Aromas Cafe reopens after months of construction

Tayler Reviere Verninas/The USD Vista

The upbeat atmosphere of Aromas Cafe at the University of San Diego has finally returned with new renovations and an even longer line. This past semester, Aromas was closed to complete the renovations for the spring semester and has included new, sustainable, and efficient ways of receiving items on the updated menu.

Director of Marketing and Licensing for Auxiliary Services Loryn Johnson explained the reason behind the remodeling.

“Aromas originally opened in 1993, so it was ahead of its time as a coffee house, but it had not been remodeled since opening,” Johnson said. “We wanted to provide something that was more vibrant, comfortable, more efficient cafe for campus. A place that would truly be the living room of USD.”

Johnson explained how USD’s Auxiliary Services worked with various students through focus groups to get an idea as to what the students wanted.

“From a budgetary standpoint, we needed to plan things in advance and get approvals for everything,” Johnson said. “It was decided that the air conditioning was very imperative, which led to some of the delay, since we originally planned on opening in the fall. We had to upgrade all of our equipment, so that it is new, modern, and energy-efficient.”

One of the main new features of the modernized Aromas is the self-pour, cold brew, and dairy free coffee system.

Junior Danny Halloran commented on the effective self-pour coffee machine.

“For people who really like iced coffee, it is a good way to go and get as much as you want,” Halloran said. “I can put money on my account and pick from many different options. And the flavor is retained so much better since the machine keeps it cold, and you don’t need to add ice, which before would water down the flavor.”

Johnson described in further detail the mechanics of the high-tech coffee machine.

“The tap wall is cool, different, and modern, but it also a way to help with the lines,” Johnson said. “If you want cold brew coffee or tea from the tap wall, you go to the register and purchase an RFID (radio-frequency identification) sticker, place however much money you want loaded onto the sticker. You then hover the sticker over the Aromas logo on the tablet at the tap wall and that will activate the tap. A green light will appear at the top of the tablet, and you just pour and go. Next time you come in, you just have go to the tap wall, fill up, and go.”

Tayler Reviere Verninas/The USD Vista

For first-year students, this new hotspot on campus is uncomparable to any other location on campus. First-year student Mia Hallgrimson had no concept of the interior of Aromas prior to the renovations but heard that the coffee was really good.

“It is definitely the nicest eating place on campus,” Hallgrimson said. “The vibe I got when I first walked in here was a cool coffee shop you would see at Mission or Pacific Beach.”

When customers first walk into Aromas, they will find the setup to be much different than the previous spring semester. Although the checkered floors have stayed, Johnson explained why the organization of seating has adjusted.

“We wanted to improve the ambience with different types of seating,” Johnson said. “We placed communal tables for studying in groups together, included individual seating, and brought banquette seating, rocking chairs, and sofas. We wanted the atmosphere to be conducive to whatever students might want to do, whether that is to study or socialize.”

Supervisor of Dining Services Anthony Garcia has been working at Aromas for the past four years and thinks the redecoration of Aromas is great.

“The atmosphere of the coffee shop has changed a great deal,” Garcia said. “The pace is faster because there is more business, and the energy in the room is also higher.”

According to Garcia, the amount of customers daily has increased by triple since the opening of Maher’s first floor cafe.

“Old customers seem to not like the new renovations, but newcomers appreciate the study space,” Garcia said. “There was a sentimental attachment for those who would come to Aromas late at night in the past semesters who had special corners of the room they would always sit at. Whereas now the new students do not know much about Aromas before the new opening.”

Aromas Cafe also features decorated wall space that creatively promotes Fair Trade coffee bean and tea leaves.

“We wanted to utilize that wall to sort of tell the journey of the coffee bean,” Johnson said. “We are happy to be offering Fair Trade products. We thought it would be a nice idea for people to think about what it took for those products to get here, especially since they do come from different countries around the world.”

In addition to a new wall decorations, there is corner of Aromas that is advertised for students to take a break from the digital world with items such as a chess board, Scrabble, Apples to Apples board game, and coloring books.

Senior Matthew Stockton considered the trendy, new vibes of Aromas to be a little too much in comparison to the old Aromas.

“When I first walked into Aromas, I just thought it was super bougie,” Stockton said. “It was really cool to see everything with the new renovations, but I could not help to look at the ceiling fans and see how inefficient they were. However, I heard they amped up the A.C. system, so that’s pretty cool.”

Stockton would spend copious amounts of time in between classes doing homework at Aromas,  and would sometimes read a book after school in previous semesters.

“I think I will be spending the same amount of time because it is the perfect place,” Stockton said. “I am an engineering major and all of my classes are around Maher, Loma, and Serra Hall. I will be coming here to get a quick glass of water or maybe just read a book while I am waiting for class.”

According to Garcia, the most ordered items on the menu are the self-pour coffee and the avocado toast.

“We have a broader spectrum on the menu and offer items such as various toast options and new pastries,” Garcia said. “We are trying to push more of a sustainable business by offering the option of getting items to go or utilizing the house dishes, mason jars, and paddles provided for customers to use while inside the cafe.”

Hallgrimson listed her favorite and least favorite items on the menu.

“My favorite thing about Aromas is probably the crepes because they are really good, and my least favorite thing is probably the long lines,” Hallgrimson said.

Stockton, who commented on the increased sounds inside Aromas, hopes the hype of aromas will die down soon so that students can have a more focused, studying atmosphere.

“I think they are branding it a little harder now because they have a lot more merchandise you can buy,” Stockton said. “They have a growler and some pillows you can buy, which is pretty new compared to the old Aromas. I feel like the old Aromas was a little more low key, and this is just going to be hyped a little more.”

One of the new additions to Aromas Cafe includes this modbar that creates consistently steeped tea.

Another up-to-date feature that is a part of Aromas is the modbar, which Johnson stated is the “mad scientist set up for tea.”

“One of the difficult things when you are creating these complicated beverages is consistency,” Johnson said. “The modbar creates a temperature and pressure situation so that the tea is steeped the same every time, and each time you come in you are getting that consistent flavor.”

Halloran enjoyed the new additions, however, he admitted to missing the way it used to be.

“It just seems like it took memories away with it looking so different,” Halloran said. “I like the fact that it is more advanced and innovative, but it is sad to go into a change when we were so used to the old setting. However, I am happy that it is back because it is such a great hangout spot and it is open until 11 p.m. now, so I am grateful for that.”

With the new renovations of Aromas, students may find it difficult to study in such an upbeat ambience and social hype of the trendy new location. Weekday hours have also been extended from 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Friday 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. Some Toreros just might be spending their late night study sessions at this popular coffee shop.