As students, we like caffeine, we are poor and we love anything free. So, when I heard about UH Dining Services Coffee Crawl, I jumped at the opportunity.
According to @uhfoodie on Instagram, the Coffee Crawl is an annual challenge where you buy coffee from participating shops on campus, collecting punches on a card as you go. Once you’ve collected them all, you can trade your card in for an exclusive mug for free!
UH Dining Services is arguably one of the most in-touch departments of the University of Houston, often using free food as incentives for participation and creating cute novelty items like Starship merch. The Coffee Crawl mugs are no different, with the ones this year flaunting a rugged-chic look for anyone looking to stay cozy this fall.
But is this mug really free? Yes, if you’re the type that would’ve bought six cups of coffee within a 14-day span. The mug is just a nice bonus for an expense you were already planning to make, assuming you spend six days a week on campus and buy a cup of coffee every day. All locations (Student Center South, Einstein Bros, and Insperity) are all within quick walking distance at the heart of campus, so it’s not too out of the way of an average student’s walk.
A quick glance at the card shows you need to buy specific coffee in order to qualify for a punch, which may make some people nervous. There’s nothing worse than spending money on something that turns out to be nasty. That’s where I come in. I’m going to review all six of the choices, so you can participate with a bit more peace of mind next semester, confident in what to trust and what to avoid in order to make the most of your money.
Subject 1: Brew Bar
Insperity Center (CBB)
Medium Cold Brew
For all those that don’t know, the Insperity Center is the business building that also holds the writing lab and one of the CASA testing centers. I can’t imagine a place where coffee is more needed. The brew bike is small and doesn’t have the best space to study, but the baristas were an absolute delight. Two friendly, flannel-clad ladies made my coffee with a smile. I sat in front of the entrance lobby to drink my cold brew (with a splash of whole milk) and was delighted. The roast was tasty and smooth, and the milk complemented it nicely. The lack of whipped cream and other flavors let me drink the coffee like water. Delightful, refreshing, will be back again.
Subject 2: Einstein Bros Bagels
Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall
Medium Iced or Hot Latte
Now, this rating really hurts me, especially considering how many bagels, fruit cups, and BLT salads I’ve consumed from this fine establishment over the years. But I can not lie to the people. It was a hot day, so I got my latte iced. I was looking forward to it, but was kind of upset upon the first sit. It was overwhelmingly flavored with… a taste I couldn’t quite place. The contents of my cup were almost milky white, and I’ll admit I couldn’t even taste the coffee. I sat by the fountains and did my best to finish, contemplating my life choices. I had to call it quits around the halfway mark when the paper straw gave up on me, and I was no longer sure if I was drinking latte or paper. I get it, ‘save the turtles sksksks and I oop’ or whatever, but these paper straws are the reason I bought my first box of plastic bendy straws. Just saying.
Subject 3: Market
Student Center South or Cougar Village
Starbucks Drip Coffee at SC or Bottled Dunkin at Cougar Village
Acquiring this next coffee was a bit of an ordeal. Upon entering Market at Cougar Village, the cashier informed me they weren’t even participating in the Coffee Crawl. Odd and disappointing. I’d been looking forward to a bottled Dunkin coffee to save for later. C’est la vie. So I walked down to the Student Center Market and was able to score a drip coffee from a swanky touch-screen Starbucks machine in the back of the store. The price was the best out of the whole crawl, so I wasn’t complaining. Starbucks drip has never been my favorite, but it’s also not the worst. Some cream and sugar abuse later, and I had a pretty comforting cup of coffee. I’ll probably be back, even if it’s just for the novelty of that cool machine.
Subject 4: Starbucks
Student Center South
Grande Apple Crisp Macchiato
I’ll be the first to admit I was skeptical of this one. The thought of putting apple in my coffee had me clutching my fake plastic pearls. But I’m happy to take one for the team. So I let the green mermaid beat up my debit card for the price of a small meal, and took my coffee in stride. My eyes grew wide with delight upon the first sip. It was sweet with distinct flavors, but none were overpowering. There was just enough apple, cream, and sugar, but I could still taste the coffee in my drink. I’d gotten the iced version, so it was supremely refreshing. I’m in love with this drink, and my heart will sting when it goes away. The Apple Crisp Macchiato is a limited edition item, so be sure to get it before it’s gone.
Subject 5: Starbucks
Grande Chai Latte or Frappuccino
I was looking forward to this one, especially after the success I had with my last Starbucks visit. In the past, I’d found Starbucks chai to be a disservice to chai all over the world, so I knew I wouldn’t be getting that. Instead, I ordered a mocha Frappuccino, trusting that my love of chocolate and coffee would see me through. Now, I know these are very popular, but it wasn’t my favorite. Sweet, way too sweet. And the constant tiny chunks of chocolate didn’t let me drink as freely as usual. But it was tasty for what it was, and I can see anyone with a sweet tooth really getting behind this.
Subject 6: Einstein Bros Bagels
Philip Guthrie Hall
Medium Cold Press
I’m ashamed to say I was nervous about this one after the experience with the latte. But I bought a white chocolate cold brew, added my own purple plastic bendy straw once outside, and took a sip. Much to my delight, Einstein redeemed themselves. The coffee itself was forgettable, and the flavored syrup was firmly stuck to the bottom of the cup. But after a few vigorous stirs, it was a perfectly drinkable cup of coffee.
In conclusion, I had a lot of fun, using this Coffee Crawl as an excuse to drink more coffee than anyone my size should be allowed to have. It would have been nice to see Cougar Grounds or The Nook participate, just to get a palette cleanse, but I’m happy with what I got. The grand total of money invested was $22.57 after tax and tips. When you compare this to the cost of mugs in the campus store, the price checks out, the difference is they never gave me coffee. The crawl was a blast, and I recommend it to everyone next year. Show UH Dining your support so they continue to organize activities like this.