The second was Espresso Royale. This is a small-ish chain in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The Illini are lucky that there are several in and around campus; I was at the Urbana location. They had their share of flavored coffee, sandwiches, and snacks, but their coffee was out-of-the-world! I even broke my no coffee after 5pm rule and had a cup right about that time. I was so impressed that I had to take some home. Now I wish I had bought more than one bag!
They pack their coffee in easy to transport (particularly on airplanes) foil zip bags. I'm usually not a dark roast fan, but this is what they had brewing when I went there. I decided to take home what I knew I liked. At home it's an even better experience!
Once ground there's a strong coffee aroma and the grounds have the typical oily feel of most dark roast beans. The coffee itself had such a full compliment of coffee flavor that I kept trying to find a reason NOT to like it; I was rather unsuccessful. Everything from the aroma, to the sip, and follow-through was a fantastic reminder that you are drinking a great coffee. The only slight downside is the MAJOR coffee breathe after imbibing a cup, or few. To my extreme surprise I have actually had a few cups with no sugar and no milk. Black coffee for me is an extreme rarity. Usually reserved for the days when we run out of milk and I need my caffeine hit to survive the day.
If you find yourself anywhere near an Espresso Royale I STRONGLY encourage you to try some. They also mail order if you're looking for a treat and are not local.
Bottom Line Rating:4.5/5 ***
*** The 1/2 point off is solely for the extreme coffee breathe. Honestly I've had to convince myself to hold off giving this a 5/5 because I still think there's a Holy Grail coffee out there that will knock my socks off and scream 5/5, even more than this coffee did.