Ops Blog | What’s the best coffee shop in Iowa City?

The Daily Iowan staff taste tested iced vanilla lattes from five coffee shops in Iowa City.

DI Staff

Hannah Pinski (Opinions and Amplify Editor): Hello everyone, it’s time to taste test the favorite coffee shops of Iowa City: Fix, Cortado, Prairie Lights, Tru, and High Ground. Let’s start with Fix. I would say Fix doesn’t have a strong vanilla flavor. It’s very subtle, a little creamy, but you can’t really taste the espresso.

Shahab Khan (Opinions Columnist): The vanilla latte at Fix has a very smooth taste that’s somewhat underwhelming, but nonetheless lingers after a hint of vanilla.

Caleb McCullough (Executive Editor): I would agree and say Fix has a very complex flavor.

Yassie Buchanan (Opinions Columnist): In my opinion, Fix has very smooth and luxurious coffee. The espresso flavor does not come through very potently and the vanilla is subtle and almost nutty. The latte is not very sweet but would still be satisfying for those who cannot handle black coffee.

Hannah: Up next was Cortado. I could taste the espresso in this compared to Fix. I like the balance between the coffee and vanilla flavor. It’s very sweet, but it has an aftertaste of espresso.

Yassie: I agree Cortado has a much stronger espresso flavor and aftertaste. The latte was still smooth and slightly sweet, and the vanilla flavor was a bit denser than the other ones.

Caleb: It’s sweeter, and the taste of espresso comes through, which is good. The vanilla flavor is more direct than Fix. It’s not as complex but it just tastes better. A high-quality latte all around.

Shahab:  I can definitely taste the espresso here. However, the vanilla flavor balances it out, giving the latte a more balanced feeling. I agree with Caleb that the ingredients used are higher quality.

Hannah: Well, for Prairie Lights, the vanilla is very creamy and sweet. I would say this drink has the best vanilla flavor so far. It has a nice vanilla aftertaste, but you can’t taste too much of the espresso much like Fix.

Yassie: This latte was probably the sweetest of them all with an almost caramel-like vanilla flavor. It also had a strong vanilla aroma the others did not. In my opinion, this latte was also the creamiest and would be very nice for those who like a sweeter coffee.

Caleb: In this one you can really taste the full vanilla flavor. It’s not just sweetness but more complex.

Shahab: For me, the vanilla is overwhelming. You can barely taste the espresso in this one. If you are a fan of sweeter drinks, this one is definitely for you. There’s hardly any balance between the espresso and the vanilla flavor.

Hannah: How about the latte from Tru? For me, this had a similar flavor to Fix. I couldn’t taste the espresso, and the flavor was very mild.

Yassie: Tru has a very flowery vanilla flavor and was on the more neutral side as far as sweetness. Although it was not very sweet, this latte would be good for anyone who does not like bitter coffee.

Caleb: I would agree that it tastes similar to Fix. It’s not as sweet as some of the others, and the flavor isn’t particularly interesting. It’s not bad by any means, but also maybe my least favorite so far.

Shahab: Tru has a very rich flavor and treats the taste buds pleasantly when you take the first few sips. However, a strong fragrant after taste lingers. Unfortunately for Tru, I am not a fan of strong lavender after tastes in my coffee.

Hannah: Well, our last coffee shop was High Ground. I would say on the sweetness level, it’s less sweet than Prairie Lights, but it still had a stronger flavor than Fix and Tru.

Caleb: For me, it’s a little better than Tru, but not quite as sweet as Cortado. You can taste the espresso fairly well.

Yassie: High Ground has a perfume-like vanilla flavor and is on the sweeter side of things. The latte was on the smoother and creamier side. I did not necessarily appreciate the candle-like aroma, but it was still good.

Shahab: I think it has a very similar initial taste to Tru. However, the espresso does have an overwhelming effect that crowds out the very delicious vanilla syrup.

Yassie: Overall, Iowa City has a diverse range of good local coffee shops. I think Prairie Lights was probably my favorite out of all of them, however, I imagine I will be stopping by each of these coffee shops soon to get my daily dose of caffeine.

Shahab: Cortado was my favorite. I would say it’s important to support all these local businesses, especially as they’re recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Caleb: I also thought Cortado was the best. My palate may not be very refined because the driving factor was the sweetness. The balance between sugar and espresso was also really good with Cortado.

Hannah: Well, it turns out Prairie Lights was a favorite in this group. I also had their vanilla latte as my favorite because of the richness of the flavor and the strong vanilla aftertaste.


Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.