Anjali Sundar & Jenny Friedman

After a long semester, it’s easy to get bored with the same old cafés, libraries, and even the once reliable desk in your room where you’ve written innumerable papers. So, in order to give you the motivation you need to make it through the rest of the semester in good class standings, we checked out some lesser-known coffee shops in Ann Arbor where you can enjoy some good tunes while doing school work or catching up with friends!


“I just play it ‘cause it’s easy”

Spending an hour of my evening at lab, a contemporary little coffee and bakeshop, I was surrounded by pieces of local artwork and a darkness eased by lit candles. I spoke to the barista who informed me that whoever is on duty has the privilege of choosing which music gets played during their shift. The barista provided me with a link to the Soundcloud account she was playing from, consisting of numerous songs by Detroit artist, Bill Spencer. His work is like un-remixed house music, with strong, deep beats that feature a conglomeration of genres. The barista told me, “I just play it ‘cause it’s easy,” referring to the passivity with which the listener can hear the music while engaging in conversation or another task. Essentially it’s easy on the ears. Bill Spencer’s work perfectly matches the mellow mood of a relaxed coffee drinker. This is not a place where you are going to hear many vocals very often, but it is important to know that the music you will hear depends on the preference of the barista at the time. I would definitely go back to lab to immerse myself in some more unique musical choices.

Elixir Vitae Coffee and Tea

“Mystical Indie Muses”

At around 5:30 p.m. on an ordinary Thursday evening, Elixir Vitae is the opposite of busy. It was so empty that the barista took a break and sat down with his laptop next to me, sipping some herbal tea. The blue and yellow contrasted walls decorated with frames maintain a strong presence of a warm antique beauty that is so inviting. The two other people seated seemed to be a little older than undergraduates, representative of the café’s distance down East Liberty. The music played here is largely indie rock, a common feature of most coffee shops around Ann Arbor. During my visit, the barista’s choice of playlist was “Mystical Indie Muses on a Thursday Evening,” featuring nearly all female vocalists with soft, yet powerful tones. Artists included Daughter, Vaults, London Grammar, Zella Day, Ruelle, the XX, and some international artists that I could not identify. In addition, a few featured artists branch out from the stereotyped indie vibe of coffee shops, such as Telepopmusik, Jhene Aiko, Kanye West, and Schoolboy Q. So, Elixir Vitae is the place to be if you’re in dire need of a unique study spot that can satisfy any musical palate with tunes deviating from the typical coffee shop playlist.

Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea Room

“Zen Vibes”

Craving a side of Zen with your studying? Head over to Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room on Main Street! Downstairs, is a cozy bookstore with unusual reads on topics from holistic health to Buddhism, while upstairs you will find a tea room with delicious drink and food options. Next to the refreshments are tables perfect for catching up with a friend or working on that essay you’ve been procrastinating on for the past week. You’ll quickly feel as though you’ve left Ann Arbor as the sounds of exotic places diffuse into your ears. Crazy Wisdom plays the music from the CDs that are also sold downstairs in the bookstore. The selection consists of sounds from around the world, unfamiliar to many of us. These include the Putumayo Presents collection, Eckhart Tolle’s Music to Quiet the Mind, David & Steve Gordon (who combine soft drum beats with Native American flute sounds), and various artists’ music created for meditation. You will soon forget that you may be the only undergraduate present amongst graduate hipsters and professors as you sip your tea, absorb the calming tones of the music, and become one with your English paper.

The Espresso Bar

“Feels like home”

The Espresso Bar is a charming coffee shop that was relocated from Kerrytown and is now situated above Literati bookstore. This hidden gem café tries to build relationships with their customers by keeping notes on their favorite drinks and maintaining a friendly atmosphere. Children’s literature for sale decorates the shelves as an extension of the bookstore downstairs. Although the place was very busy, I was pleased by the steadily lulled music volume. Nearly everyone had a laptop or test-prep book out, and seemed to have made the trip to the Espresso Bar to get work done in solitude. The baristas claim that they don’t usually rely on strict playlists throughout the day; but rather, they collectively choose which music to play, with input from all co-workers on duty. I noticed that music here was steadfastly characterized by soft, dreamy vocalists. Songs by Beach House (including “Troublemaker”, “Myth”, and “Wild”) were played for the majority of the time I spent here, with each track fading into the next. Beach House offers a psychedelic vibe with pensive, amorous lyrics that constitute their modern love songs. The walk to the Espresso Bar may be a bit far from the UGLI, but the homey study spot generated by a range of stable, simple tunes and friendly service is well worth it.


So there you have it! We thoroughly enjoyed exploring a few coffee shops in Ann Arbor that were new to us and had great experiences in these cool, unfamiliar spots. But don’t just take our word for it — as final exam week rolls around, check out these places for a change of scenery, some good tunes, and perhaps a macaron or two.

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