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We tried local coffee shops & here are our thoughts

The journalism staff here at the Hawk Herald visited locally owned coffee shops to determine what places are worth your time & money. We chatted with baristas, got to know their business, & sampled their products. Continue reading to see our opinions of: The Sparrows Coffee & Tea, PaLatte Coffee & Art, & Roots Brew shop. If you visit, let them know The Hawk Herald sent you!

The Sparrows Coffee & Tea 

1035 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506


Parking was pretty spiffy. The parking was behind Brick Road Pizza, only required a 30 second walk to the coffee shop, and was free. 10/10


Keeping with the eclectic vibe of East Town, Sparrow’s Coffee & Tea is truly a diamond in the rough.There was a slight fog over the windows from the steam inside, which made me even more eager to step into the warm, quaint, and inviting little shop. As I walked in , I felt like immediately I had been invited into someone’s home, the green plants dripping out of their pots hung on walls, and sat on shelves. An aesthetically pleasing place, with an inclusive environment. This space is quiet and inviting, perfect for studying, a date, or even just to get together with friends. 11/10

Drinks –

The selections were wide and inviting, creative names and interestingly flavored drinks made the selection hard. These are a few of our favorites from The Sparrow.  

Espresso- I chose a drink with sweetened condensed milk and two shots of espresso. The espresso pull was excellent, and the bright espresso paired beautiful with the sweet flavor of the condensed milk. You could tell they really cared about their coffee, which they roasted themselves. 10/10

Chai Latte- A perfect blend of chai, foamy milk & cinnamon. It was the perfect temperature for the brisk weather. It was not as strong as I usually like my chai lattes, but it was still satisfying. 9/10

Lady Lazarus- House made Lavender Syrup, honey, and latte. To my very surprised first sip I couldn’t put it down. It was sweet, while maintaining the classic latte flavor, an excellent pairing exquisitely with the undertones of lavender and honey. It was served hot, but hot enough where I could drink it right away without scalding my mouth.  10/10


The prices were fair, and seemed perfectly in tune with the quality of their coffee. What made this coffee shop all the more better, was how heavily they supported their community. They strive to be an all inclusive environment, hold poetry nights, involved in a literacy, and have provided generous rewards for their loyal customers. 10/10

Overall Sparrows Coffee & Tea- 40/40

PaLatte Coffee & Art 

150 Fulton St. E, Grand Rapids, MI 49503


Parking was horrific, in comparison to the easy calm streets that directed us to Sparrows. In the midst of a busy intersection, and surrounded by private parking lots. Making continuous round trips around the block attempting to get a decent spot and make it to our meeting on time. Luckily for us on our millionth trip we were able to snag a meter…I’d start saving change now. 3/10


After about 10 minutes of struggling to find parking, entering Pa Latte was a confusing experience. From the outside, the sign and windows, gave off a chic vibe, I expected in to be replicated off of a French bakery. Strangely though, the inside was quite the opposite. The walls covered in a jungle of different art styles, but the counter and seating nodded towards more modern characteristics. The walls were lined with a variety of art, all different styles and mediums. Supporting local artists is one of the main missions of this shop, featuring Art Prize artists as well as some pieces that they created themselves. Being a family owned business, one may assume it would have the similar community emphasis as other shops, but unfortunately that aspect lacked. It was not a super welcoming environment. We felt as though we were a bit of a burden. Perhaps a small group of teenagers was unexpected on this day!  6/10


They are known for their latte art, which is impressive. They have a small selection of drinks, that aren’t updated with the seasons. They have uncommon drinks, you may have not heard of before, but they also have drinks you are familiar with. Perhaps they should take a break from the art, and work on the appeals of the flavors.

Latte- I had ordered a Chai Latte- but they got my order wrong and did not correct it when I asked. I still appreciated the Latte art and it was something really unique. I was not a fan of the latte as it was a bit flavorless. For the latte art I give it a 5/10

Vanilla Gothic- The Vanilla Gothic is a seasonal drink featuring activated charcoal, black sugar, vanilla, and of course latte. The drink came out hot and with an amazing design on the top, a white spiral arising from the black, opaque liquid that it laid on top of. As I carried it to the table I feared spilling. I kept picturing the scalding, black liquid spilling over the edge and burning my finger, leading to a catastrophic disaster including me dropping the cup altogether, recreating an oil spill. I made it to the table and I took my first sip. It was sweet, sickly sweet. It lacked the tones of coffee, that coffee should probably have.  4/10

Purple Rain- The purple rain drink tasted like a classic latte with hints of lavender. It was a bit too sweet for me, but would be perfect for lovers of sweet coffee. The barista clearly was very experienced with latte art. The coffee at PaLatte was the most visually pleasing. 8/10


The drink I ordered was $5.30. This is a decently priced drink, but I felt more reluctant to pay this fee, as my eyes skimmed over their store-bought syrups and flavors. This led me to ponder the thought: am I paying for the art? Or the coffee? 2/10

Overall PaLatte Coffee & Art– 18/40

Roots Brew Shop 

600 7th St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504


One word; Amazing. Perched on the side of a calm street is the amazing and open space that is Roots Brew Shop. It has a large, public parking lot, as well as free parking all around the block. So thank you Roots, for making our lives easier. 10/10


Playing off of the inviting atmosphere of Sparrow’s and the modern vibe of PaLatté, Roots is an open space, illustrating a more industrial vibe, while continuing with softer eclectic tones. The environment was welcoming, and it was a new, refreshing space, unlike any before. Their menu featured, root beer on tap, creative coffee drinks, bagels, homemade cream cheese, gluten-free and vegan pastries, and every Saturday they serve waffles. There was something for everyone at Root’s, whether it be a drink, food item, board game, printer access, or an Art Prize piece to look at. The baristas were kind and obviously cared about their jobs, the quality of their coffee, and their customers. Quite honestly, I had the best cappuccino I’ve had at Roots. The wait for drinks took a few minutes, but it was worth it. Perfect milk texture, excellent espresso, and good latte art, I was positive I would be back. This business is invested in their community, and display what Grand Rapids is all about.  12/10


They have a wide variety of drinks, changing seasonally. They only hire people who are passionate about good, quality beverages. So, you are guaranteed a beverage worth your money. The baristas get to know you and your order.  10/10

Chai Latte- THIS CHAI LATTE WAS INCREDIBLE. The best I have ever had. It was perfection. I am not even sure how to describe how wonderful it was. 13/10

Vanilla Mint Tea- Venturing out of the Coffee zone, I went out on a Limb and tried the Vanilla Mint tea. It came in a personal steeping contraption which the barista warmly taught me how to use. It came with honey, and it was extremely hot. But this was one of the most amazing teas I’ve ever had. It was so rich in flavor and all around perfect. They also have bagels and homemade cream cheese. This shop is chock-full of surprising and outstanding products. 10/10


The price for the quality of coffee, the location, and the welcoming environment of the staff it was a perfect price. They support local businesses and sell quality products. For that, I would give their prices a 10/10

In all, we thank these businesses for answering our questions and giving us their time. Our personal favorite was, Roots Brew Shop, and we highly suggest visiting this shop. The next time you have time, or need a quiet place to study, head to a locally owned coffee shop & support Grand Rapids businesses!


  1. Kestrel B. Kestrel B.

    I enjoyed reading this. As a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur myself I am always seeking out others who share my zeal of the savory liquid.
    Your reviews are reflective of my own opinions (especially that of atmosphere, a crucial part of a true coffee experience) and are well in depth. Perhaps the next review you do you might want to consider location of the shops (I know that Roots Brew Shop is rather far from most people in/near Ada), the sophistication of the menu (can you get an affagato? I highly suggest it), tea selection, as well as a column on the popular brew methods utilized in each shop (for those of us seeking the elusive chimex), the source of the beans (single? blends? how fresh are the beans?), and the quality of the black coffees.
    Overall, though, this is very well done! A perfect guide for the less coffee-snobbish student looking for a study haven. If I had to suggest more coffee shops for you to review (and I have many) these are some top pics: Bitter End, MadCap (both downtown and Fulton locations), Rowster and Rowing Club, Lantern, Common Ground, Squibbs, Ferris Coffee (by the YMCA), Kava Kasa, Mayan Buzz (fantastic poetry nights on Thursdays), and Global Infusion.
    I look forward to your next review!

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