Review: Staying caffienated in McHenry County

Forget Starbucks — these local coffee shops have plenty to offer to those looking for creative drinks and ambiance


Elle Smith

The counter at Grounds Cafe in Crystal Lake displays the variety of food and drinks they serve, including Nutella lattes, bubble tea, and vegan pastries.

Elle Smith, Staff Writer

Coffee is a thriving industry, especially among young hipsters who find their home in the aesthetically pleasing coffee shops filled with string lights and indoor plants, that have popped up all over the USA. Maybe it’s because of the aesthetic itself, or possibly the modern, eco-friendly and vegan options. Or it’s simply because there’s nothing like a good old cup o’ joe to get you through a long work day. Regardless of why coffee culture has blown up the past few decades, here are some of the best in the McHenry Area to try.

The first one is Conscious Cup in Crystal Lake, which offers handcrafted lattes with beautiful latte art, well priced paninis, muffins, and a big selection of iced coffees. The drinks have natural ingredients such as lavender, honey, and raspberry, which have a sophisticated and uncommon taste. Inside the brightly lit cafe is a large sitting area with colorful art that’s strategically placed to highlight the welcoming interior. There are many pretty light fixtures scattered around, and  plenty of furniture in the spacious sitting area. Natural lights stream in from large windows. Everywhere you look there are people visiting, working, and sipping. In general, the environment is cheerful, bright, and comfortable. Here, I tried the Raspberry Mocha latte which was light and delightful. The drink, according to staff, is one of their signature lattes. The latte art was beautiful, and it was definitely a “feel good” drink: comfortable, not too hot, with subtle hints of raspberry. Although helpful, the staff did not seem extremely friendly, which is typically uncommon in coffee shops, but despite this, the visit was overall really enjoyable. 

The next coffee shop is Grounds Cafe, also located in Crystal Lake. When first walking in Grounds Cafe, you are welcomed by soft lighting, friendly staff, and a chalkboard menu hung from the wall. The shop offers unique drinks with natural ingredients. With big wooden tables, plants, modern light fixtures, and cozy couches, one could simply stay in that cafe for hours. It is comfortable and the type of place any student could easily take their laptop and finish homework, or start a good book to settle down with. Then there is Green Tea Matcha Bubble Tea, and it was legit. This frozen drink has lots of boba, or tapioca balls (a type of popping jelly), which is a Taiwanese-based drink. The green tea was pleasant and not overwhelming. The only complaint is the drink was a bit pricey but  this is typical for most bubble tea shops. The drink was very good and the atmosphere was wonderful. I will definitely be visiting again. 

The last coffee shop was Ethereal Confections in Woodstock. The best thing about this shop is the welcoming smell of warm, fresh hot chocolate. Words cannot describe its smell; you just have to experience this yourself. Once inside the shop, you are greeted by glass displays filled with chocolates, cookies, and other sweets. Filled with dim lights, burgundy walls, and natural light coming in from a few windows. This beautiful shop is the perfect spot for a date, visiting friends, or even just a quiet place to stop and chill. The frozen rose gold mocha latte was delicious. My only regret was trying it frozen because although delicious, it probably would have been even better warm. Regardless, the taste of rose, and hints of chocolate and honey blended together well to make a delicious and sweet drink. The drink was priced a little higher, at around six dollars, yet it was very worth it and I really enjoyed this drink. 

There are some coffee shops which are definitely worth giving a try in McHenry County, and it is always important to support local brands as opposed to larger corporations. This pays off because all the local shops were absolutely delightful.