I waited in the Starbucks line last week while the fella in front of me had the barista pour buckets of steaming hot coffee into a great big thermos. I wondered if it was all for him. It couldn’t be. It must be for his work. But who brings a giant Thermos in to work? I don’t. But there’s no one else here in the mornings when I go to work, so if I did bring coffee in there would be no one to drink it, besides me. When his giant thermos was filled he walked out to his truck and left. I thought of following him for a bit, just to see what he did with all that coffee, but that would have been creepy, and my kids would have been late for school, so I didn’t. I just ordered my grande bold and left.
I have gone through many coffee phases over the past several years. I didn’t drink much of the stuff prior to the last five years, unless I had to meet someone at a coffee shop. Then I’d order a coffee. I mean, I wasn’t a teetotaler in that sense. But the coffee evolution for me began in high school. I drank too many of those horrible gas station cappuccino drinks with the fake froth from the loud machine that spit a mixture of powdered this with hot water into a Styrofoam cup. That coffee was gross. And maybe that was why I didn’t drink much more of it with any regularity until just a few years ago.
And when I did start drinking more coffee, I found Starbucks to be too acidic. Caribou Coffee was a bit too strong in a different sense, and so Panera Bread won my affection and my $1.76 for perhaps a year straight. The problem with Panera on the outskirts of Delavan is that there is no drive-thru. Starbucks, with their acid coffee, has one. So the switch began at first slowly, just if I was late or lazy. Then, the trips became more frequent, daily even, and I began the slow but inevitable march towards Starbucks snobbery. When vacationing in Mexico a couple times over the last couple years, I missed my dog a lot. But I missed that darn coffee nearly as much.
As I recall from my ill-fated attempt at discovering Pure Michigan last summer, there was no Starbucks in New Buffalo. There wasn’t much else there either, so I suppose they can’t be blamed for not having a Starbucks. But they do have a train, so that’s something, as long as you enjoy the sound of locomotive horns blaring throughout the day. The coffee scene in Lake Geneva is varied and it is intense, and it can be mild or bold or tall or large, depending on what you choose. Lucky for New Buffalo, today isn’t about New Buffalo. Today is about Lake Geneva, and it’s about coffee and the pursuit of that dark delight.
While Starbucks has earned most of my loyalty, much of that repetitive indulgence has to do with geography. I live to the West of Fontana. In this location, there are options for coffee within Fontana itself, where the Abbey brews Starbucks, but the practical choice finds me driving to Delavan where Starbucks and Panera wait. For any Fontana vacation home owner, these two shops are the closest, and aside from brewing at home or walking through the Abbey, a quick trip to the East side of Delavan is perhaps the easiest way to start your weekend mornings in the same way that you might start your weekday ones.
Though Starbucks is my convenient choice, the best coffee in Lake Geneva isn’t brewed at a chain. It’s brewed at Boatyard Bagel. Jeff and friends brew Chicago’s own Intelligentsia coffees, and a cup from Boatyard is the most delightful cup of bold and smooth coffee that exists in Walworth County. It’s true. There’s a Caribou across the street, and a Starbucks down on the corner, but Boatyard has the goods, and there is no reason to go anywhere else if your geography permits it. The Lake Geneva bakery, whose name “The Sweet House Of Madness” I still hate, bakes world class croissants and other pastries. They also brew Alterra coffee, which is to Milwaukee what Intelligentsia is to Chicago. This coffee is good, but with Boatyard’s great brew just a few blocks away, there is reason to buy croissants from one and coffee from the other.
Alterra is also brewed at Tickled Pink in Williams Bay. This shop is just a hundred yards from my office, so it makes perfect sense that I’d patronize that place from time to time when a morning rush quickens my schedule. The coffee here is good, as it is at the bakery, but it still isn’t as good as Boatyard. The point here isn’t that I need to get my coffee from one place or another, it’s that the coffee options in Lake Geneva are varied and they are strategically placed. West End vacationers have Starbucks in the Abbey, Panera and Starbucks in Delavan, and Alterra at Tickled Pink. East End caffeine hunters will find a local shop (Geneva Java- I rarely go there so I cannot judge it), along with the ubiquitous Starbucks, a Caribou, the bakery’s (SHOM) Alterra, and finally, for the most discerning, Intelligentsia brewing at this very moment at Boatyard Bagel.