Starbucks-in-Residence: Battle of the Residential College Coffee Shops

Designed by Zawar Ahmed

I’ll paint the scene: You’re a Yale College student. It’s midterm season. You aren’t usually a procrastinator, but the beautiful spring weather resulted in you spending the past week tossing a frisbee with some people you barely know on Cross Campus for hours on end. You look up. Your orgo midterm/history paper/fully-functional car for engineering is due in two days. You need a space with good vibes and good coffee to make it through.

Starbucks is a no-go. It’s too corporate-chic. A black coffee will run you $3, which isn’t criminal, but nobody truly orders a black coffee. You’re going to add soy milk, mocha, two shots of espresso, whipped cream, caramel drizzle, gold dust and—poof! A $100 coffee has appeared out of thin air.

Blue State won’t work either. What are you—a millennial grad student? Besides, they’ll probably charge you even more than Starbucks. You enjoy their “chaider” (noun, | CHī · dər| : a drink that is approximately 50% chai latte and 50% apple cider) but to order it, you have to say the word “chaider” out loud.

Oh, and you can’t do Atticus or Book Trader or whatever new bookstore/cafe has just popped up near the YUAG. Even though you have taken a course called “Theories on Sexuality and Empire in the Mediterranean: 1223-1228,” you are not a pretentious liberal arts hipster. You only lecture your unsuspecting peers on Kafka once or twice a month, at most.

You want to support local, student-run coffee shops, where a black coffee is only $1 and the toppings aren’t good enough to entice you to change course. So, you’ve really got two options: Benjamin Franklin’s Beanjamin or Silliman’s Acorn.

Disclaimer: Adia Keene is an affiliate of Benjamin Franklin College, but for the sake of this review will act as an entirely objective outside party.

Round 1: Beverages
As a frequent consumer of the dirty chai––a chai latte with a shot of espresso––I can confidently say that Silliman’s version reigns supreme. According to my coffee-loving friends, the Beanjamin’s coffees are top-tier as well… so long as the espresso machine works. The Acorn’s espresso machine seems to have a better track record of remaining operable.

But, one menu item cannot win the whole game. Franklin has a wide variety of teas to choose from, including my absolute favorite, the Korean Honey Ginger Wet Mix. When I need to de-stress, a $1 hot tea from the Beanjamin does just the trick. 

We’ll leave this round a tie, with the Beanjamin winning the teas and the Acorn serving the most consistent cup of joe.

Round 2: Food
Every week this semester, the Beanjamin has served absolutely delectable goods, baked weekly by one of Franklin’s own students. The fall’s chocolate croissants and cookies, costing only $1, are still fresh in my mind.

Silliman has an absolute powerhouse of a menu item: avocado toast. A pretty good one at that. I’ve also done some baking of my own in the Acorn (See! Not a Franklin loyalist!) My matcha brownies weren’t too shabby if I do say so myself.

For the average food lover, you simply must go to the Acorn. But after you eat your avocado toast, it can’t hurt to swing by Franklin and nab a piece of cake for $0.50.

Round 3: Hours
The Beanjamin holds a special place in my heart, but three hours a day is not enough for the hypothetical student with a fully-functional car due in two days. That’s barely enough time to fire up the engine. When the Beanjamin closes at 5 p.m., many students—especially the nocturnal STEM kids—are just getting started. The Acorn is still up and running at 8 p.m. So, in terms of operating hours, the Acorn is coming out on top.

It should be noted that if you no longer need coffee both of these spaces are open 24 hours, so it really comes down to…

Round 4: The Vibes
The Acorn is big, meaning there’s plenty of space for an entire friend group to sip on matcha lattes together…which means that our poor hypothetical student will have to listen to this entire friend group gossip for three hours while they “review their ECON 115 p-sets.” It’s pretty close to the Good Life Center, but let’s be real: are you actually going to take time to play in an adult sandpit without access to your phone? I have walked past this room multiple times while procrastinating, hoping to catch someone in the act of building a sandcastle so I can jump out and yell, “Aha!” Every time, it’s absolutely empty.

Compared to the Acorn’s fourth-floor location, I think I can justify calling the Beanjamin “underground.” They play lo-fi music, with looped clips from Studio Ghibli projected onto the wall. It smells good. There are bean bags, nooks, and string lights. When the weather gets nice, you can even work on the terrace. And when it’s super snowy and cold and awful and you just got a 15% on your physics midterm, you can launch snowballs at unsuspecting science students walking through the new colleges to get to Science Hill.

So, yes, in my completely objective opinion, the Beanjamin reigns supreme. If you’re an Acorn loyalist, don’t get up-in-arms. Feel free to stay right where you are, in the bustling downtown cafe. Us Beanjamin lovers will enjoy our dirty chais far away from the noise—assuming the espresso machine is working.

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