I found myself in Fort Collins one night not too long ago, far from home yet completely lacking the energy I needed to make the drive back. Luckily, right downtown is a little coffee shop called Starry Night, so I decided to stop by quickly for a drink before hopping in my car.
The first glaringly obvious thing you notice when you walk in the door is the hip, minimal, modern chic look they’ve got going on. So many coffee shops tend to go for a cluttered, lived in vibe with decorations covering nearly every surface possible and old, mismatched furniture scattered throughout the room. But not this place. The walls are mostly bare, save for a few posters promoting their Chai for Change program (20% of sales benefit local causes) and Cupcakes & Cruisers (a weekly meetup on Thursdays encouraging people to ride their bikes to work), one or two other inconspicuous decorations scattered about, and hanging from the ceiling is a seemingly random chandelier made of antlers.
Stepping through the door off College Ave. is a little bit jarring as there really isn’t any transition from the busy, crowded street to the quiet, bare room. I stepped up to the counter, not really knowing what I wanted, so I decided to leave my fate up to the gods, or, in other words, the barista. He recommended to me a Cuban Cortado, a simple drink made with espresso, a splash of foamed milk, sugar, and cinnamon.
What I really liked about the drink was that the cinnamon tended to float near the top of the foam and, while it wasn’t enough to make the drink spicy by any means, it added just a little bit of warmth to it. The entire drink went down smoothly without even a hint of bitterness, just rich, creamy espresso. Most of the sugar separated out and fell to the bottom of the glass, giving the drink a sweet, dessert-like finish. It all came together as one great medley which eases you from the initial, light coffee and mostly creamy beginning, into a rich, dark espresso, and ending with that last sugary sip.
I was pleasantly surprised by how good this drink was, to say the least. But, it’s proof that good things don’t need to be complicated. Just a few simple ingredients, layered the right way packed three distinct flavors into one tiny glass of coffee. In hindsight, this drink is truly representative of the cafe as a whole: it seems deceivingly simple, but there’s more to it than first meets the eye.
I have to admit that when I first walked in, I briefly considered turning around and heading straight back out, but, severely lacking in my daily caffeine intake, I decided not to. And I’m glad that I didn’t. The more I think about it, the more I realize that one simple drink reminded me of everything that coffee can be. I started drinking coffee when I was about seven and I started drinking it black when I was about 10. I’ve had good lattes, macchiatos, cappuccinos, and everything in between in that time, but this is the first time in a long time that I’ve found a new drink that I truly enjoyed more than plain, black coffee. It tasted amazing and gave me the burst of energy that I needed to make that car ride back home. I’ll have to go back to try some more drinks off their menu, but in the meantime, I highly recommend the Cuban Cortado. 10/10.