The coffee post has become an Instagram phenomenon. Every Instagram user falls into one or both of two categories: someone who has posted a picture of, or with, coffee and someone who has seen a coffee post on their feed. With its origins in middle-schoolers posting pictures of their bubblegum pink Frappuccinos from Starbucks, the coffee post has evolved to the point where the aesthetic is paramount. Starbucks has been replaced by trendy, local coffeehouses and lattes made with foam art or 24-karat gold have taken the place of cotton candy Frappuccinos. We have to admit that the aesthetic offered by the coffee post is alluring, so we decided to experiment with coffee spots around Macalester that are popular on Instagram. The two cafes we settled on were Spyhouse Coffee and Café Astoria.
During our days off due to the polar vortex, we braved the cold and found our way to Spyhouse, a local chain, frequented by Instagrammers. Despite the bitter cold day, Spyhouse had a bright and inviting environment bustling with life. With the combination of a rustic and urban interior and quirky decor like a sugar skull, globe and a portrait of Obama, Spyhouse looks like it came straight off the #coffee on Instagram. Not only does Spyhouse look the part of an Insta-famous coffeehouse, but so does its coffee.
Our respective latte and mocha were made with classic foam art designs, resembling a heart and a leaf. The coffee was not only beautiful, but also tasty. Both the latte and the mocha were more bitter than sweet, but to be honest, they were nothing special. The coffee, though satisfying, was underwhelming, especially for the price: $5.25 for a mocha and $4.95 for a plain latte.
The prices at Spyhouse are significantly higher than typical independent coffeehouses and larger coffee chains. It’s almost as if we paid a couple extra dollars for coffee and an atmosphere that were aesthetically-pleasing enough to earn a spot on our Instagram profile. Overall, we recommend Spyhouse for those that care more about the ambiance than the coffee when searching for a cafe to visit.
Café Astoria is well-known for its coffee art rather than its scenic atmosphere. Remember the cups of coffee full of rainbow colors and gold flakes on Instagram? This place is the mastermind behind those photos. For a well-known coffee shop, the location surprised us: it is tucked on a corner behind the Children’s Hospital in downtown St. Paul. From the exterior, the shop seems small but feels much larger inside.
This cafe has two areas with different vibes. The mural room is full of vibrant colors with a happy feel, while the other room has brick walls and gives off a more serious tone. The acoustic covers and indie pop playing also contributed to the ambiance of the shop. But enough about the scenery, let’s get down to business: coffee.
The mocha ($3.50) had a lovely foam design of a leaf and its flavor was simply perfect, balancing sweet and bitter. One specialty we had to try was “Leah’s Happy Place,”($3.75) which is a matcha latte with hints of pistachio and lavender. Personally, we aren’t the biggest fans of matcha, but Café Astoria’s drinks are amazing. “Leah’s Happy Place” was unique and delicious thanks to its layers of flavor. The first layer of the drink is sweet and as we kept drinking, the flavor increasingly became dominated by green tea and lavender. We strongly recommend going to Café Astoria for its one of a kind drinks, friendly staff and fun atmosphere.
Spyhouse Coffee is located at 420 Snelling Ave S Saint Paul, MN 55105.
Café Astoria is located at 180 Grand Ave Saint Paul, MN 55105.