Being a coffee lover isn’t easy — there is a plethora of drink styles, milks and beans to mix and match.
And each coffee shop caters to a different vibe: Some are good for studying, others for socializing.
Because of the sheer number of variables, comparing coffee shops would be unfair. So, I’ve decided to review individual coffee shops thoroughly and holistically, beginning with Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters.
Named after a fish-shaped, marshmallow and chocolate confection native to New Zealand, Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters sells a variety of espresso drinks, teas, coffee beans, alcoholic beverages and quick bites.
There are three Chocolate Fish locations in Sacramento. On a sunny Friday afternoon, senior Anna Frankel and I visited the East Sacramento location (4749 Folsom Blvd.), which — snuggled between 47th and 48th Street — is within walking distance for Fab Forties residents.
There is a parking lot in the back with a separate entrance. However, if the lot is full (as it was when we went), parking on the residential street is equally convenient.
The first thing I noticed was the sign on the front door stating that, to facilitate conversation, there was no Wi-Fi. Still, several customers worked on their computers with their headphones on.
I wouldn’t recommend this place for studying unless you own noise-canceling headphones. Rather, the soft music and natural lighting indeed make this the ideal spot for chatting with friends.
The second thing I noticed was the massive roasting machines on display. According to a barista, the contraption isn’t just for aesthetics — every day from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., an employee roasts coffee beans. So the beans are literally roasted in-house.
This location is quite quaint, so seating is limited to five areas: a long bar, a square table, a short bar facing the roasting equipment, four chairs to the right of the door and the chairs outside. Considering the sign, I assume communal tables are to encourage conversation. I could see this being a problem during more popular times if one does not want to interact with strangers, but luckily Anna and I could sit by ourselves.
Since Anna and I were starving, we started with the “Smashed Avo” ($6), an avocado toast also offered with “The Works” (radish, sprouts and an Egyptian nut and spice blend called dukkah, $8).
The plain version was pricey but worth it. The bread was a perfect balance of crispy and chewy, and the avocado-to-bread ratio was ideal. The recipe was simple, which Anna and I appreciated.
“I’m always worried about buying avocado toast because they always overseason it, and it’s never what you wanted. But this is perfect,” Anna said between mouthfuls. “This is my ideal avocado toast.”
Chocolate Fish also offers three other toasts as well as bread and oil.
I was also eager to try a latté ($5.45) with steamed oat milk ($1.10 extra). I’ve had plain coffee with a splash of oat milk before and hated it, but the cashier explained to us that oat milk was really good when steamed.
And, boy, was he right.
The oat milk latté tasted similar to a cow milk latté but with more flavor. The oat-y flavor was prominent, but not intense or unnatural enough to disgust me. It was surprisingly good.
Anna added that she would buy this again, but the additional cost for oat milk seemed excessive.
The other hot drink we bought was the white mocha ($5), whose sweet fragrance I could smell all the way from its place on the table.
“It kind of tastes like crème brûlée,” Anna noted. “I like it more than I like that Starbucks white mocha; it’s less sweet and more subtle.”
I personally don’t love Starbucks’ white mocha, but this drink was a complete winner.
Anna and I concluded that we would buy this again.
Next, we moved to the nitro coffee ($4.50), called “Morning Beer.” Mimicking the beer-making process, cold-brew coffee is infused with nitrogen, supposedly making it creamier. Since I am underage, I wouldn’t know how this compares to actual beer, but I can say that the coffee itself was not fizzy.
The coffee was fruity, which I found gross. Anna, however, likes fruity coffee and said the coffee was refreshing and smooth.
“I would totally buy this again on a hot day,” she said.
While Anna sipped the nitro coffee, I tried the iced mango black tea ($3.15).
This one was underwhelming. While refreshing, it tasted watered down. Also, Anna said it tasted like strawberries, not mangoes, leading me to believe that the barista confused our order. In sum, I wouldn’t recommend this one.
The final drink we bought was the Fazenda Santa Luzia, Brazil ($3.80) from the single-cup, pour-over menu, in which two different house-roasted beans are profiled every few days, according to the cashier.
This was Anna’s and my least favorite.
For me, it encompassed my two least-favorite coffee flavors — fruit and chocolate. Anna, on the other hand, thought it was “perfectly OK,” which was pretty disappointing considering how good the other drinks were. Neither of us could finish this cup.
Since there are a dozen other flavors available, I suspect that we just ordered the pour-over on the wrong day.
The only overall negative of Chocolate Fish is its prices. Everything is at least a dollar more than at Starbucks. While the quality and taste are often worth the extra buck, this is not a place students could come to regularly without making a dent in their wallet.
But all in all, the drinks and the food were delicious. I will definitely be coming back for another white mocha, especially as the days grow shorter and the weather grows colder.
—By Emma Boersma
Originally published in the Oct. 15 edition of the Octagon.