The Daily Grind: 5 Coffee Options for the Postdoc On the Go

By Amy Ghiretti

ghiretti @ mail.med.upenn.edu

There are many factors that contribute to a successful postdoc: a good mentor, an interesting scientific question, stable funding, and a lot of luck. In addition, the importance of one final factor cannot be overstated – a solid source of caffeine. If you’re like me, your addiction started in college as an occasional boost to help with late-night exam studying, and turned into a full-blown daily habit sometime during graduate school. Whether your drug of choice is soda, green tea, or my personal favorite, coffee, proper caffeination gives the overworked postdoc that little extra boost needed to get going in the morning (and afternoon, and evening…). As scientists, we’re often on a tight schedule, so quality and convenience both need to be taken into account in choosing our caffeine stop for the day. To help you make an informed decision, here’s a rundown of some of the most convenient spots where you can pick up a quick cup of coffee between experiments (cash and credit accepted at all locations).

 

Au Bon Pain – (aubonpain.com;http://aubonpain.com/; Biomedical Research Building Ground Floor, or UPenn Hospital Founders Building 2nd Floor)

It’s hard to argue with convenience – the two ABP locations on campus are connected to most of the nearby buildings by a series of pedestrian walkways, meaning lucky researchers don’t even need to go outside to get their caffeine fix. The coffee is self-serve and comes in a variety of flavors, but quality varies a lot depending on the time of day and how freshly it was made. A large will set you back $2.25, which seems standard for this area. Note that sandwiches, salads, and baked goods are also offered here, so it can get very crowded during the morning and lunchtime rush. Try to time your visit for the tail end of the morning rush, when crowds are smaller but the coffee has been turned over faster, increasing your odds of a fresh brew. Espresso drinks may be ordered at a separate window, and are not worth it here in my opinion. Regular ABP employees man the station, rather than trained baristas, so the quality is not the greatest. I’m pretty sure I got a mocha without any espresso one time, meaning I paid for a very fancy hot chocolate. The espresso drinks are one size only, and at $3.49 for the equivalent of a medium mocha, you’re better off sticking with a simple coffee for your quick caffeine boost.

Gia Pronto – (kitchengia.com, Perelman Center Ground Floor, or 37th and Spruce)

Like ABP, one of these Gia Pronto locations is found right in a research building, while the other is a short walk away, and they both serve sandwiches, pizza, and salads in addition to coffee. There are fewer varieties of coffee to choose from than at ABP, and I find the regular coffee here to be very bitter- ABP has more choices and is much easier to drink for the same price. On the other hand, espresso beverages are consistently well-made here – the medium mocha at $3.00 is a good deal. The major drawback here is the ordering system- go right to the cashier to order and pay for coffee, but if you want any of the food items you have to stop at the designated counter before heading up to pay at the same cashier. This results in a bit of a free-for-all at busier times, so it’s a good idea to avoid the lunchtime rush here too. Otherwise, this is a solid go-to option for a quick espresso beverage.

 

Green Line Café– (greenlinecafe.com; Ryan Veterinary Hospital 2nd Floor)

This small coffee stand is the most convenient on-campus option for our friends at the Veterinary School. The selection is very limited- regular coffee only, small or large, which is an even $2.00. The coffee is fine, but not anything special. If you happen to be in the area, it’s a good option, but nothing you need to go out of your way to try. The cute animals in the lobby waiting for their appointments are a nice bonus. Note that the stand closes at 3pm, so it’s only an option earlier in the day.

Jazz and Java- (jazzandjava.biz; UPenn Hospital Founders Building, 2nd Floor)

Without a doubt, this is the best coffee location on campus- quality, price, and convenience, it has it all! Located in the Founders Building right next to one of the ABP locations, Jazz and Java offers both very good coffee – a large is just $2.10 – and a wide variety of well-made espresso beverages. They have some creative lattes and blended beverages if you’re looking for something sweet, but also make the basics consistently very well (a medium mocha is $3.85 and delicious). Overall, I have never had a negative coffee experience here. Note that a second Jazz and Java location used to be found in the School of Nursing’s Fagin Hall, but closed for renovations early this year. I’m told a new coffee place is opening in the same spot, but until then, Jazz and Java remains my go-to place on campus.

 

HubBub Coffee (hubbubcoffee.com; 37th and Spruce)

While not as quick and inexpensive as the on-campus locations reviewed in this article, a number of quality coffeehouses are located just off campus in University City if you can take the time to stop. My favorite is HubBub Coffee, which is still an easy walk from most of the research buildings. This is a quintessential coffee shop with great atmosphere and a friendly, competent staff- I’ve never had a bad drink here. The espresso beverages are well-made, and they serve gourmet coffees like Stumptown if you’re feeling fancy (if not, their house coffee is also very good). The only minor drawback is the prices – a large house coffee is $2.50, and a medium mocha is a hefty $4.85. However, for the increase in quality versus most on-campus locations it’s still well worth checking out. Get the loyalty punch card- buy 10 coffees, get 1 free.fa

Editor’s Note: A certain BPC member highly recommends the cafe in Williams Hall http://www.destinationpenn.com/facilities/multi_williams.asp, although it was not included in this article – “student run apparently, and cheap and friendly,” he says. What’s your favorite coffee spot? Let us know in the comments below!

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