Sawada Coffee a latte better on social media

Liza McMahon, Staff Writer

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Pistachio, coconut and peppermint doughnuts are stacked next to the Black Camo, High Five Mocha and Military lattes at Sawada Coffee, a rustic coffee house with a large, open seating area and lights strung from the ceiling. Photo by Sydney Stumme-Berg

With its heavy presence on social media feeds, Sawada Coffee, located in the West Loop of Chicago, has become a magnet for suburban teenagers looking to make their Instagrams “artsy.” The photogenic lattes and doughnuts from the shop look just as hip in person. The interior design, which features twinkling lights hanging from the ceiling, exposed wood and graphic art, complimented by upbeat indie rock music playing in the background, is just as stylish.

Sawada Coffee is known for its latte art and special coffee beans from around the world, including beans from Brazil and Costa Rica, and matcha, finely ground powder from specially grown green tea  from Japan, causing the drinks to taste unique.

I drink coffee every day and love trying new coffee shops, so after hearing about the imported coffee beans and constantly seeing pictures on social media, my expectations for Sawada Coffee were pretty high.

Barista Olivia Madsen recommended trying the Black Camo, High Five Mocha and Military lattes because they are the most popular.

The Black Camo Latte, a limited edition beverage that celebrates the shop’s one year anniversary, is made with matcha roasted in Japan brought to America by owner Hiroshi Sawada.

The black drink adorned with a white leaf made of cream designed on the surface had a beautiful presentation but tasted like seaweed, a flavor I would rather have in my sushi than in my coffee. Madsen said they hear that comparison often, which made me wonder why they keep serving it. It had a bitter, burnt taste to it, and I did not enjoy it.

The High Five Mocha Latte was the sweetest of the three, and it had a citrusy taste, reminding me of orange hot chocolate. It is made with Sancho, a spice traditionally used to make ramen that creates a tingling feeling in your throat, and the drink is topped with orange shavings.

The Military Latte, named for its green color, is a matcha latte topped with cocoa powder, and it is one of Sawada’s best-sellers. It tasted like black coffee with a thick, creamy consistency and did not have much flavor. It was my favorite of the three, but that is not saying much because I did not finish any of them.

In addition to its popular coffees, Sawada Coffee sells a variety of doughnuts from Doughnut Vault, a bakery in Chicago owned by the same company. I tried the pistachio, coconut and peppermint doughnuts, and they were a delicious complement to the lattes. Pairing the soft, fluffy doughnuts coated in a sugary crunch with the bitter lattes created a perfect balance.

However, sipping the orange-flavored drink while eating the peppermint doughnut reminded me of  toothpaste and orange juice together, and it left a gross taste in my mouth.

Although it was about a 40-minute drive into the city, it was well worth it for the tasty doughnuts and cozy atmosphere.

If hot drinks are not your cup of tea, down the steps from Sawada Coffee’s ordering counter is a gaping seating room shared with the restaurant Green Street Smoked Meats, a classic, homestyle barbeque joint.

While I did not finish my coffee because I prefer sweeter drinks, many other customers had downed their cups. The luxury coffees, which sell for a high price, seem to be an acquired taste, and I will be sticking to my sugar-filled drinks.

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Sawada Coffee a latte better on social media