Emily McCaul, assistant lifestyles editor | The Collegiate Times

We first discussed the prospect of a road trip over coffee at Bollo’s one morning, one of Blacksburg’s local cafes. Warm house mugs in hand, we sat together at the small wooden table by the window, looking at his phone screen. The road trip had been planned entirely around coffee.

As we scrolled through pictures of his road trip through North Carolina the previous semester, a thought occurred to me: Why had I not done this yet?

Each stop made was to visit a local, famous or crowded coffee shop in the neighboring state. I took quickly to the posh, floor-to-ceiling windows, latte art and brimming barista counters — all strong focal points of the iPhone snapshots.

With each new picture came discussion, and questions on my end, over recommendations, architecture, blackboard menus and dangling lights, coffee bars, prices, flavors, and of course, favorite memories from his three-day excursion.

By the end of the morning, I had successfully finished two mugs of black coffee and subconsciously mapped out three coffee houses to travel to. I had planned my road trip around three budding cities (all close to home): Roanoke, Christiansburg and Blacksburg.

Of course, I didn’t have half a week to spare for travel, so this was to be a one-day outing — which proved to work in our favor. With less time to travel came more urgency to drive, park and explore the area. Rich-colored walls and worn couch cushions became familiar sights, beckoning us throughout the day to settle in for a while.

My three stops of choice? After loading up our Honda Fit, two college kids’ pocket change in tow, we made our way to Land of a Thousand Hills of Daleville, Virginia, Sweet Donkey Coffee House of Roanoke, Virginia, and Lucie Monroe’s of Christiansburg, Virginia.

Keeping in theme with the humid summer weather, we stayed away from any traditional, hot coffees, springing for iced espresso drinks instead. Our first stop of the day was Sweet Donkey Coffee House.

Sweet Donkey Coffee House — Roanoke, Virginia

An iced-caramel latte from Sweet Donkey Coffee House of Roanoke, Va.
An iced-caramel latte from Sweet Donkey Coffee House of Roanoke, Va.

What we ordered: An iced-caramel latte.

Atmosphere: The Sweet Donkey Coffee House is quite literally — a house. Originally built in 1922, the renovated space is bright, modern and inviting. Each room of the home provides unique seating options and wall colors. From booths and couches, to window bars and traditional coffee tables — there is something for everyone. Customers can even sip espresso on the front porch or lawn. The space is functional, light and very much ‘homey.’

Sweet Donkey is great for: Conversation.The plethora of seating options allows for plenty of space to be placed between you and the other coffee-goers. Enjoy talking with your coffee partner freely here; you won’t need to worry about a lack of privacy or accidently laughing too loud.

Something to be aware of: The designated parking lot is on the smaller side and can be difficult to back out of if you’re in a larger vehicle. However, street parking is available alongside the building, as are other public parking lots.

Drink rating: I give the iced-caramel latte a 4/5. Iced-caramel lattes and macchiatos are my go-to drinks, so as one can imagine, I’ve tried quite a few. This iced-caramel latte had a rich, darker taste to it, full-bodied with a subdued, sweet caramel aftertaste — very enjoyable. Sweet Donkey is known for brewing exceptional coffee, having partnered with Counter Culture Coffee; they provide a large selection of both hot and iced drinks, as well as home-made treats.

Overall star rating: 4.75/5 stars.

Land of a Thousand Hills — Daleville, Virginia

A finished glass of the iced-raspberry mocha from Land of a Thousand Hills in Daleville, Va.
A finished glass of the iced-raspberry mocha from Land of a Thousand Hills in Daleville, Va.

What we ordered: An iced-raspberry mocha.

Atmosphere: The walls bear both bright and warm colors. The even mix of light and dark hues compliment the textured stone fireplace well, creating an inviting, breathable atmosphere. Additional modern touches include white, suspended ceiling tiles, coffee mug lights and local art pieces, all which draw the eye up and complete the space.

Land of a Thousand Hills of Daleville, Va.
Land of a Thousand Hills of Daleville, Va.

Land of a Thousand Hills is great for: Working. The space is quiet and cozy, perfect for getting last-minute assignments done, going over emails, or just journaling. The space is calm, collected and organized, not in the least bit disruptive.

Something to be aware of: Some of the drinks run on the pricier side; however, the company is partnered with farmers and local community leaders of Rwanda, offering support and healing for their community after the 1994 genocide. So although you may pay a bit more for your cup of coffee, the money goes to an incredible and positive cause.

Drink rating: I give the iced-raspberry mocha a 4/5. The flavor combination was unique for coffee. I had never tried anything like it previously, though I have to say, the raspberry mocha was presently surprising. Simply put, the quality was just there: refreshing, enjoyable and well-crafted.

Overall star rating: 4.5/5 stars.

Lucie Monroe’s — Christiansburg, Virginia

An affogato from Lucie Monroe's of Christiansburg, Va.
An affogato from Lucie Monroe’s of Christiansburg, Va.

What we ordered: An affogato and a mocha frappe.

Atmosphere: Lucie’s is the hidden gem of Christiansburg. From the outside, it does not appear to be your typical, hole-in-the-wall coffee shop; instead, it resembles more of a bistro or office building. However, the inside of the shop screams coffee vibes. The cafe has a lot of space, adorned with several designated rooms to sit and sip your coffee comfortably. Couches, fireplaces, board games and books lay peppered throughout the inviting space, while warm-colored walls draw coffee-drinkers in to stay.

Lucie’s is great for: Gathering. The space is perfect for an afternoon with your study group or a morning out with friends. The space is inviting, lofty and appreciatively structured. One could comfortably gather six to seven in the ‘living room’ space just off the ordering station. Seating is abundant, and for organized events, Lucie’s also provides a separate conference room.

Something to be aware of: Although the exterior may leave you scratching your head, asking if the establishment is really a coffee shop — make sure to go in first. It is a bit confusing, however, the indoor atmosphere is incredibly inviting, distinguished and warm, as is the coffee.

Drink rating: I give the affogato a 5/5 and the mocha frappe a 6/5. An affogato (for those similar to myself and initially unaware of the term), is ice cream topped with shots of hot espresso. Let me just say, don’t knock it until you try it. This treat is simple, surprising, and thanks to Lucie’s espresso, incredibly good. I give this drink a 5/5. The mocha frappe, a cool and blended drink, carried a perfect consistency — and the flavor? All I can say is, go, and try it. The mocha is superb, standing strong amid the rich, fresh aroma of chocolate is the craveable coffee punch after each sip. The mocha frappe receives a 6/5, because yes, it is that good.

Overall star rating: 5/5 stars.

I would classify our trip as both a success and a great memory. Coffee is fairly inexpensive in comparison to sit-down meals and movies, making it a great middle-ground for affordable meetups with friends, classmates and family. So if you’re looking for something fun, a little bit different, and thoroughly caffeinating to do this weekend — why not take a road trip?

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