Local coffee shops offer more than just java

By Sarah Baczewski, Staff Writer

As a huge coffee enthusiast, I decided to travel around the McHenry County area and try coffee shops I had never been to before. I asked for suggestions from close friends and they recommended Ethereal Confections, Hidden Pearl, and Coffee Haus.

My first stop was Ethereal Confections in Woodstock. Before visiting, I checked out their website to inform myself about their shop. They create their chocolates from scratch and add it to their pastries, cocktails, and small plates that they sell in the cafe. Upon hearing the amount of effort that they put into their chocolate, I already decided that I was going to get a coffee that includes their chocolate syrup.

When I entered through the door, I was welcomed by the sweet aroma of chocolate. I walked up to place my order and asked the worker for coffee recommendations. They gave me a couple of suggestions and a menu. I took the menu and sat down at a table to decide on what sounded the most appetizing. After about 10 minutes of looking through the large menu, I went back up to the front to order. I ended up ordering a 16 oz Iced Dark Chocolate Kissed Raspberry Mocha with oat milk and a Neato Burrito with a side of salsa verde and sour cream. I was told that my drink and food would be called out on the counter, so I went back to my seat and waited till then. My drink was called out first and my food was called out shortly after, the wait for both items was not long at all.

I was very excited to try my latte, but was quite disappointed. The raspberry flavoring was extremely sugary and overpowered the taste of the dark chocolate and espresso. I did get hints of the bitter chocolate and creamy oat milk, but I mainly tasted the sweet raspberry. I really wish I could have tasted more of the chocolate considering how much it is talked about on their website. I personally love to taste the actual espresso in my lattes so if you are like me, I would definitely not suggest getting this drink. However, if you love sweet drinks, this is the one for you.

Next, I ate the Neato Burrito. I thought that the food was very delicious. The tortilla was crispy while the inside was creamy. The inside had tender bacon and was very cheesy. I dipped the burrito into the salsa verde, which was mildly spicy. The sour cream was buttery and smooth. When I was done with my drink and food, I pulled out my laptop and started doing homework in the calming environment.

Bre Flores, an MCC student, says that Ethereal Confections, “has a cozy ambiance while being hip at the same time.”

The look of the shop can be described as industrial. There are dark brown floors, brick walls, and a ceiling made out of wood planks. Light bulbs hang from the wood planks, allowing for dim lighting throughout the coffee shop. There are also white and black walls. Wood tables, black steel chairs, and brown leather couches occupy the spacious environment. The leather couches are accompanied with a rug that includes blue, red, and gold tones in it. There are colorful paintings that hang on the brick walls as well as a fireplace next to the couches. There is light music playing in the background, which makes it easy to focus on homework. The shop was overall quiet and relaxing to work in.

As for customer service, it was average. The staff was not super friendly, but they were attentive and did their job correctly. The price was quite expensive for only two items, it was $18 without a tip. Because of that, I do not know if I will visit again.

My second stop was Hidden Pearl in McHenry. When I walked into the cafe, I was exposed to bright colorful walls and unique vintage decorations. Some of these decorations include a typewriter and telephone. There are white, pastel pink, dark pink, and blue walls throughout the shop. On the walls, there are many paintings and mirrors. Dim light bulbs hang from the white wood plank ceiling. Many chairs accompany tables in the spacious cafe. The coffee bar is made out of brown wood planks. I found it very entertaining to look around the cafe because there were random and cool decorations everywhere I looked. The music was at a medium volume, they were playing 80s music and it brought an even greater vibe to the shop. There are spots where you can sit on antique furniture, which is where I sat and waited for my drinks and food. They called out my drink first on the counter.

I got a 20 oz hot lavender fog with coconut milk. I really enjoyed the drink. I found that it was a good balance of sweetness, the coconut milk definitely added to the sweetness. I felt that it was a refreshing and comforting drink. It was very aromatic. I would definitely order this drink again.

They then called out my food around 8 minutes after calling out my drink. I ordered a caprese. The bread was an interesting choice for a caprese sandwich, it was very flaky and I do not usually receive that type of bread with this sandwich. The sandwich was cold and flavorful. The meat was thin and the balsamic was tangy. Fine salty potato chips came on the side. The sandwich was filling and the chips made me feel even more full.

Alyssa Rivera, an MCC student, says that, “the aesthetic in Hidden Pearl is so relaxing! The atmosphere is inviting and I felt I could really get comfortable and enjoy my time.”

I would definitely recommend that people visit Hidden Pearl. The atmosphere is welcoming and interesting. There is a positive vibe that shines throughout the shop. The staff is friendly, talkative, and very helpful. I found the drink and food items very tasty, and I would order them again. It was also very affordable, which adds on to the amazing experience.

My third stop was Coffee Haus in South Elgin. When I walked into the coffee shop, I saw dim lights hanging on the ceiling all throughout the entire shop. The shop was very homey and welcoming.

When I walked up to order my drink, I decided on getting a blended Thai Bubble Tea with skim milk and tapioca. I asked the worker for recommendations on how to make the bubble tea sweeter and she suggested that I add coconut flavoring, which I did. When I was done paying, they gave me a number that identified which drink was my order. I sat down with friends at the long table in the shop and waited for the workers to call out my number.

After they called it out, I started drinking the bubble tea and I loved it. The tapioca was the perfect texture, not too soft and not too hard. The milk tea tasted like vanilla coconut and it was very filling to drink. This is definitely the best boba drink I have ever had. I thoroughly enjoyed the drink and the environment.

Jake Behles, an MCC student, said,  “what was even better than the drink was the environment, it was very urban in a suburban setting with cute lights and a decent playlist playing in the background.”

The environment was upbeat and lively. You could hear customers laughing and chatting throughout the restaurant with pop music playing in the background.

The staff was extremely friendly and helpful in suggesting me drinks and additions to make it sweeter. They had great attitudes which added to the positive experience. It is a great place to go late at night and hang out with friends. I will definitely be visiting again.

When it is time for your next java fix, try one of these local spots.  Ethereal Confections offers homemade chocolate confections and a cozy environment to study in. Hidden Pearl has unique vintage decorations and comforting beverages. Coffee Haus provides an upbeat atmosphere to catch up with friends while drinking fun bubble teas.

When it comes to my personal favorite of the shops, I would say it is Hidden Pearl. The shop was very interesting and different from your standard coffee shop. The overall atmosphere was positive, and the workers were extremely sweet. The drink and food were both delicious and inexpensive. If you have the chance to visit Hidden Pearl, I highly recommend it!