Ask me if I’d like to spend some time gallivanting around town trying different specialty drinks at coffee shops and I doubt you’ll have trouble sensing my enthusiasm. In truth, I had a difficult time masking my glee about drinking coffee and labeling it research because the only thing I like better than coffee is more coffee.

I visited four independent coffee shops and asked the barista to make me whatever drink he or she considered to be the specialty drink. I also spent some time lingering with my coffee to get a sense of the shop’s ambiance and culture. It was tough. You’re welcome.

Caffeine Dreams, 4525 Farnam Street,

The barista presented me with a Pipe Dream, which is an espresso drink featuring Ghirardelli chocolate, caramel and hazelnut. This is a downright tasty drink. Caramel is the most predominant flavor, but really, it tastes a little like biting into a delicious multi-flavored marshmallow. While it’s true that this drink falls into the realm of dessert-y coffee drinks, I will say that it was not as absurdly sweet as I expected it to be. It’s a nice blend of flavors. I would have liked a little more espresso flavor, but if I was looking for a sweet coffee drink, this one would be near the top of my list.

I don’t know if this makes any difference to anyone, but the drink was pretty. Really pretty. I took the lid off before I drank it and I was delighted by the swirly designs.

Caffeine Dreams wins hands-down for ambiance. The exposed brick walls and art displayed throughout the room make for an eclectic place.

TriPointe Coffeehouse, 138 North Washington Blvd, Papillion,

This new coffee shop in downtown Papillion had only been opened for five weeks when I visited, so I braced myself to encounter a coffee shop still working out the kinks. I was pleasantly surprised that things seemed to be running quite smoothly and they already seemed to have a pretty strong following.

TriPointe has a lot of interesting things going on. They’re owned by a church, but the coffee shop isn’t “churchy.” Coffee is served in mugs created by local artist Clay Cunningham. All the art hanging on the walls comes from local artists and they’re passionate about sourcing things locally. Pastries come from Drizzles in Bellevue and the beans come from The Beansmith. “We don’t get anything from outside if we don’t have to,” says barista Ryan Pretz.

Ryan made me a Taste of Heaven, which is a caramel vanilla latte It was incredibly sweet and very creamy. He sprinkled raw sugar on the top of the drink, which made for a beautiful presentation but made for a bit of a caloric nightmare. Taste of Heaven has a wonderful taste as long as you’re looking for a very sweet, dessert-type drink. Next time I order one of these I will ask for an extra shot of espresso to give it more of a distinct coffee flavor and maybe cool it on the sugar sprinkles.

Village Grinder, 8706 Pacific Street, (402) 397-0918

When I asked manager Pat Dudziak to make me her best specialty drink she presented me with a cappuccino lightly dusted with powdered chocolate. If you’re used to sugar-infused chocolate caramel vanilla hazelnut banana flavor explosions then you’re not going to like the cappuccino very much. On the other hand, if you’re looking for some authentic European-style coffee, you’ll be thrilled with this drink. This is the type of coffee I drank years ago when I was traveling the globe and taking the time to perfect my palate instead of the coffee I drink now that is hastily French-pressed in my kitchen and dumped into a travel mug.

This isn’t to say they don’t offer the sugary drinks too. Vanilla Latte, Café Caramel Bliss, and Funky Monkey Mocha are all offerings on the menu. The Village Grinder gets bonus points for being attached to The Bookworm. Any place that allows me to drink good coffee while perusing books is a place I’ll visit often.

Dundee Double Shot, 118 North 50st Street,

When another customer standing in line overheard that I’m searching for the best coffee in town, she enthusiastically gushed, “This place has outstanding customer service! I call ahead and it’s all ready when I get here!” She went on to assure me this is the best place in town for coffee and kept going on about the greatness of Double Shot while she walked out the door with her coffee in hand. I can’t help but wonder if she kept talking when she got into her car and drove away.

The specialty drink they gave me was a Dirty Harry, which is a latte with mocha, caramel and chai. I’m a fan of chai, so it didn’t surprise me that I liked this drink a lot. It was slightly spicy but sweet, yet neither the spiciness or sweetness was overbearing. It was an interesting blend of flavors. This is the type of drink for which I would drive across town.

Of all the places I visited, Dundee Double Shot made the most lasting impression as far as the tastiness of the drink and general ambiance. It’s a small coffee shop, but it’s an interesting place with customers who like to sit around and talk. When I left there was a hearty political discussion going on among everyone in the room. I was delighted to witness a caffeinated political discussion that remained civil.

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