Escape from The Corner: A UVA student goes in search of the perfect coffee shop

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Left to Right: Mudhouse Coffee, Java Java, and La Taza Charlottesville. Photo: Viet VoPham Left to Right: Mudhouse Coffee, Java Java, and La Taza Charlottesville. Photo: Viet VoPham

After spending too many nights in Clemons Library curled up next to my laptop, I find it refreshing (and healthy) to experience a new environment. At the same time, it can be unsettling to forgo comfort and consistency for change. Finding a new study place that isn’t on the Corner, which also offers good yet affordable coffee, is especially difficult for me, since I’ve become so accustomed to drinking Starbucks everyday (working there sure doesn’t help).

So this coffee shop rundown goes out to all of you college kids who need caffeine, a free outlet for your laptop, and a clean, well-lit place where you’re not surrounded by college kids.

Mudhouse Coffee
Mudhouse Coffee

Mudhouse Coffee is the go-to place for hipsters in Charlottesville. There are a variety of coffee and espresso drink choices, and best of all, there are outlets and plenty of them. Alas, whenever I bring myself to the Downtown Mall to do some last minute studying, Mudhouse is often too crowded, so heading there a bit early and being ready to hunker down is a good idea. As for coffee, they roast their own beans and offer a different blend each day. After looking over the menu, I opted for a cup of their Tong-Len Blend. The coffee, a medium herbal roast, held notes of cardamom, black pepper, wild orange, dark chocolate, and even lemon, proving to have a nice balance with a sensible profile of flavors. A small cup of their brewed coffee is $1.75, and that’s pretty worth it for the quality you’re getting.

Café Cubano
Café Cubano

If you walk a little further down the Mall, you’ll hit Café Cubano, another of my favorite cafes and a quaint morning eatery. I typically order their chai lattes, which I highly recommend because you can actually taste the creamy caramel notes when sipping one of these bad boys. However, the last time I visited, I tried their 50 blend—their signature medium roast. It was a pretty good cup of joe—reasonably acidic, tangy, and light to the taste, and it was only $1.75 for a small. Café Cubano also has three to four different blends on hand at a time, so if you’re a coffee enthusiast like myself, it could easily become your new home away from home. The only thing that may deter you from studying here is that they close relatively early, so go in the morning and have some breakfast.

Java Java
Java Java

Situated at the opposite end of the mall Java Java has an old-timey feel. Inside, the café emanates a warm aura, and best of all, it’s full of tables and even various couches, which sets it apart from others as being an idyllic destination for studying. As for the coffee, at any given time, you have your choice of medium roast, dark roast, or decaf, and it’s $1.85 for a small 12 oz cup. When I recently dropped by with my friend, I chose the medium, and I also sipped some of my friend’s dark roast. Mine was delectable, with a rush of mild sweetness and a medium body. The dark had complex flavors, but its smokiness definitely stood out.

Shenandoah Joe
Shenandoah Joe

Shenandoah Joe is another personal favorite of mine, especially the one on Preston Avenue, which boasts swanky, vintage furniture and the alluring aroma of freshly roasted coffee beans. Plus, it’s particularly nice to your wallet. A 12 oz cup is only $1.60, and if you have another 15 cents on you, you can upgrade to the 16 oz (awesome, right?). The medium roast proved mellow with notes of caramel and nutty goodness. After my friend and I spent a bit of time relaxing on one of their squishy couches, we walked out feeling pretty satisfied with the experience.

Milli Joe
Milli Joe

Milli Joe, which is just a bit further down Preston from Grounds, is still relatively new, but don’t let its age fool you. Milli Joe has some unique and creative espresso and coffee options, and their velvety cappuccinos are to die for. Their drip coffee is $1.75 for a 12 oz, which is reasonably inexpensive. The one downside to this spacious coffee get-a-way is that each time I went there, there was only one option for drip coffee, and I kept getting dark roast. It was just a bit too smoky for my taste, but on the bright side, Milli Joe lets you pick other blends via a pour over if you’re willing to pay another dollar.

C'ville Coffee
C’ville Coffee

Getting to this next coffee shop may be a hike, but let me assure you, it’s totally worth it. If you’ve ever been to the Bodo’s Bagels on Preston, be sure to stop by C’ville Coffee, which is located a bit further down Harris Street past The Habitat Store. This quirky cafe has it all: scrumptious sandwiches, a gigantic turtle you can play on, an extensive coffee menu, and seating galore. Seriously though, each time I go in here, there are too many seats to choose from, and there are three separate rooms with completely different moods, so C’ville Coffee is perfect for both casual dates and intense cramming sessions. When I went there recently, I couldn’t help but order the Café Vietnamese because you know, I’m Vietnamese, and let’s just say, this little cup of coffee (which was prepared with their medium roast, a shot of espresso, and a thick, mouthwatering glop of condensed milk) tasted like heaven. My friend ordered their small coffee, which was $1.93, and even though this is a tad pricey, it was surprisingly sweet, tangy, and well balanced, so I do believe the coffee coupled with C’ville Coffee’s airy, relaxed environment is so worth it. You haven’t experienced coffee until you’ve had C’ville Coffee, so even if you’re carless, you better beg your friend to take you here come finals season.

La Taza Charlottesville
La Taza Charlottesville

If you need food with your coffee, you may want to take a quick drive a bit further south on Monticello Road. La Taza Charlottesville has a surprising mix of good coffee and espresso drink options. Moreover, it offers delicious Latin-American inspired food. My friend and I went there for breakfast, and let’s just say we were pretty distraught after finishing our (rather generous) portions. I had the Machaca: scrambled eggs (which is mixed with green peppers, onions, tomatoes, and your choice of bacon, sausage, chorizo, or soy sausage), and breakfast potatoes, served with two flour tortillas. I also had an order of their “bottomless coffee,” which happened to be dark roast, with my rather filling breakfast dish, and even though I’m not a stanch, diehard fan of dark roasts, I definitely enjoyed the cup I ordered at La Taza. For one, it was only $3 for an order of limitless coffee, so this is great for those of you who are hardcore caffeine addicts. The only downside to La Taza is that there aren’t enough seats, so this isn’t the most ideal space for studying; however, if you have an affinity for coffee places sporting a homey ambiance and eclectic décor with good food, this place may be your new Sunday pick for breakfast.

  • TV

    Excellent piece! I loved the pictures and the personal tidbits. I really love Mudhouse and La Taza.

    • http://twitter.com/Viet_VoPham Viet VoPham

      Thank you!

  • Fry’s Spring

    Would love to have seen a mention of the tiny Fry’s Spring coffeehouse Atlas Coffee, which serves a fantastic cup of joe and has a really nice atmosphere.

  • J

    Java Dragon over in Preston is really nice too

    • http://twitter.com/Viet_VoPham Viet VoPham

      When was the last time you visited? I’m pretty sure they’ve closed down? I actually really wanted to go there and heard good things too!

      • J

        I’m not sure; I hope not! I think we last went in January, so its possible that it has closed; that would be sad

  • tt

    my favorite coffee that you can get in this area is Trager Brothers coffee! Not sure which of these coffee shops you can get it in, but I love it…

    • ChrisJOShea

      Cafe Cubano uses Trager Brothers. Agreed, it’s fantastic coffee.

      • http://twitter.com/Viet_VoPham Viet VoPham

        OH, thank you! That’s good to know. Do you know of other cafes that carry Trager Brothers too?

  • TT

    Viet man, you work at Starbucks, not sure your employer would love this piece…

  • sam

    This may have changed, but C’ville coffee just buys it all from Sam’s Club.

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