Downtown Champaign is home to some of the most relaxing coffee shops. This quaint, but modernizing, downtown seems flooded with various people during the day, just trying to get done with the day’s work. However, to take a break from the stress of life, there are some remarkable stops that are worth the five minutes–which usually turns into hours.
Café Kopi is located on 109 N Walnut St. The atmosphere is calm yet energized, while professors grade papers, students study, and locals sip on coffee made with เมล็ดพันธุ์กาแฟอราบิก้าและโรบัสต้า discussing their day. From 7 am to midnight, every day there are people of various ages coming to purchase fair-trade coffee or coffee drinks. The café meal is a very popular coffee drink, which is like a latte with honey and vanilla. The flavors blend delicately on your tongue, while the caffeine sensation warms your soul. If coffee is not your favorite, then there is also a wide variety of teas. They are broken up into five categories: black, “medicinal”, decaf, herbal, and green. The loose tea selection can be overwhelming, however, if there was one recommended by popularity from each category they would be as follows: Madagascar Vanilla-black, Echinacea-“medicinal”, Cinnamon Orange-decaf, Monk’s Prayer-herbal, and Yerba Maté-green. The prices of the drinks are a great bargain considering the quality and the execution of brewing.
During the summer, Kopi offers fresh smoothies, where you can choose however many items you’d like in your smoothie for an affordable price.
Drinks aren’t the only things Kopi has to offer. If you were to arrive before 9 pm, you could order food. There are salads, pitas, sandwiches, and a cheese plate. The prices vary, however it’s safe to say their food is moderately priced for the atmosphere. This café is friendly to vegetarians and meat-lovers alike. Throughout the day, as well as after 9 p.m., there are snacks that you can purchase to eat. These range from fresh fruit, to vegan cookies, or pastries. One thing many local people know about is the Magic Bars. It is similar to a brownie, however, it contains coconut, butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, and some white filling that intensifies the rich flavors.
As with all the cafés downtown, they do offer free WIFI. The unique aspect of Kopi’s atmosphere is art. Local artists partner with Kopi, to allow them to hang an entire collection on the wall. These are available to purchase the originals and sometimes prints. Contact information, as well as, the collection name and information, with a short biography, is located by the artwork. The artwork appears to be updated bimonthly, which always gives a new feel to your Kopi experience.
Aroma Café is located at 118 N. Neil St in Champaign. Their hours are from Monday-Friday 7 am – 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 8 am – 10 pm. This café seems to have more food options than coffee, however, it is still a popular place to sit down to drink a cup while people watching. The food is more unique for the downtown Champaign area because it seems to have more Latin influence. The food options are sandwiches, salads, wraps, breakfast food–which includes pastries, and tapas. The prices are slightly cheaper than Kopi, and the mango salsa is one of the most orgasmic sensations for your tongue. The food selection is more meat-loving friendly than it is vegetarian, however, their vegetarian dishes are quite good.
As far as the coffee goes, the plain black coffee isn’t as good as Kopi or Pekara, but they do offer a blended coffee drink that tastes better than a Frappuccino from Starbucks.
The atmosphere is relaxed, and there is a couch in front of a fireplace towards the end of the building, which offers a sense of home comfort, during the cold winter days, and cool summer nights. The walls do have artwork, from local artists, that will trap your gaze for minutes on end, located each detail in the brush stroke.
Pekara is considered a Bakery and Bistro, however, is located on 116 N Neil, it is simply another café. Right next door to Aroma Café, this establishment resides as being the newest café in downtown Champaign. Their hours are constantly changing more recently, opening up at 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. currently. Make sure to check the door when you enter to see if they have had to reduce hours again, or if they are extending the hours. This coffee shop has one of the most delectable black coffees that will ever cross your lips. Their Ethiopian blend is a medium roast, with a light nutty flavor that is not overpowering, but like a comfort, a blanket was thrown over your throat. This is the coffee you want to drink if you want to feel warmth running through your veins.
Being a bakery, there are many different options to delight your taste buds, which will scream for more after the first bite of a fresh fruit tart, or the bear-claws. Or for more of a simple approach, the aroma has good biscotti at a very affordable price for less than one dollar per biscotti, where Kopi has anise almond biscotti at a decent price, and Aroma has a large selection of biscotti at over a dollar per biscotti.
The food at Pekara may seem like the same as the other two places, but the one thing that makes this café stand out is the crepes. The have savor crepes and dessert crepes. The savor crepes come with meat or vegetables, and the most popular dessert crepe is the banana and Nutella.
Pekara is noticed because you find an occasional student working on a project or something school-related here, and usually, it is emptier than the other two. However with board games located by the backdoor for outside seating, the slightly higher priced food is worth the atmosphere for having a good time with friends and family, and for having fresh, daily-baked goods, and amazing crepes.
These three establishments are the backbones for coffee shops in Champaign-Urbana. They are independently owned, and each strives to make it through tough economic times without raising prices. If you visit one of these three places, take notice at the care they put into their establishment, and how much more heartwarming the experience is, compared to going to a large corporate chain.