What kind of University of Mary Washington alumna would I be if my first post wasn’t about Hyperion? Don’t be ridiculous.
Hyperion Espresso, in my opinion, is that quintessential college town cafe. In fact, when my brother was visiting me at school once he pointed out that there wasn’t a Starbucks within walking distance of the campus.
I was genuinely confused – “We don’t need a Starbucks,” I said, “We have Hyperion.”
“Well, the college kids in my town live at Starbucks,” he replied.
So sad for them, I thought.
The best thing about Hyperion is that everyone loves it. It’s smack-dab in the middle of downtown, and it’s a standard meeting place for all types. On any given day you’ll see college students hunched over thick text books, mothers grabbing juice boxes for their toddlers and venti coffees for themselves, older folk reading newspapers, high school kids hanging out before an all-ages show, and even the occasional blind date in progress, which I can tell you from experience makes for some very interesting eavesdropping. Many a heart has been broken in Hyperion, and many a romance has been kindled (oh wait, is that just me?)
The second best thing about Hyperion is their baristas. Seriously, these people are more or less my hometown heroes. Somehow they are always cheerful and flawless-looking, despite the fact that they work nearly on top of each other in a sweaty little space with far too many items on which one could possibly burn oneself in order to appease the caffeine-starved masses. My hat is off to you, Hyperion baristas – your cheerfulness has brightened many of my days. Honestly, I think the best sign of a good coffee shop is one that makes you actually want to leave a tip. A real tip, not just the three pennies you got back in change.
Hyperion is in a very old building, the Star Building – when you’re in, be sure to eyeball the hanging photographs of the pharmacy it used to be. Then, take a look around – you can still see some of the original tiling and outline of the cashiers counter. And here’s a little secret – Hyperion has both an upstairs and a basement. The upstairs might be easy to spot, but I challenge you to find the basement ;)
Hyperion has lots of seating – eclectic chairs and tables – but it can get crowded at peak times and during final exams. The yellow table in the back room is my favorite, just for being so stinkin’ cheery. There are two window nooks that can get a bit warm in the direct sunshine but are an absolute delight to cozy up in on overcast, rainy, or snowy days. If you’re studying or looking for a little privacy, you’ll be in the back room. If you’re people watching or don’t mind a little noise, stick to the front room, always fully stocked with newspapers. My secret wish is that the owners will tear out the second coffee counter they have back there and add more seating – but it hasn’t happened in the seven years I’ve been frequenting the place, so who knows. If you have puppies in tow or need a little more Vitamin D, there’s plenty of outdoor seating.
What you’re drinking: Everything is good, but I recommend the double chocolate frozen mocha. It’s got a classic mocha taste with undertones of white chocolate, a substantial, refreshing caffeine fix that you won’t tire of halfway through. You can’t lose with a Monkeylicious, caramel latte, or cafe ole either. Sometime, order a cup of Decaf Dancing Goats just to get a kick out of saying it. For a non-coffee alternative, try a Strawberry Bomb, lilac lemonade, or Italian soda. They highlight seasonal syrups, so be adventurous and try a special – that’s how I discovered the lilac lemonade, which aside from being a lovely shade of purple tastes just like spring.
What you’re eating: Pastries run out so if you want the good stuff get there early. The chocolate croissants are to die for, as are the ham and cheese croissants. The tea cakes are lovely, and if you’re looking for dessert the cookies are always perfect. The cashier will always ask if you want your pastry warmed – and of course you do. The bagels are so-so, but nobody really comes to Hyperion to get a bagel.
What you’re listening to: The buzz of the coffee machines or the chitchat of people around you. Always interesting things to overhear, I promise you.
What you’re reading: Hyperion is the best place to get that bio reading done that you’ve been putting off. You won’t be the only nerd reading a textbook, don’t worry.
What you’re looking at: If you’re from around here, a classmate, coworker, or frenemy you’ve awkwardly run into. No worries, all grudges are healed in the pursuit of good coffee.
Bonuses: clean bathrooms, free ice water, a bike rack outside, and usually a water bowl outside for dogs! They even give out free hot chocolate during the town’s annual Christmas parade – how friendly!
This review was originally posted on my previous blogsite, Coffee Me Happy.