Welcome one, welcome all. Tonight, in the ring, we have two coffee shops you know and love. In one corner is the Acorn, the prized gem of Silliman College. In the other, much further away (approximately a 10-minute walk from Old Campus depending on how long your legs are) stands the underdog: the Beanjamin. Although the Beanjamin is the new kid on the block, it makes up for years lost in experience with its punny name.
Yale is fortunate enough to have two student-run coffee shops: the Acorn and the Beanjamin. Instead of appreciating each shop for its unique characteristics, we must create arbitrary competition. And, as any sane coffee addict would (which I recognize is an oxymoron), I have to know which shop to turn to when I need my afternoon caffeine fix. Thus, I set out to create an incredibly objective review of each shop to determine once and for all which one is better.
First, I have to make a set of criteria with which to evaluate each coffee shop.
The first point of evaluation is the ambiance of the shop, aka the vibes. Where do you want to sit for hours with a friend chatting? Which shop has the coziest nook to curl up in with your assigned reading for the week? Which shop has clearly created a Pinterest board of aesthetic coffee shop inspo? All of these were critical questions that I asked myself when visiting the Acorn and the Beanjamin.
Next, I decided to judge the shops on their ability to make one drink: the infamous espresso. Though minimal in nature, this drink is a complex insight into the care taken to extract flavor from the coffee beans. It is easy to mask the acidity of coffee with heaps of cream and sugar to make a delicious drink, but much more difficult to allow the beans themselves to shine.
My final criterion on the list was the breadth of offerings of each coffee shop. This ranged from what pastries or sweet treats were offered to the number of drinks available as options.
Finally, I had developed a perfect list of criteria — completely devoid of my subjective preferences and biases — and I was ready to visit each shop for the showdown of a lifetime.
Ever aware of the need to maintain anonymity as a famous contributing reporter from the Yale Daily News, I donned the elaborate disguise of my headphones, the oversized Yale™ sweatshirt and a backpack. Next, I took the (approximately 15 minutes because my legs are short) trek up to the Beanjamin.
As I stepped into the Beanjamin, I was immediately transported into the most peaceful, lovely place I have been on campus. Perhaps it was the nostalgia from the piano cover of the “My Neighbor Totoro” theme song floating through the space, the twinkling fairy lights lining the room, or the plush reading nook set in the window, but whatever it was, the Beanjamin made me swoon. In short, it was clear someone here had created an elaborate Pinterest board.
Often an underrated feature of coffee shops, the Beanjamin was perfectly populated. It felt natural to step into a space that had five solo studiers, two friends meeting up and a study group occupying one of the tables. I felt at home instantly.
When it came to ordering, I stuck to espresso, although I was tempted by the seasonal offering of a pumpkin spice latte and tiramisu. After a customer who had ordered the tiramisu exclaimed “It’s so good!” to her friend over bites of the sweet treat, I regretted the simplicity of my order.
When my espresso was brought over to me by one of the Beanjamin’s friendly student staff, I worried that the drink might spoil my impression of the shop. Espresso is difficult to pull off: my worst experience with the drink was a cup that tasted like Clorox. At its best, espresso is mild and refreshing, with a golden froth at the top called crema. Personally, I have only been able to pull an espresso with crema once. I celebrated with a little happy dance upon seeing the delicate layer of foam. Although the cup I was served lacked crema, the espresso was very solid. I expected to cringe from acidity but was pleasantly surprised by a smooth sip that quickly gave me the caffeine boost I craved.
The Beanjamin seems to be a space designed for introverts, extroverts, study groups, book nook lovers and most of all, the pumpkin spice latte girlies. With an extensive list of drink offerings, fun seasonal treats and a bookshelf stocked with classic board games, the Beanjamin has something for everyone. I plan to return and bring my roommate who is a self-proclaimed lover of all things pumpkin spice.
Next came the Acorn. Although the Beanjamin had won me over, the Acorn deserved a fair shot. So, still wearing my necessary disguise, I stopped by Silliman. After getting lost in Silliman’s sprawling halls and popping my head into several rooms I had no business being in, I met my suitemate, Tally Vaneman ’27 at the shop.
Tally had ordered a hot caramel latte, remarking that “the texture of it was very nice.” In their assessment of the Acorn, Tally thought that “the prices were very reasonable” and that “strangely, the best place to get coffee at Yale is at the student-run shops.” Tally concluded their review with a sprinkling of nostalgia, saying, “the Acorn reminds me of a cafe that I went to in Colombia. It was in a house with a pleasant ambiance that felt kind of like this. They also served their coffee in a big white mug. If you give me coffee in a big mug I’ll be happy.”
Although I did not have the same warm memories associated with the Acorn, I have to agree with Tally. The ambiance is pleasant, with a large wall of mugs displayed and an intricate tapestry at the entrance.
Even though I was simultaneously a bit confused and intrigued by the wall decoration reading: “play, share, clean up, laugh, take turns, imagine, create, no fighting, giggle,” the other aspects of the space such as large comfy couches and sprawling floor rugs were enticing. The Acorn was double the Beanjamin’s size, which can either be a plus or a minus depending on your preference.
I was impressed with the Acorn’s offerings as well. They boasted a lengthy list of drink options and various toasts. I appreciated that they gave me the option to have lunch with a drink.
When I ordered my espresso, the barista mentioned that the beans the Acorn uses have citrus notes and are locally sourced. The Acorn’s barista went through the espresso-pulling process with care, and handed me the drink in a beautiful, faceted glass cup with the perfect weight to it. Resting at the top of the espresso was the most pleasant surprise: the crema!
Indeed, the espresso did not disappoint. The golden crema was perfect and the subtle citrus notes came through. Wow, wow, wow. It was the holy grail of espresso. I was floored.
Left blown away by my experience at both coffee shops, I knew the looming decision would be difficult. With two amazing shops, which one would be the winner? I felt as if I was splitting hairs, and knew that there could only be one winner. However, I ignored the goal of this article to reach a conclusion that is going to make you, the reader, very mad at me.
It’s a draw!
I fell in love with both shops and could not choose one. However, the Beanjamin wins on ambiance. It is something straight out of a Studio Ghibli movie. The Beanjamin is where I can picture myself spending an entire afternoon studying, curled up in a cozy nook. If you want a stellar cup of coffee, choose the Acorn. Next time I visit, I will be ordering an avocado toast and perhaps trying out Tally’s coffee order. Then again, the espresso has me hooked.
This has been the battle of the beans, a tale as old as time with an incredibly predictable conclusion. My apologies if you have stuck with me through this caffeine-induced blur of a review in hopes of a satisfying conclusion, but that just cannot happen with two coffee shops as stellar as the Acorn and Beanjamin. I urge you to give both of them a try this fall, whether it is to study with a friend, read a book or pretend to be a pretentious coffee critic reporting for the Yale Daily News.