It’s summer and it’s gorgeous outside, so as much as I want to lounge around in the comfort of air conditioning, I think it’s good to get out of my apartment at least once in a while. The happy medium between the sun beating down my neck or freezing in my air conditioned apartment is staying cool in cafés with ice-cold drinks. A lot of places also have summer drinks specifically designed to pair well with this Midwest heat. There are so many different cafés and bubble tea places to choose from, so it was a little hard to narrow it down to just five.
A place you can find all over Champaign-Urbana is Espresso Royale. It has a special summer drinks menu, and I ordered a medium dreamsicle soda ($3.32). It’s essentially a French soda, which is club soda or seltzer mixed with a flavored syrup and either milk or cream. In this case, the flavoring was orange and vanilla. This is definitely the cheapest drink on the list, so if you’re on a budget, check this one out. As a kid who grew up ordering creamsicles from ice cream trucks, this drink took me right back with its nostalgic flavor. It’s not overly sweet, but the orange and vanilla flavor works really well in a creamy French soda. The flavor combined with the fizziness feels like summer in a drink.
I also visited Taipei Cafe. It’s a smaller bubble tea place and feels very cozy. Instead of getting my usual milk tea, I went for a medium lychee smoothie with grass jelly ($5.18). Getting a smoothie is nice because it’s blended with ice, so it’ll cool you down quickly. This smoothie is definitely for people with more of a sweet tooth. The lychee flavor is very strong, which I liked, but after a bit it was too sweet for me, almost like lychee candy in a drink. I enjoyed the grass jelly, which has a pretty mild taste and pairs well with a lot of drinks.
At Flying Machine Avionics, I tried the mikado ($5.25). It’s a white peach tea with lime and cherry juice. The citrus taste made it very summery and refreshing. I’m a huge fan of sour flavors, so I really liked drinking this. The white peach tea works really well with the citrus and it’s a nice change of pace from classic iced tea.
After trying the dreamsicle, I was hooked onto French sodas, so when I went to Café Kopi, I ordered a medium French soda with the desert pear and hibiscus syrups ($3.45). In my opinion this is one of the prettiest drinks I’ve ever seen — I love the lavender color. This might also be my favorite drink that I tried. It’s creamy and the pear and hibiscus pair really well with it. The drink is very light and I really like having fizzy drinks in the summer.
Finally, I went to Bossa Nova Café and got a medium iced vanilla latte with whipped cream ($4.83). To me, an iced vanilla latte is a classic summer drink. I have it all the time and this did not disappoint. The coffee itself is really good, but with the vanilla and whipped cream, it feels a little extra special. Also, this whipped cream is literally the crème de la crème. It’s made in house and is mixed with espresso and vanilla. Delicious.
There are so many times when I walk in somewhere thinking, “This time, I’m going to try something new,” and end up ordering the same drink I always get. This was a really good way to get out of my comfort zone and finally order something other than an iced coffee from Starbucks. French sodas might be my new favorite thing now. Or it might be the whipped cream from Bossa Nova. Check out some of these drinks and maybe try others off the summer menus.
Photos by Anusha Bansal