Hidden Grounds Coffee
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Coffee Shops Of NJ: Hidden Grounds

Part 3 of a series detailing excellent local coffee shops around New Jersey, and what makes them so excellent, as presented by a coffee addict. This week, I present to you the reason I keep coming back to Rutgers: Hidden Grounds!

Coffee Shops Of NJ: Hidden Grounds

One of the things that anchors me to New Brunswick, New Jersey (outside of my university) is the well-known and quite successful Hidden Grounds. I stumbled upon this gem sometime in my sophomore year, I believe, and fell in love immediately. In fact, Hidden Grounds is probably the reason I am so coffee-obsessed, to begin with! So, here are the details of this amazing coffee shop and the reasons I love it.

1. Location

On the banks of the Old Raritan, there is not only Rutgers University of New Brunswick, but also Hidden Grounds. While they currently have FOUR locations, their original shop is in New Brunswick, next to the Olde Queens bar. They have two locations in New Brunswick (their flagship and then a separate espresso bar), one location in Jersey City, and their newest location is in Hoboken. They are the only noteworthy cafe on Easton Avenue, in my opinion. In a sea of Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, Hidden Grounds is a beacon.

2. What makes it unique

The menu offers some interesting beverages, inspired by Southeast Asian/Middle Eastern cuisine, such as their Masala Chai and their Rose Chai, which is reminiscent of Rooh Afza. Additionally, they offer their own brand of beans and tea leaves, and they also offer a coffee subscription so you can have coffee delivered to you every month. They have been successful enough that they can offer bottled beverages, such as their Creole style cold brew, and they have an interesting selection of fare. The most unique thing about Hidden Grounds is where it is situated, which is among numerous bars in a college town, in an unexpected, quaint place. It is all-deserving of its name. Moreover, it was an endeavor started by two young people who have slaved for years to make it the success it is today.

3. Atmosphere

At their flagship store, the atmosphere is somehow both cool and warm, laid-back and inviting. They're always playing some kind of chill lo-fi or jazz, and there's a bunch of weird little books laying about begging for you to take a break from studying and peek at them. The tables are always adorned with fresh flowers or even cacti, and they welcome all dogs regardless of if they are service animals. The ceiling is a little low, so if you're taller than 6'3' you might find yourself vexed if you're standing. Being quite the opposite of claustrophobic and also short, I quite enjoy this about Hidden Grounds.

4. Prices and Payment

The prices are standard for a cafe. They allow you to pay with cash or credit and even have a rewards program, similar to the one Starbucks has, although a little simpler. Additionally, they have memorable tip jars which allow you to cast your vote on polarizing topics, such as the undying pineapple on pizza debate.

5. Quality of Coffee

The coffee here is probably my favorite of all the coffee shops I write about in this series. Their espresso is always perfect--never too bitter, perfectly aromatic, and appropriately strong. Their lattes are excellent, their cold brew divine. They offer bags of coffee ethically sourced from the finest coffee distributors, which they will happily grind up to the coarseness you require. The bagged coffee is shipped within 24 hours of being roasted. I often buy their darker roasts for my boyfriend as gifts, and he always raves about how they're his favorite coffee.

6. Other Fare

They have a ton of interesting snacks and meals at Hidden Grounds. They even have gluten-free baked goods, along with vegan baked goods. They offer brunch items, but having the sweet tooth I do, I've always gone for their baked goods. They make their cream cheeses by hand, on site. The chai used in their Masala Chai is sourced directly from one of the owners’ mothers, who resides in India.

7. Service and Hours

The baristas are always welcoming and friendly--arguably the most gregarious baristas I have encountered. If ever I'm there and they're in the lull or I'm the only customer there, the baristas have full conversations with me and it almost feels like we've known each other for years instead of mere minutes.

The hours are fantastic: Monday through Friday they're open 7AM-8PM, Saturday and Sunday they're open 8AM-8PM.

8. Community

Hidden Grounds offers a lot of fun activities throughout the year. A few notable events include their latte pouring competition, their latte art classes, and their no-waste item exchange. Did I mention how welcoming they are to dogs?

9. Recommendations on What to Order

The cold brew at Hidden Grounds is my favorite when it's hot outside. When it's chilly outside, the Nutella latte is nice to cozy up to, and I find that their green tea latte is always perfect for the fall. I have never tried their food, but I hear it's really good. I have tried their baked goods, and my favorites are their salted caramel brownie (which I don't see very often, much to my dismay), and their hibiscus donuts.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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