HIGHLAND PARK – Orange leaves and pumpkin-spiced lattes may be common signifiers of the upcoming (albeit preempted) seasonal shift, but they are also representative of another significant change: the increasingly hectic tempo of the academic semester.

With the onslaught of more intensive workloads and extracurricular commitments, Coffee Speaks, Highland Park’s recently-established chic café serves as a quiet haven for students to study, relax, and relish in the friendly atmosphere that makes the shop unique. Owners Kathy and Brian Park explain the key features that separate Coffee Speaks from its larger, chain-store competitors.

“We are small, but since we are a small business, we get to have more of a relationship with our customers,” said Brian. “It’s more like they are friends than customers. As soon as they come in, we know what they are ordering, we know their names and stories.”

It is this inviting atmosphere, cultivated by the friendliness of the staff, that leads Krista Meuli ’18 to make the ten-minute drive to the store’s location instead of visiting more local alternatives. “The owners and employees are much more friendly and personable than can be found at bigger chain stores,” said Meuli. “Their coffee is great and they really take the time and effort to inform customers of the source of the coffee and ensure that the quality of the coffee served is top-notch.”

Kathy and Brian attest to this effort to supply a high-quality product at a reasonable price.

“We are a roastery,” they explained. “We roast our own coffee beans that are all hand-selected, and we choose the best beans out of the selection. Because we are the roastery and the beans are not being shipped over from different places, we can keep them fresh.”

The selectiveness, practiced by the owners, ultimately results in more affordable prices for students, too.

“[Bigger chains] also have higher prices,” said Kathy. “We just use our own beans, which lets us set our prices lower.”

Additionally, Coffee Speaks offers special discounts geared toward students during busy times of the year, such as at the onset of the school year or during finals. Coffee Speaks also maintains a refill policy that can benefit the endurance studier.

“If the students want to stay longer, we have a refill system,” said Kathy. “So, if they bought any drink, they just pay one dollar for a refill of coffee or tea, even though they ordered something like a latte. For students, I think that it’s a good system.” Kathy and Brian hope to use their storefront as an outlet to meet and connect with the local communities. “Coffee is a tool,” said Brian. “We believe that our store’s purpose is more about culture and relationships, connections.”

Kathy attests to this mission statement. “We share our lives with our customers,” she said. “The purpose of the coffee shop is not only to sell coffee. I hope that students can come a lot and we build more relationships with them, too.”       

With such efforts to cultivate an inviting, friendly atmosphere while providing high-quality drinks, it is only a matter of time before Coffee Speaks becomes every student’s favorite studying nook away from it all. But as I left the shop sipping on my very first pumpkin spiced latte, a new addition to the shop’s menu, I couldn’t help but selfishly hope that Coffee Speaks remains my favorite best-kept secret. To learn more about Coffee Speaks, located at 610 Central Ave #155, Highland Park, IL 60035, visit their website at

Caitlin Brown ’18 can be reached at


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