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A.J.’s Café and Jitters Coffee Cart offer an assortment of coffee-based bev­erages. Colette Peterson | Courtesy

Amid the unceasing pressure of dead­lines given by pro­fessors con­vinced theirs is the most important class, papers stacked up from pro­cras­ti­nation, events for clubs, fra­ter­nities, and soror­ities, and meeting with friends, there is one con­stant: coffee.

Coffee is often a lifeline, espe­cially toward the end of the semester, for stu­dents whose spirits are broken and their bodies tired, and the coffee com­mu­nities on campus can replenish student energy as well as lift their spirits.

Jitters Coffee Cart and A.J.’s Café are the only on-campus coffee joints, and they do their best to keep stu­dents caf­feinated whenever they need a fix. Their cul­tures, however, are starkly con­trasting.

Jitters is only open in the morning and early afternoon, and its location in Lane Hall means that it tends to get rushes in between classes.

“It’s kind of a hot-and-cold thing,” senior Jitters student manager Joel Haines said. “We don’t have as much to maintain here, so there’s def­i­nitely more stretches of time when everybody’s hastily going about the business of main­te­nance and upkeep, and we go from that to about 30 people in line. We have 10 minutes to make 15 drinks, which is nuts, but I kinda like it. It’s like this fun little buzz. It’s like a quick sprint.”

But he said the downtime in between the class period rush is also a lot of fun.

“We work in pairs and the space is so small, we’re in such close prox­imity that it forces us to get to know each other,” Haines said.

“I think the downtime is what helps friend­ships grow,” Assistant (“to the”) Student Manager junior Lydia Seipel said.

Last semester, Haines held a tra­di­tional feast for his student workers fea­turing bacon, apple-cin­namon pan­cakes, White Rus­sians, and more.

“The man­agers typ­i­cally throw a dinner, of sorts, for the employees just to bolster and enrich this com­munity. We’re all like-minded people here. We all really love coffee. Jitters used to be super, super hipster. We’re not as much hipster, we’re more just normal folk but still appre­ciate some Mumford and Sons,” Haines said.

“I feel like not everyone nec­es­sarily falls into the hipster cat­egory, but every single person I think has a streak. Just like a hint of it you, know? Not too much,” Seipel said.

Besides the hipster vibe, Jitters also has a lot of char­acter in the art on the reg­ister and the walls.

“There’s a lot of art, again, it’s like little flairs of per­son­ality or artistic streaks. It’s not always our primary focus over here, but for some reason, a lot of us have random artistic abil­ities,” Seipel said. “I just feel like everyone here is very com­fortable with who they are.”

And in this envi­ronment, people who oth­erwise like sep­arate things enjoy making coffee together in a close-knit envi­ronment.

“It’s a very com­forting place… It never feels like work. I come here on my off times, and I would even step in. There have been times when I’ve stayed over,” Seipel said.

“It’s like a little sanc­tuary from schoolwork,” Joel said.

A.J.’s and Jitters share a culture of stu­dents who love their work. While Jitters is only open in the first part of the day, A.J.’s is open from 7:30 a.m. to mid­night most days. Employees prepare and serve food and ice cream as well as coffee drinks.

“I think we have a lot more busyness going on just because we offer a lot more things than Jitters does, Jitters is more laid-back and they have the music and the really good coffee, and we have good coffee too, but it’s just a totally dif­ferent kind of atmos­phere,” sophomore Assistant Student Manager at A.J.’s Makenzie Self said. “But with food and ice cream and milk­shakes and everybody doing some­thing at every moment, I think it makes for a slightly more fast-paced envi­ronment. You have to be really ener­getic and wel­coming all the time.”

Self said she really likes inter­acting with cus­tomers and with the same employees who have the same schedule all year. She said she knows exactly which drinks to make for reg­ulars and when to leave room for cream.

One of the spe­cific aspects of A.J.’s is the cus­tomer of the week award, for­merly employee of the week.

“When people find out that they’re cus­tomer of the week, they’re like, ‘No way!’ It’s really fun,” Self said.

This week, however, the cus­tomer of the week is a hamster named Cer­vantes. A senior employee really wanted her pet hamster to receive cus­tomer of the week before she grad­uated, Self said.

Self is not the only one who thinks it’s a great time. Junior A.J.’s employee Colette Peterson has worked there since the first week of her freshman year. She ordered a latte and asked if they needed help, and they did so she was hired.

“It’s a lot of fun. I really like it because it’s a good way to interact with people and wind down after doing a bunch of school work. It’s tech­ni­cally a job, but it’s so much fun.”

When asked what Hillsdale would look like without A.J.’s, Peterson responded, “A lot of sleep depri­vation.” She added, “A.J.’s has a really good com­munity in the union espe­cially. It’s a really great place to go to study. It has that cof­feeshop atmos­phere that I think for me is really pro­ductive.”

Both Self and Peterson agree that A.J.’s is a central part of the Hillsdale expe­rience. At Jitters, Haines and Seipel have found a special family that allows them to express their artistic side.

So wherever stu­dents get coffee to fuel their late night studying or replace the sleep they should have gotten a long time ago, the coffee will be there for them and the spe­cific coffee cul­tures on campus that go along with them. Either way, they are a part of one of the unique cul­tures on campus.