In a city like Ypsilanti that works hard and plays hard, and is full to the brim with learners, professionals, entrepreneurs and adventurers, it ought to come as no surprise that the entire system runs on lots and lots of coffee. That's why, no matter which part of the city you're in, there's a coffee option ready and waiting nearby.
If you're headed into town via Washtenaw Avenue (you'll know because the water tower will dominate your view upon approach), your first coffee opportunity will be the Biggby Coffee (on your left). This franchised shop is notable for its sweet, milky drinks (I order a hot Caramel Apple Cider once a year). Consider grabbing a hot drink of choice and swinging through the drive-thru at the famous Dom Bakeries, situated kitty-corner from Biggby on the opposite side of the street.
As you pass the water tower to enter Ypsilanti, your next opportunity to caffeinate comes in the form of Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea. This sweet little shop adjacent to Eastern Michigan University's campus is a daughter shop of the Sweetwaters franchise begun in nearby Ann Arbor. EMU students filter in and out of this shop as sunlight filters in through the two walls of broad windows. Snack options abound, and teas occupy almost as much menu space as coffees, which usually stick to medium-dark roasts. Their signature drinks may delight visitors who share the founders' Asian heritage, and may have grown up drinking their coffee with sweetened condensed milk (order the Dragon Eye). Another signature favorite is the Napali Brew, a summery combination of vanilla ice cream, espresso, and hazelnut syrup that could only be improved by the feeling of sand between your toes.
As you continue further into Ypsi, you'll discover Cross Street Coffee (some locals still call it Ugly Mug, or The Mug— the shop rebranded in 2017 and old habits die hard). Cross Street is another popular student location, but has been an institution for townies of all ages for over a decade. Cross Street roasts their own coffee in-house, and beans are available for purchase if you're already looking ahead to tomorrow morning. Keep your eyes open as you wait for your drink order: the walls are almost always bedecked with local art for sale, and you may just find yourself making an art purchase right along with your coffee and bagel.
A few blocks south, down on Michigan Avenue, lies our next stop: Bridge Community Cafe. I'd like to just pause and say that I don't in any way at all condone visiting every coffee shop in town all in one fell swoop. That's too much caffeine. You'd blow up. Don't do it. In any case, when you've got some time to sit and enjoy the ambiance, visit Bridge Community Cafe. The shop is directly adjacent to the Ypsilanti District Library and has become a beloved, inclusive community space.
Cross the bridge into Depot Town, and Hyperion Coffee Co. rules the scene. While Hyperion began as roasting and wholesale only, the outfit has achieved such success that they added a seating area only months after opening, and currently wholesale almost ubiquitously in the greater Ann Arbor area. (Their end-of-the-aisle kiosk at Plum Market in Ann Arbor is my saving grace) Hyperion is set apart by its owners' many years of experience, and commitment to sourcing their beans through direct trade. Frequent flyers at Hyperion will begin to recognize the names of individual human farmers from whom beans are sourced time and time again. With a wide variety of single-origin, direct-traded coffees, with fruity or even tea-like flavors coaxed out through mindful processing, Hyperion fully deserves its reputation as a robust wholesaler and a darn good cup. The shop also carries all the needed gear for any third-waver's brew method of choice (Aeropress, for me). Buy a bag, get a cup free.
Ypsilanti is a creative, hard-working town where we take our caffeination very seriously. There's an abundance of options, no matter how you take your coffee. As such, I'm aware that I may have overwhelmed you. If I've presented you with entirely too many options, you've wasted your entire day deciding, and now you find yourself wanting a different sort of drink entirely, perhaps you'll consider my Honorable Mention in the coffee category: Maiz Mexican Cantina. Take it from me because I've ordered it: Coffee. With. Tequila. Alleluia, alleluia, amen.
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