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Trials and Tribulations of the Vanilla Iced Latte

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USFSP chapter.

On the road to finding my perfect drink, I tried many coffee shops in the St. Pete area so you can skip the search, and get straight to the good stuff. Everyone who knows me knows I drink an iced latte with vanilla and oat milk. Without fail, it’s been my go-to ever since I started drinking coffee at 16. On rare occasions, I’ll switch up my order to include having a little match lemonade, but I will always come back to my tried and true. While trying not to sound like a coffee snob (I promise I’m not!) the vanilla iced latte truly is a timeless classic that combines the boldness of espresso with the delicate sweetness of the vanilla. 

In St. Pete, there is quite a large coffee scene with seemingly endless amounts of locally owned coffee shops to visit. There’s one for every preference you may have. There’s Seven C Music and Coffee, which sells guitars along with anything else you would want at a coffee shop, and Patrona Coastal Cafe which is right on the shore of Tampa Bay where you can also launch kayaks and paddle boards from. While all unique in their own right, the vanilla latte varies from less-than-stellar to delicious. 

As a treat enjoyer, I have become familiar with the best iced vanilla lattes in the area. In all honesty, the perfect vanilla iced latte is both refreshing and comforting. It is sweet, but not overly sweet that it hides the taste of the espresso, the espresso must have a good taste to it (not too acidic or burnt), and finally, it shouldn’t be watery. Nobody wants to be drinking dirty bean water, so finding the perfect vanilla latte is very important to me. The coffee gets bonus points if it’s in a cute location with eco-friendly dishes and cups. So here are my top five spots! 

The Blend Coffee & Cocktails

This one is my go-to before a trip to the thrift stores. I frequent the one off of US-19, right in between Goodwill and Sunshine Thrift. This location has both a dine-in and a drive-thru. Their vanilla latte is sweet and refreshing. Along with having a tasty vanilla iced latte, they have plenty of comfy seats to hang out at and some tables to get work done. Something distinctive that they offer are coffee flights. Throughout the seasons they have different coffee flights where you can try four different coffee concoctions. They also have a few sister stores scattered throughout St. Pete, including one that you can take the SunRunner to!   

Bad Mother

This one is a recent addition to my list. Walking distance from campus, this coffee is located inside of a co-work space. They use house-made syrups that elevate the taste of the latte. They have unique roasts of their espresso beans which are in constant rotation, featuring different local coffee roasters. The menu itself looks a little sparse, but they have a range of espresso drinks, teas, and pour-overs. With their pour-overs, the baristas make it fresh in front of you, which makes for a cool experience.  

Grove Surf + Coffee

Grove is my favorite to study at. During the summer months, I get their matcha lemonade, but during the rest of the year, their vanilla latte is quite good. Their latte is sweet but not overly so, allowing the taste of the coffee and vanilla flavors to shine through. Being inside of a surf shop, they have an aesthetic that I will spend my whole life trying to pursue. I love how they have the option to have your drinks in a glass rather than in a disposable plastic cup. Drinking in a cute cup can make anything taste a hundred times better.  

The Library

This is also a good stop. Located in John Hopkin’s Children’s Hospital and inspired by George Peabody’s library, this restaurant has both gorgeous decoration and food. Whenever my family comes into town, we try to go to brunch there. I always feel fancy when I’m sipping my vanilla latte surrounded by bookshelves. The coffee itself is locally sourced, from Buddy Brew in Tampa, and it is sweet and aromatic, perfectly complimenting the cinnamon roll that I usually get. They also have a monthly book club!  

Crislip Cafe

My favorite spot has to be the Crislip Cafe off of Central Avenue in downtown. This spot is an absolute gem, stowed behind an eclectic shop full of local vendors. They have many specialty drinks on their menu which is great (for someone else of course). Their vanilla latte is creamy, smooth, and sweet. They perfectly balance the sweetness of the vanilla, the bitterness of the espresso, and the creaminess of the milk. I tend to stop by when I’ve finished with classes for the day and need a little pick-me-up.  They ethically source their coffee and carry local bakers while holding space for local artists. I always enjoy the atmosphere while I am sipping my silly little drink. They are also dog friendly so I try to bring my dog along with me so she gets some treats too.  

The vanilla latte is the perfect companion to spend the afternoon at a coffee shop with. The right set of ingredients can make this drink amazing. Next time you’re craving a sweet treat, be sure to give any of these places a shot and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.  

I am a Sustainability Studies Major with a minor in Biology, currently doing my third year here at USF. I enjoy writing articles about the things that consume my thoughts. In my free time I typically can be found paddleboarding or hanging out with my dog.