Nothing Uncommon About Uncommon Grounds

A name change is in store for this coffee shop.

Story and photos by Priscila Ortiz

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Uncommon Ground's international coffee bean bags.

A six-foot-tall coffee roaster. Coffee bean bags with Guatamala, Mexico, and Costa Rica stamped on them. Upon seeing these, I figured stepping into Uncommon Grounds would be a brand new cultural experience. Little did I know, there was nothing uncommon about this coffee shop.

Uncommon Grounds has a laid-back atmosphere. I arrived around 5 p.m. on a Saturday. It had only a few customers inside, despite the fact that it’s located on the usually busy Church Street in Burlington, Vt. With dim lights, soft rock music playing over the speakers, and the smell of coffee wafting through the air, Uncommon Grounds is your typical coffee place. The entire establishment is shaped like a long, wide hallway. The tables and chairs went straight down the room and were grouped closely together. They looked like what you would commonly find in a pizzeria; plain and wooden with clear plastic draped over the tables. The varieties of coffee are written on a chalk board behind the register. Below the chalk board are the coffee beans available for the day.

The one thing that sets Uncommon Grounds apart is they sell a variety of international coffee beans. All the coffee canisters were fairly full, aside from Mexican Organic and Costa Rica la Minita. I took the boring route and settled on a caramel cappuccino. I had arrived with two friends, Wander and Emerson. They both ordered lattes, one hot, one iced.

While waiting for our orders, I noticed a small sign resting on a jar by the register. It read, “Support counter intelligence.” Wait for it. Got it? I got a chuckle as well. Behind the counter, the employees were all white men around their 20s. Maybe it was a tough day, but it wouldn’t hurt them to crack a smile. I asked if the coffee bean bags grouped in a corner were filled with real beans or if they were just for decoration. The barista said they were filled with beans and gave me a look that made me think there would be more than just caramel in my cappuccino. But I was wrong! He forgot to add the caramel.

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Wander enjoying his latte.
We sat down at the tables, and I took in the décor. Beside us, rows of black and white photographs covered the wall. There wasn’t a particular theme. There was a woman smiling, a coffee table with books on it and a bunch of other random randoms in the photos. To our left, there was the “dish return”. There was a designated spot on the counter where you leave your used cups. The only problem was it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in quite some time. There were about nine cups, a plate with a half-eaten piece of cake, and a few flies buzzing around.

But back to the coffee! My caramel cappuccino was foamy, creamy and only needed a bit of sugar added. I was pleased. Wander and Emerson, on the other hand, were anything but satisfied, and rightfully so. Wander’s iced latte was too bitter, and Emerson’s hot latte was flavorless and had a watery taste.

When it comes down to it, Uncommon Grounds is a decent coffee shop, but it’s nothing spectacular. I suggest a name change.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.


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