Top 5 coffee shops to study in

Amy Swanson, Staff Reporter

Studying in the same old places can put you in a rut.

With the new semester approaching, now is the perfect time to explore different coffee shops around metro Detroit.

So, instead of going to a large chain, check out these five local businesses for your next caffeine-fueled work session.


Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters

336 S. Main St., Rochester, MI 48307

Monday-Thursday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 7 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A short drive from Oakland University, this joint is in the heart of downtown Rochester.

From the rich, dark wood floors to brick walls adorned with local art, this shop has a warm, cozy feel, perfect for these brutal winter months.

It carries beverages such as pour-over coffee and a full espresso menu, as well as a wide selection of pastries and desserts, baked in-house daily. Their specialties include gourmet cheesecakes, perfect to split or to devour before your partner can reach for their fork.

One loyal customer is OU student Rachel Williams, whose father is a manager at the Rochester location and co-owner of the newly-opened spot in downtown Detroit.

“Dessert Oasis definitely has a different atmosphere than chain coffee shops,” she said. “It’s very comfortable and welcoming and has live entertainment every night.”

This entertainment includes local artists and provides great ambiance. The café focuses on not only providing delicious products, but also strives to build its community and relationships, according to its website.

With large, comfy couches and plenty of tables, it’s a great place for students to catch up with others or spread out and get work done.

Because of the popular entertainment, it may be best to avoid going late nights and weekends if looking for a quiet place to focus.

Still, there is an upstairs and downstairs that could provide a better study space.

Must-try: According to Williams, the coconut latte is uniquely delicious. Another favorite is the Almond Joy latte, which tastes identical to the classic candy bar.


Svenska Cafe

930 E. Maple, Birmingham, MI 48009

Monday-Tuesday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday closed

Transport yourself to a Scandinavian café without the hassle of airport security.

Svenska just opened to the public in mid-September and is owned by Christina Bakalis, originally from Gothenburg, Sweden.

The space’s design is modern, clean and illuminated by large walls of windows. Thoughtful touches like a small, simple candle on each table really set the place apart from larger chains.

Bakalis strove to keep the place as authentic as possible. In fact, Bohdanna Cherstylo, the photographer for this story, said it reminded her of cafés she went to growing up in Ukraine.

Its menu offers what one would find in a typical Swedish cafe.

Among its drinks is brewed coffee using Ferris Coffee & Nut, a Grand Rapids brand that reminded Bakalis of the bean used in Sweden.

The café also carries traditional sandwiches and salads. Some of its most popular items are the Rökt Lax, which is a smoked salmon sandwich, as well as homemade Swedish meatballs.

And if a customer is looking for something sweet, there is a variety of pastries made fresh daily by two bakers. This includes Kanelbulle, or cinnamon rolls, that are a part of the Swedish culture.

Svenska believes the café is about more than just grabbing a coffee.

Employee Aleksandra Syljebeck, an OU alumna, said many students come and make themselves at home when they’re studying.

“We want people to stay with us for a while,” she said. “Unlike Starbucks, where you get your drink and leave, we love talking to people who are curious about our culture.”

The business has also gotten the attention of some high-profile customers, as Swedish Red Wings players and their families have stopped in.

Must-try: In addition to the company’s popular lattes, Bakalis recommended their top-selling dessert called Beskvi, which is a pastry with chocolate almond paste.


Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company

4135 Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301

Monday-Thursday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

This hidden gem, located inside The Maple Theater, is a sort of franchise to other Great Lakes Coffee shops in Midtown and the Cobo Center.

The company’s wide selection of coffee includes cups brewed manually or on the custom-built pourover rail. All of its syrups are made by hand.

The café’s counter is situated alongside a full liquor bar, perfect for a boozy break from studying. A restaurant was also added around a year ago.

“You have everything you need to just sit here and cram for quite some time,” barista Landis Spencer said.

The place has an industrial vibe, but is still comfortable, with reclaimed wood floors and a glowing fireplace.

Mike Bates, who has been a barista there for over two years, said employees see loads of students at all times. If you want to hunker down and get work done, he suggests coming in between 2 and 5 p.m., as it’s typically not too busy.

“It’s a unique little place with room to sit down and work,” Bates said. “There’s no other business like it around here.”

This location also offers many weekly events.

In addition to the musicians who play on Saturday nights, the café has Quizzo at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. This is a free trivia game where customers can eat, drink and play to win giftcard prizes.

The OU Cinema Club has also taken advantage of Secret Cinema, held at the theater every first and third Thursday of each month. For a flat rate of $6, people arrive to watch a mystery classic film, followed by discussion with a presenter on the historical and cultural context, according to The Maple Theater website.

Must-try: Bates said their quintessential drink would be the honey-lavender latte. However, a runner-up is the chili-Mexican, which uses chocolate, cinnamon-cayenne syrup, espresso and milk.


Atomic Coffee

401 S. Main St., Royal Oak, MI 48067

Monday-Thursday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 7 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Sunday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

What doesn’t this place offer? Customers have plenty of options, including nitro cold brews, pour overs, espressos, teas, raw juices and fresh fruit smoothies, using all house-made syrups. The café also switches it up with seasonal items, currently carrying a bananas foster latte.

In addition to treats from local bakeries, they have an expansive food menu with soups, salads and sandwiches that are all made in-house.

And if you’re an early riser, take advantage of the breakfast special. Order a select breakfast item, like this month’s Monte Cristo sandwich, between 7 and 9 a.m. and get a free cup of coffee.

“Most of the staff has been there since the beginning,” said Evan Kennedy, OU student and employee at the shop. “We have become a family, and Atomic is like a second home to us and our customers.”

The space is sleek and bright, with crisp white-tiled walls and floors. Still, art-deco-style lighting and a fireplace provide cozy warmth.

A sea of laptops and focused, head-phoned customers can be seen working on any given day. Besides the smaller tables and set of couches, a long table near the center of the café gives groups a great spot to collaborate.

Although it’s often packed on the weekends, Kennedy said it’s a great place for college students.

“I actually got all of my studying done there for my finals this semester,” he said. “I have even stopped in with friends on my days off for a latte before going out to the bars.”

Must-try: While Kennedy said all of their signature lattes are awesome, the honey vanilla is his go-to.


The Red Hook

220 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, MI 48220

Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This place was opened by Detroit natives Sandra and Andrew Heaselgrave, who moved back after living in Red Hook, Brooklyn, for 12 years. That’s where they get their coffee, and it’s the only café to carry Stumptown Coffee Roasters, specifically crafted for them every week.

They offer single-origin coffee made to order by cup, as well as cold-pressed coffee and house-made nitro cold brew on tap, according to their website.

Also unique to this café is that it partnered with Pinwheel Bakery. The shop carries some mean pastries, all made by bakers from scratch daily. Behind the glass display case is a treasure trove of goodies, from savory lunch galettes to cakes, pies, shortbreads and French macarons.

Manager Christina Blandford, a graduate of OU, has been working there since day one.

“What sets us apart from other coffee shops is our product and customer service,” she said. “We have a really great team, and in my opinion, the best coffee and pastries in the state!”

The space is intimate and has an eclectic, vintage feel, with potted plants in tin cans and mismatched chairs.

Although the cafe is on the small side, Blandford said daytime during the week would be the best time to find a table for studying.

Red Hook also has another location in the West Village.

Must-try: Aside from the simple pourovers selected from a variety of rotating roasters, Blandford suggested the mocha that uses a chocolate ganache made by bakers and Guernsey’s chocolate milk.