the store. 

Hopscotch Coffee Shop is very popular in Bloomington, and has recently added a kitchen to their store which is serving lunch and other snacks. 

Review: 

Coffee quality: 3

This was a very very sweet latte. It definitely has the strongest vanilla taste out of any latte I have ever had. A solid portion of the cup was just filled with vanilla, but if you like a sweeter taste then you would like it. (My brother and his girlfriend loved it since they love drinks that do not really taste like coffee) I prefer lattes with more of the espresso taste, but again it is all about preference. 

Location: 5 stars 

This shop is in a great location. It is right along the B Line trail, so you can easily go grab a coffee while you are on a walk. There is a parking lot in front and behind the shop so there is plenty of space. 

Price: 3

As I have said before, most coffee shops have high prices. However I paid $5.50 for a 12oz latte, when I have gotten a 20oz latte for $6. Nonetheless, Hopscotch did make an announcement on their website saying that their prices have gotten higher due to inflation. That is something they cannot really control, so I admired how they acknowledged their price increase. Unfortunately an increase in price is quite common right now and it is definitely not their fault. 

Study ability: 5 stars 

The interior of the store is wide open which makes it a good place to study. It does fill up pretty quickly, so I would be aware that you might have to be close to others while you are studying. The store itself has fantastic natural light, and it is relatively quiet. My favorite thing about the store is its outdoor sitting space. There is a nice front porch with lots of sitting space, and it’s covered so you never get too hot. 

Overall display: 5 stars

This store is obviously a staple coffee shop in Bloomington, and for a good reason. It has a really unique interior and the outdoor space and location makes it great. The kitchen which is attached to the coffee house is also very cool. 

Crumble Bakery and Cafe is a local coffee shop in Bloomington, and no it is not Crubml cookies. Crumble is one of the most popular shops in Bloomington, and recently added its third location on Swain Avenue. For this review, I have selected my favorite of the three, the Renwick location. 

Review: 

Coffee quality: 5 stars 

You just can’t go wrong with a Crumble bakery. It is a fantastic latte and it is consistently good. Out of all the coffee shops I am ranking, I have been to Crumble the most. (Although I have recently changed my order to a honey nut latte, which is even better than the vanilla latte) I will forever be coming back to get a latte from here. It is the perfect blend of milk, espresso, and vanilla, and the vanilla isn’t too sweet. It is a latte that I think anyone should try. 

Location: 5 stars

The Renwick location is perfect. It is such a central location and is in a great neighborhood. There is plenty of parking around the shop, but there is also a lot right next to it. This is the location that I visit the most. I have driven here, biked here, and walked here, so it is a very accessible location. 

Price: 4.5

Crumble is a little bit on the pricey side, but again nothing different that what I see at other shops. I believe their 16 ounce latte is right around $6, which is relatively similar to the other locations I have visited.

Study ability: 5 stars 

 Out of all the shops I have been to, this one is by far my favorite to study at. I would give it 6 stars if I could. There is plenty of sitting space, inside and outside, and the environment is made to study. There is always great music playing, and there is enough chatter happening, to not bother you, but to not be awkwardly dead quiet. It has a great atmosphere and I have studied here many times, both alone, and with friends. 

Overall display: 5 stars 

Each location is unique in their own way, but they all have a great environment. The Renwick location specifically is a very charming shop. They are always playing fantastic music choices, and I always have the kindest baristas. 

The final coffeehouse that I selected for my review is Soma Coffeehouse and Juice Bar. I selected the Soma on 3rd street, since it is my favorite of the three. 

Coffee Quality: 5 stars 

Soma is another shop that you just can’t go wrong with. It is a little on the sweeter side, but there is still a good blend of espresso and milk. It is consistently good, which makes it one of my favorites. 

Location: 5 stars 

Soma on East Third Street is the best Soma location because it is close enough to campus to walk, but it is not in an area that gets overly crowded. There is a decent sized parking lot, and the shop itself is never too crowded. The shop that is near Kirkwood is definitely the busier shop. 

Price: 4 stars 

Soma is definitely one the priciest coffee shops in Bloomington, but you are paying for the quality. It is a very well-known coffee shop, and their consistency and service is worth the cost. 

Study ability: 5 stars 

This is one of the best stores to study at. It has a very open interior with plenty of tables. There is always tons of free space when I visit there. It is overall pretty quiet, which has allowed me to get lots of work done while I visit here. 

Overall display: 5 stars 

I love the openness of this shop. It is very spacious compared to other coffee shops, so you never feel overcrowded. It has a very welcoming atmosphere and the baristas are always incredibly kind and helpful. 

You truly cannot go wrong with coffee shops in Bloomington. Each store offers their own unique twist on coffee, and they each have something incredible going for them. Whether you are just searching for a grab and go location, or a new study shop, I guarantee there is a shop in Bloomington that will meet your needs.