Right along the Indiana Toll Road corridor, this chain of South Bend-based chocolate and coffee shops brings to the table a variety of candies and coffee beans which can be found in 20 corporate- or franchise-owned shops, as well as a number of other local markets and grocers. Founded in 1991 making chocolates under a license from the University of Notre Dame, this brand has expanded substantially to specialty chocolate stores and quick-stop coffee shops alike. For its range of products, though, I wonder if it needs to re-evaluate that stance.
The coffee side of things is my main gripe, and the coffee side of the business seems to be the most important. The plain coffee is weak and very bland. It’s hot, but it really lacks a distinct flavor. Sometimes coffee shops prefer to make their plain, black coffee bland in order to satisfy customers who just want caffeine, but I don’t think this coffee is strong in that, either. The end result is coffee that in spite of its preparation tastes indistinguishable from something instant. Unfortunately, that sets up a bad template which becomes an issue in the other drinks. The Americano and the latte, for instance, have the same sort of bland, watery texture that really detracts from their preparation methods.
Compounding the problem are a few indications of sloppy operations. Do you want coffee with cream? Well there will be room for cream either way…up to a fourth of the cup, actually. Also, the cream provided on my visit was close to going bad. It was warm and had clearly been out for far too long. I’m honestly worried that it might have been bad.
There are chocolates of all kinds. Chocolate covered nuts and chocolate covered coffee beans, malted milk balls and Michigan cherries. They sell fine chocolates by the pound, including toffees, caramels, citrus peels and chocolate covered Oreos. The specialty here seems to be dipping anything and everything in chocolate, which is just fine. I’ll grant that I’ve never been to one of the corporate locations, but if the chocolate was the primary draw of this place then it would fare much better. It should not have locations like this one that specialize in coffee, because the coffee just doesn’t measure up.
I’ll admit that I hope I’m mistaken here; South Bend has the potential to be good, but it just does not need to be marketing itself as a coffee shop. I hope the other locations are better about this. While I’ll consider giving another location a chance in the future, this one has definitely driven me away.
- I really can’t recommend the coffee, it really isn’t good, and there are plenty of better options in the area.
- As for the chocolate, there are corporate gift options and plenty of ways to give it as a present.
- If you see the chance to try the shop as an express coffee place, don’t do it. It simply does not belong.