Redhawk Coffee soars above competition


TPN File Photo

Redhawk Coffee owner Braden Walter pours a latte.

By Alexa Marzina, Staff Writer

Considering the quality of its beverages, kindness of its staff and coziness of its atmosphere, there’s no question why students flock to Redhawk Coffee to enjoy some nest-level coffee.

Entering its third year of operation in Oakland, Redhawk serves a clientele of a lot of regulars, especially Pitt students in search of something more than burnt coffee from chains. Sean Bailey, a junior studying computer science and philosophy, finds himself at Redhawk almost every day he comes to campus.

Having a craft coffee shop right on Meyran Avenue beats “trekking down to Lawrenceville to go to Espresso a Mano,” Bailey said.

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Redhawk Coffee won the best coffee shop for 2018. Graphic by Emily Hearty | For The Pitt News

Going to the same place five days a week may seem boring, but not for Bailey. To him, Redhawk has a good atmosphere for doing school work without any of the snobbishness typically associated with specialty coffee shops.

“I’ve never felt like anyone has looked down their nose at me [here],” Bailey said. “It’s very welcoming.”

While the storefront’s size isn’t preferable during the coffee rush hour, being in such close proximity to other guests reinforces togetherness as well as a feeling of community.

Ally Wolf, a barista at Redhawk, started working there in August, and loves the challenge of learning the intricacies of the coffee world and discussing them with patrons.

“You have to learn a lot of things really quickly,” Wolf said. “You don’t wanna be standing around here not knowing what you’re talking about.”

Wolf also loves being part of people’s essential morning ritual of coffee, but said the coffee shop is just as busy throughout the day.

But its cafe location wasn’t always jam-packed. Before it had a brick-and-mortar store, Redhawk existed solely as a food truck. Senior neuroscience major Alex Hauschild’s first encounter with the avian-named coffee shop was at its mobile location on Election Day two years ago outside of Soldiers & Sailors.

He was astonished that not only did he get treated to free coffee for doing his civic duty, it was actually good coffee, and not “watered-down stuff.” He was very excited when Redhawk announced the opening of a permanent Oakland location.

Hauschild thinks, in addition to providing quality coffee, Redhawk creates a tight-knit community out of its regulars.

“In the best of ways, the community is one that the University strives for … to get people conversing about different things,” Hauschild said.

In fact, Hauschild befriended Bailey by coincidence. The two happened to sit at the same table in the cafe one day, sparking a bond and cementing their love for the Redhawk community.

But the good company isn’t the only benefit Redhawk offers. Its coffee menu boasts similar fare to other coffee retailers, but customers appreciate the distinct and nuanced flavor profiles that Bailey says simply can’t happen at high-volume coffee shop chains because of consistency across locations.

“It’s hard to hide bad espresso in a cortado,” Bailey said. He thinks coffee chains like Starbucks seem to burn all of their coffee beans, which contributes to that bitter taste that most people claim to hate in coffee.

Hanging on the wall next to the doodads and equipment used to assemble Redhawk’s tasty beverages is a chart of varying coffee flavor profiles like fruity, tangy and alkaline.

When rattling off their favorite beverage, both Bailey and Hauschild had to list a few, stopping to discuss the subtleties of each. The Ethiopian blend has wonderful hints of almost a peach flavor, according to Hauschild, so drip coffee and specialty espresso drinks both reign supreme over those of chain cafes.

“The mochas here are absolutely killer,” Hauschild said. “It’s like a chocolate milkshake with tiramisu-ness and coffee-ness.”

Unlike most coffee shops, Redhawk doesn’t use chocolate syrup to add decadence to its chocolatey-espresso beverages — it uses warm chocolate milk instead of white.

“People have a mocha here and they’re like, ‘Oh my god, that’s what a mocha is supposed to taste like!’” Hauschild said.

Based on the plethora of laptops, headphones and books in the possession of the coffee shop-goers, students spend considerable amounts of time at Redhawk sipping their brews, studying, writing essays or just watching Netflix.

“I’ve been the first one here and the last one out before,” Bailey said.

One of the only gripes about the cafe is its distance from campus — Hauschild said a 20-minute round trip just isn’t practical for students to get great coffee when they can still get some form of coffee without ever leaving the Cathedral. While Bailey and Hauschild both acknowledge the convenience of chain coffee shops and having Starbucks coffee in a lot of campus buildings, they think Redhawk is superior.

“Starbucks, in many ways, becomes insufferable,” Hauschild said.