Colectivo is a hotspot both for Northwestern students and Evanston residents: no matter what time of day you walk into its doors, finding a table isn’t an easy task. The cafe’s warm and comfortable atmosphere are without a doubt part of its appeal. Decorations aside, though, Colectivo’s extensive menu of food and drinks is hard to beat. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a coffee shop with such a wide variety of specialty beverages, and they change with the seasons, meaning there’s almost always something new to try.
Being the coffee nerd that I am, I had to taste almost every drink on Colectivo’s Featured Drinks menu this fall: here are my rankings for all 10 coffees and teas. Some of my favorites might just surprise you (they certainly surprised me.)
A quick note: aside from those that already came with non-dairy milks, I ordered everything with almond milk as opposed to whole milk.
10. Minty Matcha Latte
The only reason this one is at the bottom of the list is because it’s the only one I didn’t try. I’ve never been able to stand the taste of peppermint, so I knew right off the bat this wasn’t going to be the drink for me. Mint and matcha isn’t a combination I’ve ever seen in a latte before, so it’s certainly an interesting creation that may be worth tasting if you’re a fan of either (or both) of these flavors.
9. Caramel Apple Latte
I was definitely a little wary when I ordered this one. Who puts fruit in coffee? And how could apple syrup ever live up to an actual apple taste?
My concerns were, unfortunately, pretty well-founded: the caramel apple latte didn’t taste much like caramel or apple. This drink was basically a heavy dose of sugar without any real definable flavor. I could occasionally catch the barest hint of caramel, but all in all, it just tasted like a highly sweetened latte. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it wasn’t what the description promised.
8. Maple-Spiced Chai
Chai has never been my go-to order, but I’ve tried it a few times at various cafes and was intrigued to taste Colectivo’s fall spin on this classic menu item, especially since maple and chai was another flavor combination I’d never seen before. The chai itself definitely came through and was exactly what I expected; the only surprise was the slightly spicy aftertaste it created (something I may have just noticed due to my sensitivity to spice, but more on that in a minute). The maple provided a steady and sweet undertone that, in my opinion, was a little overpowering and that, similar to the Caramel Apple Latte, didn’t have a super distinct flavor profile. If you’re not a fan of the bitter taste of coffee and need caffeine, though, this drink may be the one to go for.
7. Mocha Mexicana
I almost opted to skip this drink alongside the Minty Matcha given I’m not at all a fan of anything spicy, but given the popularity of chocolate and cayenne together, I thought I’d give it a shot. I ended up ordering it with half spicy mocha and half normal mocha. It was still almost too much for me to handle, but in the end, I did enjoy this drink. The chocolate wasn’t overpowering or too rich and provided a nice sweet foundation for the spicy kick that came as an aftertaste.
6. Windy Ci-Tea
The Windy Ci-Tea is one of the few tea-based drinks on this menu: it’s a blend of black and Earl Grey teas with oat milk and lavender syrup. I was a little wary of the lavender since it can so easily be an overpowering flavor, but the syrup was more sugary as opposed to herbal or soapy. The black tea was definitely much stronger than the earl gray, and the oat milk added a nice creaminess that made the overall drink more pleasant. While none of the flavors were overly dominant, I think this drink suffered from trying to combine too many strong flavors. It was incredibly sweet from the syrup, rich and heavy because of the oat milk and had a powerful flavor of black tea. The taste as a whole worked, but I couldn’t come close to finishing my 16-ounce cup.
5. Piccadilly Hot Chocolate
The Piccadilly Hot Chocolate represents another combination of two distinct drinks that may appear strange at first glance: hot chocolate with the addition of earl gray tea syrup. Somehow, though, these two flavors worked impeccably well together. This drink felt full and well-rounded, with the sweet earl gray taste fading seamlessly into a classic hot chocolate flavor, making it the perfect blend of milky and rich. The earl gray definitely hit hard at first, but the chocolate wove itself in really nicely to create an upgraded and more interesting version of a well-known classic.
4. Cold Brew Horchata
I ordered this drink hot instead of cold because, well, it was cold outside, and I didn’t need to be any more frozen than I already was. Given this is made with cold brew as opposed to espresso, it did have a bit of a stronger coffee taste, but the bitterness of the cold brew was balanced by the milk and cinnamon notes. It was probably the least sweet of the featured fall drinks, so if you tend to order a stronger or plainer coffee, this may be the one to try.
3. Salted Caramel Latte
So I’m a huge fan of caramel. When I first saw this drink on the menu, I thought it would without a doubt be my favorite, especially given my wholehearted adoration of the Dulce de Leche Latte from the summer menu. While I did greatly enjoy this drink (it wouldn’t be number three on my list otherwise), it wasn’t quite everything I hoped it would be. If you ask me, the caramel wasn’t strong enough. In my opinion, many of the drinks on this list could’ve been improved by a smaller dosage of their respective flavorings, but the salted caramel needed more. The caramel was definitely there and discernable, but I was looking for a little more of that distinct richness with a hint of salt and instead just experienced more or less a classic caramel latte. That being said, just because this latte wasn’t as exciting as I wanted doesn’t mean it wasn’t utterly delicious.
2. Honey Almond au Lait
Like the horchata, the Honey Almond au Lait is made with cold brew, so it possessed a stronger coffee taste compared to most of the drinks on this menu. The almond milk and honey definitely helped in cutting that, and the drink overall wasn’t bitter. The honey provided a softer and subtler kind of sweetness that was unique from the other sugary notes in the rest of the menu items and that wasn’t overwhelming. Instead, it complemented the cold brew really nicely. Further supplemented by the smoothness of the almond milk, this drink was a light and delicious breath of fresh fall air.
1. Pie Spice Cappuccino
We come to the end! I was certainly intrigued by the Pie Spice Cappuccino when I first read its description, but I never would have anticipated it capturing the top spot in my ranking. This drink tasted like a cozy hug of fall: the pie spices and biscotti shavings combined with the warm richness of the white chocolate will make you want to put on a soft sweater, jump into a pile of leaves and bake an actual pie. It was sweet but not saccharine, creamy but not heavy, with the perfect blend of cinnamon and hints of other spices. In other words, it was quintessentially autumn and had an unmatched mix of flavors. How could it not come out on top?
Fall may feel like it’s coming to an end, especially if you look at Evanston’s weather forecast, but Colectivo’s fall menu will make you believe that maybe autumn isn’t quite over yet.