A Hot (Chocolate) Topic: Quirky Holiday Beverages from your Neighborhood-Friendly Independent Beaneries

The drink specials menu at Rico's Cafe. Photo by Mikaela Burns
The drink specials menu at Rico’s Cafe. Photo by Mikaela Burns

Above: King’s Chefs advertises their breakfast and lunch. Photo by Mikaela Burns

The start of the holiday season brings forth a time of festive baking, remorseful shopping, and of course, hot beverage binge expenditures.

As an individual who has gone through one and a half Starbucks holiday drink punch cards since Nov. 29th, I can attest that a break from traditional, commercialized seasonal beverages would be a relief, and perhaps a necessary intervention. Dispersed throughout the downtown area, Colorado Springs offers a wide variety of independently run coffee shops that provide a series of distinctive seasonal beverages capable of satisfying all your holiday needs.

Many Colorado College students are familiar with the iconic book, toy, pizza, coffee mecca that is Poor Richards. Located at 320 N. Tejon St., this cozy shop offers a distinctive atmosphere that cannot be overlooked.

From the display of carefully curated local art, to the friendly baristas, Colorado Springs locals are happy to call Poor Richard’s home on blustery weekend nights. On an average weekend, the café is packed with people enjoying live music and good times.

Poor Richard’s winter weather beverages are equally as warm and welcoming, with drinks like Belgian sipping chocolate, spicy Aztec hot chocolate, and peppermint white mochas. However, most people do not know that the most distinctive, and arguably delicious, holiday beverage at Poor Richard’s is not on the main menu.

The Spearmint Soy Caramel Latte ($4.53), available off of the “secret menu,” is reminiscent of butter mints and offers a subtle latte experience atypical of run-of-the-mill tea lattes.

Not only is this beverage comforting, but the invigorating mint revitalizes your senses and clears away cold weather runny noses. This creamy, frothy beverage is a holiday must-try this season.

Curl up in Poor Richard’s on a snowy afternoon, enjoy a warm drink, and surround yourself with company friendly enough to make you feel right at home.

Einstein/Caribou holiday drink options. Photo by Mikaela Burns
Einstein/Caribou holiday drink options. Photo by Mikaela Burns

Just two blocks south of Poor Richard’s, in Acacia Park, lies Story Café, one of the most underestimated independent beaneries in Colorado Springs. Located in a tiny re-modeled house, Story Café’s employees are friendly and accommodating.

The coffee shop’s unique dynamic relies on intimate, close-quartered interactions with the barista, who gets to know you surprisingly well during the two-to-three minute span it takes to make a cup of coffee.

The beverages that set Story apart from other cafés are their specialty peppermint hot chocolates ($3.50) and mochas ($4.50).

Both products are made with organic syrups and cocoa. Distinguishing these drinks from other chocolate-peppermint beverages are carefully crafted toppings, such as fresh whipped cream and a tiny candy cane for stirring. You can sit inside the café and enjoy intimate conversations with your barista, or stroll through Acacia Park to view holiday lights while sipping on Story’s silky, decadent drinks. Story Café is an approachable, yet distinguished choice in the holiday beverage marketplace.

Heading north, at 2727 N. Cascade Ave., Building Three coffee shop is located within an abandoned, refurbished elementary school so uncharacteristic of Colorado Springs culture that even locals question how it exists within the city.

A somewhat hipster café, Building Three is furnished with restored wood and furniture vaguely reminiscent of an Urban Outfitters catalog. The coffee shop is clean, modern, spacious, and offers intriguing menu options like nitrogen cold brew coffee and homemade Pinterest-esque baked goods.

The café has three different holiday beverages: the persimmon latte, wassail, and a cold brew margarita, which range in price from $3.50 to $5.00. The cold brew margarita is undisputedly the strangest coffee drink I have ever consumed. Served in a sugar-crusted glass, the drink contains lime juice, cold brew coffee, and cayenne pepper. The jury is still out on whether or not this combination is tasty, however it is most certainly baffling, highly addictive, and worth a trip to Building Three to try out.

An unarguably delicious beverage choice at Building Three is the wassail. A tart, cranberry cider beverage, the wassail offers a twist on traditionally overbearingly sweet cider with a sour, spicy alternative that offers a new experience in spiced ciders.

For a novel and experimental holiday beverage experience, check out Building Three.

In the tourist epicenter of Manitou Springs, one beanery stands out as the most locally accessible. Good Karma offers a wide variety of specialty alcoholic and caffeine-filled drinks.

The atmosphere is welcoming yet modern, with unique hand-painted holiday bricks on the floor, and wooden paneling and tables throughout the shop. All flavored beverages at Good Karma provide robust flavor profiles.

Most distinctly, the brown sugar gingerbread latte delivers a potent, and at first overwhelming, flavor that makes you question why you ever invested in subtle holiday lattes.

Regardless of your coffee shop atmosphere or drink preferences, independent beaneries offer distinctive seasonal products that can significantly brighten your Colorado Springs holiday experience, and support local buisnesses. Ditch traditionall and over-rated Starbucks drinks and stop by these cafés to fill out your own independent beanery punch card.

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