By Jackie Walsh
The Coffee & Tea Exchange featured a special latte menu in February in honor of Valentine’s Day. The “Thank You, Next” menu commemorated seven celebrity break-ups by creating corresponding coffee drinks.
The celebrity couples featured spanned the decades, from the Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber split in 2018 to Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston calling it quits in 2005. The lost loves menu included a variety of unique flavors, like tiramisu and shortbread.
Customers also have the choice of the type of milk in the drink and whether their latte is hot or iced.
The Coffee & Tea Exchange, located at 3311 N. Broadway, offers different themed menus throughout the year. The novelty of the drinks and the anticipation of the upcoming specials are part of the reason the Lakeview coffee shop has flourished in the neighborhood since 1975.
Madeline Siefer, retail manager at The Coffee & Tea Exchange, said the menus evolved from holiday-only specials to monthly themes based on the demand from customers.
“It had humble beginnings, but it’s definitely snowballed and grown its own fanbase,” Siefer said. “We start getting messages on Instagram the second the first of the month rolls around about what the new latte board is if I haven’t posted it already.”
The Coffee & Tea Exchange and its menu varieties are a hit in the neighborhood, according to Hannah Kopach, a digital creator behind the @cuppachicago Instagram page and a Lakeview resident.
“Everyone has been loving it. This menu specifically was funny, very relevant,” Kopach said. “I swear every time I walked past there is always line. Even at 6 p.m.”
Although Kopach takes pride in finding Chicago’s niche coffee shops, she said The Coffee & Tea Exchange has become savvier by using social media to share its menus.
“I have always known about their special menus, but I think because of social media a lot of people know that they do these really unique, creative menus every month now,” Kopach said. “There is a sense of anticipation for what the next months are going to be.”
Kopach documented her favorite from the “Thank You, Next” menu on her Instagram page. Her post showcased the heart sticker that adorned her Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake latte, a breakup blend that includes blueberry, lavender and cupcake flavors.
The “Thank You, Next” menu also caught the attention of the Chicago Tribune. The top pick from the February themed menu, according to the Chicago Tribune article, was the Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson drink. The latte, with a nod to Grande, who is the artist behind the song “thank u, next” that inspired the menu, brings together pomegranate and chocolate sauce.
According to Kopach, the specialty menu themes, like Chicago drag pride in June and “Twilight” in September, are what make The Coffee & Tea Exchange a destination spot in Lakeview.
Lakeview resident Annie Lambesis first heard of The Coffee & Tea Exchange from Kopach’s review of the shop on @cuppachicago. Lambesis says she has tried every specialty menu since July including the “Thank You, Next” menu. She ordered the Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber drink.
According to Lambesis, the novelty of the special menus creates a special experience for her that she doesn’t get at other coffee shops in the city.
“At larger chains, new drinks are introduced seasonally at best. CTX rolls these latte specials out every month, each time with a great deal of artistry and attention to detail,” Lambesis said. “I’m so appreciative of their creativity.”
Lambesis said she’s hooked, no matter what the theme or upcoming offerings.
“They could create a menu roasting me as an individual and I would still be standing outside their door on the first of the month waiting to try it,” Lambesis said.
Jackie Walsh is a sports media graduate student at Medill.