A Comparative Study Of The Three Joe Coffees On Campus
Written by Youngweon Lee
So now that Up Coffee is dead and Joe Coffee has a monopoly on campus, it’s Bwog’s duty to tell you which Joe is the best Joe. Thus, I visited all three locations on campus, Pulitzer, Dodge, and NoCo, and drank one large ice latte from each location. The reason for the choice of drink was so that I could taste the flavor of the coffee without burning my tongue and also judge the quality of the milk that they use. But also note that I know nothing about coffee or milk so take this with a grain of salt. I also didn’t realize they charge a dollar extra for ice (a large hot latte is about $5, a large ice latte is $6) and by the time I found out it was too late to change my mind.
First up, NoCo Joe. It’s the most classic Joe Coffee. If you know about only one Joe on campus, you know about this one. Though the location isn’t convenient, there are rarely empty tables because people sitting down aren’t there for a quick coffee break; they’re ready to stay and study for hours. There’s good lighting because of the pleasantly bright overhead lights and the sunlight that pours in through the full windows is not too harsh because the cafe faces northeast. The marble floor, white tables and chairs, and the ceiling art installation (?) make for an aesthetic environment. Levi Cohen, CC ’21, stated that “NoCo Joe is superior for the views and the aesthetic,” and that there are more seats but they tend to be taken up by “groups of people in suits and very nice clothes.” Jake Tibbetts, CC ’21, asserted that more seats are not a positive feature, as he likes to drink his coffee in solitude. Generally, there’s a mid-to-high level of noise and chaos.
The line is rarely short but goes quickly and the service is very efficient. There is also a separate booth for people looking for a quick cup of regular hot coffee. Despite their efficiency regarding coffee, Lexie Lehmann, CC ’20, remarked that “it’s of note that the one time [she] went to NoCo Joe, they were out of chai concentrate, so [she] had to walk all the way to Dodge to get [her] chai latte.” I must also mention that a mere few minutes after she gave me this statement, she discovered that NoCo Joe was out of chai concentrate again. She also said that she thought NoCo is “good right before [they] close.”
On the other hand, my ice latte was prepared pretty fast when I visited. The ice in it was ground ice, which might cool the coffee more quickly but also melts more quickly. As for the taste of the coffee, personally, I’m not a fan of Joe’s coffee. It’s a sour and fruity coffee, and I like a coffee with a clean, dark bitterness. This is just personal preference. The milk in my latte balanced out the sourness enough that I didn’t mind it too much.
Next, Dodge Joe. Note that this is not Dodge the gym, but Dodge Hall, just south of the Mathematics building. According to Omar Curiel, CC ’20, this location of Joe Coffee has a “faster vibe” and the cafe feels more like a bar counter because there is not a lot of seating. He compared it with the NoCo location, which, despite the efficient speed at which the line moves, has a lot of seating, which means people “linger” unlike at Dodge. Tibbetts said about this Joe that “Dodge Joe is best Joe. Why? Not sure. But it is.” On the other hand, Cohen argued that “Dodge Joe makes you feel like you go to a small liberal arts college and this is the only cafe on campus…Dodge has like three tables and a few armchairs.” Lehmann noted that “Dodge Joe always has the shortest lines in the morning” but gets much busier around noon to 2 pm.
Something significant to note here is that the Dodge location has smaller cups than the other two locations. According to Amara Banks, BC ’19, a small coffee at Dodge Joe is 8 oz whereas a small coffee at other Joes is 12 oz. When she inquired about it, Dodge Joe told her that the Dean of the School of the Arts wanted a cheaper coffee option for Dodge Joe because the dean’s office is in Dodge. They have a single bean option whereas the other two Joes have an actual bean blend, so Banks said that the coffee at Dodge tastes worse than coffee at the other two Joes. I personally couldn’t tell, but if you’re fastidious about your coffee, you might want to go to the other two locations. However, an anonymous student, CC ’20, stated that “It’s great, it’s better than NoCo Joe. It just is. The coffee is better.”
Overall, Dodge Joe is definitely the least aesthetic Joe. It’s just kind of in the corner of the lobby of Dodge Hall, which is potentially definitively the least relevant building on campus. The unified light blue and white color scheme that is characteristic of the other two Joe locations on campus does not exist here. It’s rather drab, and the lighting is ugly. I will say that there was no line when I went, though, which was nice. I got my ice latte pretty quickly. The ice was again ground ice, which melted too fast. The coffee tasted exactly the same as the other two locations’. I also noticed that in a corner off to the side they have cold brew on tap, like beer, which I did not know was a thing that existed. Pretty cool.
Lastly and leastly, Pulitzer Joe, also known as the Joe that killed Up. It occupies prime campus real estate, right between Furnald and Pulitzer, mere steps away from Lerner and Carman, a shake of a lamb’s tail away from Butler, and in most people’s way to Hamilton. Because the ceiling above the seating area is partially glass, it lets in a lot of sunlight, but not enough to feel overwhelming or too bright, because it’s nestled in a little nook between Furnald and Pulitzer. Lehmann stated that this location is “good in the early to late afternoon.” There is about as much seating as Up Coffee used to have; the structure is pretty much the same, except that they opened up the glass wall facing campus, which I don’t know how I feel about. It felt too open and exposed. Banks said that this Joe is the most consistent about having a pitcher of oat milk out, but the pitcher is almost always empty.
Its vibe feels vaguely unethical because it killed a small business and took its spot. The triumphant neon sign proclaiming JOE on the exterior feels rather tyrannical to me. Cohen similarly argued that “UP Coffee Joe is invalid” because “the Joe monopoly (Joenopoly) must not be allowed to stand.” Finn Klauber, CC ’19, took it a step further and lamented that he misses Brad’s (which was in this spot before Up Coffee), where he used to get sandwiches all the time between classes.
I went to Pulitzer Joe right at 1 pm, on my way from 113th to my French class in Kent. A line existed, but nowhere near as long as a typical NoCo Joe line. However, the operation didn’t feel as efficient to me; maybe I just felt rushed because I was on my way to class, but I thought my ice latte took longer than the one from NoCo Joe. The ice was small cubes, not ground up pieces, which I liked, but the barista almost splashed coffee on my favorite denim jacket as he handed it to me. I didn’t have time to worry about it, however, because I was running late to my French class. They also had cold brew on tap, like in Dodge, but at the actual counter, not off to the side. Points for aesthetics, but I miss Up. Curiel, on the other hand, stated that it’s “so nice” but “exactly the same as Up.”
Joenopoly via Youngweon Lee
Tags: columbia joenopoly, i miss up, i really drank three large joe's ice lattes to write this article, joe blue = columbia blue, joe coffee uses whole milk for their lattes and blue java uses skim milk so joe > blue java, who knew cold brew on tap is a thing