By popular demand, more high schools are adding coffee bars

Keller's Timber Creek High School is the first in its district to get a coffee shop that was set up with student input on food and furnishings. Per federal nutritional guidelines, all of the drinks have fewer calories than those at popular commerc
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Keller's Timber Creek High School is the first in its district to get a coffee shop that was set up with student input on food and furnishings. Per federal nutritional guidelines, all of the drinks have fewer calories than those at popular commerc

Northeast Tarrant

Calculus and caffeine: More high schools are adding a coffee shop

By Sandra Engelland And and Diane Smith

September 14, 2017 10:14 AM


Coming soon to a high school near you, a coffee bar with all the mochas, lattes, iced blended coffees and flavored teas your teen could desire.

The Daily Grind opens this week at Timber Creek High School, a Keller district campus in north Fort Worth, serving lower-calorie versions of mocha lattes and Frappucinos in a room off the library furnished with ghost chairs, bar stools, a leather couch and a handful of small tables. Wall outlets with USB ports line the walls.

“We have a generation that drinks coffee,” said Leonor Wilford, a chef and food service manager in Keller’s child nutrition department overseeing the new shop.

Instead of stopping by Starbucks before school, teens can arrive a little early and grab a caramel macchiato or a “Falconccino,” Timber Creek’s version of a Frappuccino.

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Students are excited about the new venue.

“I’m very much in love with coffee, so this is great,” junior Tabitha Tomlinson said. “And I love to read, so having it here at the library reminds me of being at a bookstore.”

For Keller schools, this is the first coffee bar for students. District officials say they hope to open similar venues at the other high schools during the next several years.

All three Northwest district comprehensive high schools have Java City coffee bars. Grapevine High School and Colleyville Heritage High School offer their own versions of coffee shops. Eagle Mountain Saginaw high schools and Hollenstein Career and Technology Center have bistros that sell frappes, along with deli-style food.

Burleson and Centennial high schools are working to open coffee shops this school year, complete with espresso beverages, infused waters and fresh salads and snacks. The coffee shops are being added based on feedback from students last year. Students said they wanted more choices.

Debi Miller, food service director for Northwest schools, said about 900 customers make purchases each day at Eaton High School’s Java City. The most popular items on the menu are iced, blended drinks and paninis.

Schools trim the calories

“Lots of students like Starbucks, so we try to offer some of those items here and make it fit within our regulations,” Keller’s Wilford said.

Because of federal nutrition guidelines, school food service providers must cut back on the calories in their drinks compared to Starbucks drinks.

The drinks that can be offered by food service providers in high schools top out at 60 calories and are limited to 12-ounce servings. A 12-ounce mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks can have almost five times the calories, at 290 when made with whole milk and whipped cream.

How can school coffee bars make their versions so much lower in calories and still taste good to their teen customers?

Wilford uses 1 percent milk, high-quality coffee and syrup with no sugar added, then there’s a lot of tasting and tweaking of the recipe until the flavor is as close as possible to the drink’s high-calorie cousin.

One place where they don’t have to skimp? The amount of caffeine. Most of the coffee drinks contain a 2-ounce shot of espresso. The federal regulations don’t apply to caffeine, Wilford said.

That amount of espresso contains about 120 to 130 milligrams of caffeine.

Dr. Lisa Roten, a pediatric cardiologist with Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, said via email that 120 milligrams for a healthy teenager who weighs 120 pounds is the daily limit of what she would recommend.

That means for most teens, a single coffee drink is all they should consume in a day.

A child with a pre-existing heart rhythm issue could experience more problems with a higher caffeine intake, Roten said. Any teens who consume large amounts of caffeine could have short-term nervousness, insomnia, irritability, higher blood pressure and increased heart rate.

Students involved throughout the process

Timber Creek students have been involved in the coffee bar’s development since last year.

The teens chose the name the Daily Grind in a school-wide Twitter poll.

Culinary arts students proposed menu items. In addition to the drinks, the shop will sell whole-grain muffins, cookies, fresh fruit cups and plates with fruit, yogurt, cheese and crackers.

During a culinary arts class brainstorming session, junior Milo Light came up with the name “Falconccino” for the iced, blended coffee drinks. Frappuccino is trademarked by Starbucks.

“We’re the Falcons, so I just came up with it on a whim, and other people liked it,” Light said.

Students in the school’s interior design program chose furniture, put it together and set it up on the Friday before the Daily Grind’s opening day.

Juniors Mia Hanlon and Karlie Chamblee are interior design students who helped plan and assemble furniture.

Chamblee said students in the class started by drawing possible layouts on grid paper, then using a computer program.

“Then we went from here’s a PowerPoint of all the furniture to seeing it come together in a real space,” Chamblee said.

Hanlon said, “I didn’t realize how interactive the whole process would be.”

Chamblee looked around as she sat at a bistro table with a caramel macchiato.

“It’s a really cool space for people to come and hang out,” she said.

Sandra J. Engelland: 817-390-7323, @SandraEngelland