As we head into the last stretch of the semester and dreaded finals, it’s easy to find ourselves sleep-deprived and overcaffeinated. With the recent arrival of Romeo’s Coffee on Telegraph Avenue, however, there is yet another spot to fuel your day. Inspired by the previous Shakespeare & Co. bookstore that inhabited this very spot, new owner Dino Micheletti decided on the name: “Romeo’s.”
Created to be an ode to “lovers of coffee,” this newest addition to Berkeley’s coffee scene is entirely centered on the theme of love. From the drinks, which include “Love Potions,” to the lips featured on each cup, or even the Hershey’s kiss that accompanies every order, Romeo’s is serious about its theme and truly sticks to it.
While Romeo’s only opened in early April, it has caused quite the stir. When I arrived a mere hour before close, this spot was filled with locals and students alike. The space, however, feels very different from a traditional coffee shop.
Unlike the homey Strada or the minimalist Blue Bottle Coffee, Romeo’s sits somewhere in the middle. The low seats and dark wood create a loungelike vibe, but the vast windows allow natural sun to peek in, which makes the space feel vibrant and clean. Perhaps it’s the newness of it all, or maybe it’s the jazz on repeat, but Romeo’s felt like a mix between an art exhibit and a hotel lobby. Nonetheless, Romeo’s offers extensive study space and is clearly meant to cater to students.
My favorite component of this spot, however, is the fact that it offers both an espresso bar and a pour-over station. The espresso bar’s menu is predominately Romeo’s “Love Potions,” or massive iced coffee drinks, all of which are 24 ounces (for reference, that’s the size of a medium Jamba Juice smoothie). These drinks, from Lover’s Sin to Divine Intervention, feature double shot espresso mixed with a variety of flavored syrups and milk to create sweet coffee concoctions. Always served with whip and a Hershey’s kiss, these were reminiscent of the very sweet but entirely customizable drinks Starbucks offers.
If you’re a coffee purist like myself, stay away from these. I tried the Love Potion #9, a hazelnut- and vanilla-infused drink, which also happens to be the café’s most popular “potion.” To me, it was incredibly sweet, and because of the layers of artificial-tasting syrup, it was difficult to truly taste the coffee itself. There are, however, other options within the espresso bar, such as the more traditional latte or cappuccino options.
On the other hand, there is Romeo’s pour-over bar. Personally, I love the ability to select my own coffee type based on note and preference, so this was definitely my favorite part. With each order individually prepared, the true flavor of the bean is clear in each sip, without the additional bitterness found in some house brews. Even better, Romeo’s offers a rank system, from one to three kisses, that allows you to choose your level of caffeine. From the list, I tried the Wicked Ways, a three-kiss option that features syrup, hazelnut and cedar notes. Overall, it was solid, but it didn’t particularly blow me away. I do think, however, that the pour-over bar allows more flexibility, which I can definitely appreciate.
Ultimately, Romeo’s is an experience. In my opinion, the super-strict adherence to theme was too much, and the coffee didn’t really make up for it. Essentially a local Starbucks with pour-over, Romeo’s will not become my usual spot. If you’re all about sweet coffee drinks and love cutesy themes, however, this may be the perfect place for you. This is definitely an experience you need to have for yourself. So next time you’re in the mood for an extra kick of caffeine or a sweet treat, stop by!