The coffee bean – or as it should be called in my own personal opinion: legalised amphetamine, a precious fuel sustaining over 10,000 of the mentally-broken and emotionally void students of this town. This imported tidbit is the backbone of the shrouded social houses of St Andrews known as ‘cafés’. Every whispered scandal, group founding and awkward first date has occurred in or at the very least passed through one of the fundamental institutions of our so-called ‘American colony’. Splattered across the map of our obnoxiously charming town, lie seemingly thousands of coffee shops, each one demonstrating more about one's tastes and personality than any astrological chart ever could, determining which café is ‘best’ to study, gossip or drink is a precarious daily decision. Thus, as a kind gesture of goodwill, I have decided to save you, readers, the struggle of crowning the St Andrews coffee house king and do it myself.
So my readers look to caffeine-infused delicacies and require a proper setting upon which to experience that first sip of a scorching hot drink. And in order to do so, one requires an actual coffee shop, not just the idea of one; which is why coming in at dead last is Black Sheep Coffee. Black Sheep, when will you open? Time is running out and our community needs answers to the mystery of your franchise. Who are you? Why have you chosen to flood our town with pretentious indie-modern vibes? Open up so that the poor wearied workers of our beloved Pret may take a break from their daily nightmare and rest.
Following up in sixth place is Costa, no explanation is necessary for that – the vibes are off. Coming in at fifth place is Combini Café, they tried minimalist and they failed. For a venue that prides itself in “the best of Korean and Japanese tea and coffee”, you need to be able to make a decent matcha latte, devoid of pasty green clumps that resurface in one's mouth. And if I am going to inhale raw bitter powder, at least I should be able to do so in a seating arrangement that includes a rational chair to table ratio.
Residing in a perfectly ranked fourth place is Starbucks; to quote the queen of rankings herself— Dance Moms Star, Abby Lee Miller — “you're good, I'm waiting for you to be great”. As an American, the quality of Starbucks in this town can be at times astonishingly bad. I once consumed at this establishment an iced soya matcha latte so terrible I believed the catered dining food had finally butchered my taste buds. However, despite the mediocrity of the drinks, the employees are kind and the energy of this homey interior is perfect for a chat or a bit of studying. And while their delicious tomato toastie is not remotely American, the familiar Pantone green brings a bit of nostalgia to the heart.
In third place, Taste —the unofficial Italian capital of St Andrews. While one may view their refusal to serve cold drinks a hindrance, I find it refreshing. It humbles the coddled residents of our town and allows customers to instead chat outside on the tiny benches provided while waiting for Fife’s best Chai latte. Although I am disappointed by their shift in bread, their paninis provide comfort during the drenching storms, while their chocolate croissants impress even the most chi-chi students.
Ranked in second place, Spoiled Life takes silver, only missing out on first as I once had my half-filled glass snatched away before I was finished with my drink, resulting in a day void of ice-crunching. While their prices may be both heart and bank-breaking, Spoiled’s energy is so toxic it's inspiring. Never am I more productive than at this coffee shop, I am so terrified of being judged by the immaculately dressed and put together kind staff and crowd, that I’ll even start that essay due in 12 hours. Additionally, their drinks and vegan carrot cake are by far the best in town. Spoiled Life is effortlessly the French cool girl of St Andrews cafés, as long as you come prepared with your best outfit and that niche book you’ve never read, you’ll fit right in.
I’ll end by crowning the reigning coffee house of St Andrews, Pret a Manger. Pret– my love, my home, look at the disarray our town is in since you've been gone. Pret may not produce the best drinks, and their outlets may never work, but their customer service is unmatched and they boast the most iconic Ponzi scheme of the century: the Pret coffee subscription. Which other coffee shop could have surmounted the challenge of fulfilling orders that were simply yelled out instead of written down? Pret is the centre of friendship and care. When I pop into town I will always make a beeline to the only place where both happiness and oat lattes are free (literally), and you should too. And finally, to those of you who order smoothies at ridiculously overcrowded hours, shame on you, go find another coffee shop to plunge into misery.
Illustration: Bethany Morton