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COMMENTARY: College experience depends on finding your own places to enjoy, Hidden Grounds should be top place to try


Frequenting Hidden Grounds is crucial in getting to know Rutgers and the New Brunswick community. – Photo by Hidden Grounds Coffee / Twitter

Every college campus has its hidden spots — corners of libraries discovered in junior year, book shops tucked away between late-night convenience stores and restaurants with menus you know like the back of your hand. First-year Rutgers students are faced with the immensely fun task of picking what their New Brunswick spots are going to be, a task that requires many trips with friends up and down Easton Avenue and beyond.

On one such trip, you would be remiss if you did not stop at Hidden Grounds. This is a place with a name that has become a bit of a misnomer, as more and more people discover the coffee shop. While it is not my intention to make it harder for me to find a seat at Hidden Grounds, I would like to point some first-year students in the direction of a cafe I have come to love and that has become an integral part of the New Brunswick scene.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mo Hashmi, regional director at Hidden Grounds, about the company’s founding, coffee and community engagements. Hashmi has only worked with Hidden Grounds for one year but has been a loyal customer since his days as a Rutgers student.

Hidden Grounds was founded back in 2013 by Anand Patel and Spoorthi Kumar, who were working at Johnson & Johnson at the time. While working a nine-to-five, they discovered a need to break the monotony of post-college life.

The desire to break out of the corporate lifestyle and the need for a high-quality coffee shop in New Brunswick led these two friends to open the first Hidden Grounds location at 106 Easton Ave. As Hashmi put it: “They had come to love the environment and saw the need for a high-quality coffee shop for all those working and going to school in New Brunswick."

I myself have spent hours upon hours at Hidden Grounds, and while I would be lying if I said most hours were spent productively studying, the cafe is a wonderful place to get some work done while hoping to run into a friend that might pull you away from a term paper or class project.

While the green couch and records render Hidden Grounds a cozy place to sit, it is clearly the coffee that makes any cafe worth a visit. Hashmi, who has been on the coffee grind since 2018, has, over the years, mastered making the perfect cup of coffee.

He explained that Hidden Grounds coffee is sourced from Columbia and Ethiopia and that sourcing high-quality coffee in a sustainable manner has been standard practice at Hidden Grounds ever since they started roasting their own beans. He says, “We've had the opportunity to work with coffee farmers and their representatives to select what we thought were best coffee beans for any kind of coffee drinker.”

In the nine years since its founding, Hidden Grounds enjoyed the business of Rutgers students who have, in turn, enjoyed the quality coffee, good music and relaxed hang-out spot. What many students who get their coffee at Hidden Grounds are not aware of is the 5 percent discount offered for all students, so long as you show your student ID.

Even though the founders of Hidden Grounds are long past their college years, they are committed to serving the student population at Rutgers. Hashmi, a former Rutgers student himself, said, “We know that students have a lot on their plate between their classes, financial responsibilities and social life. So we try to make sure that getting their daily coffee is not something that is too difficult.” This attitude is what has solidified Hidden Grounds as a Rutgers staple.

This semester, the RU screw has stuck again and Hidden Grounds has responded in turn. Tuition prices have risen by 2.9 percent this semester, and in response, Hidden Grounds is offering students anyone drink for $2.90 on Thursday, September 15, at their 106 Easton location. 

The company’s success in New Brunswick has allowed new locations to open in Hoboken, Jersey City and, soon, Brooklyn. While Hidden Grounds is excited to expand, Hashmi says, “Our relationship with the New Brunswick and Rutgers holds a special place in the heart of Hidden Grounds. It's where we got our start from a community that has been nothing but wonderful. We hope to continue offering great coffee and memories to everyone in New Brunswick and doing all that we can to support and grow our New Brunswick community.”

I will certainly be spending my last year at Rutgers dropping in at Hidden Grounds, a place that has become imbibed with memories of reading with classmates, catching up with old friends and drinking coffee that is much nicer than it should be for a college student.

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