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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Food

Cougar Grounds: A haven for coffee lovers new and old


Don’t pronounce “espresso” as “ex-presso” at Cougar Grounds, or manager Sean Lawless might call you out on it. He’s a man who takes his coffee seriously.

“I spend a lot of time and money flying all over the country and meeting up with vendors in Houston, just to find not only the best bean, but the best equipment and best brewing technique,” Lawless said.

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Cougar Grounds is located on the first floor of the Hilton next to Barron’s.   |  Julie Nguyen/ The Cougar

Cougar Grounds, the coffee shop located inside the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, is completely student-run. All the baristas are HRM students who get trained extensively under Lawless’s direction.

“Down to the training and how you use the equipment, you have a lot of artisan-style equipment that’s not super-automatic, so it actually relies on the skill of the barista. We get the best beans and the best equipment, but if nobody knows how to use it, it doesn’t matter,” Lawless said.

Cougar Grounds takes a lot into account when they brew their coffee. They constantly calibrate their machines based on atmospheric conditions and humidity, adjust their grind size and adjust the temperature of the water and how much coffee is used. The same things they did the day before may not produce the taste that they want the next day.

It looks like a normal coffee shop. Cougar Grounds offers a variety of drinks, pastries and sandwiches, and there’s plenty of seating and outlets for students who want to hang out or try to get some studying done.

“We pretty much have something for everyone. I’ve never had someone come in and ask for something and we don’t have anything similar to it,” said HRM junior and Cougar Grounds barista Chandler Metcalf.

Many appreciate the extra effort put in by a coffee shop that takes coffee seriously.

“I’ve had a couple of people say this is the only place they can drink coffee. They can’t drink coffee anywhere else because it’s not the same,” Metcalf said.

Pre-business freshman Daniel Marks agreed.

“We go out of our way to come here. There’s Starbucks everywhere, but Cougar Grounds is a lot better. Everyone does coffee their own way, and I like the way (Cougar Grounds) does it.”

Cougar Grounds aims to be a place where people passing through can be introduced to the world of coffee.

Starbucks and The Nook Cafe may be the preferred taste for some, but the passion that goes into the coffee at Cougar Grounds cannot be replicated anywhere else.

“If we’re going to do something, I want it to be the best that there is,” Lawless said. “That’s what we strive for.”

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