It's August, and the hottest days of summer are here. It’s time to grab a hammock and a cold sip and bask in the gloriously refreshing mist rolling off the corn fields.

Inspired by hot regions of the world, I’ve put together a list of five cold sips to make your Central Illinois summer dreams come true. So, go ahead. Get outside, and partake of one of these delicious beverages while the mosquitoes partake of you.


A reddish-brown tea in a clear plastic cup with a black straw. The cup sits on an orange-brown patio table in the sun. Photo by Tias Paul.Photo by Tias Paul.

Iced Tea | Aroma Cafe

Did you know that Aroma Cafe and Cowboy Monkey share the same space? I didn’t until I stopped by to sample some of Aroma cafe’s delicious iced tea ($2.15). They had several different teas to choose from, but I ordered a straight black tea. Why mess with a classic, right? It was perfectly brewed with no acrid aftertaste and a pleasant citrus undertone. Cold and flavorful, you couldn’t go wrong with a tall glass of this tea on a lazy summer afternoon. A shady table at Aroma cafe’s outdoor patio would be a lovely spot to enjoy it.

Aroma Cafe
6 Taylor St
Champaign
M-F 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sa+Su 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A red beverage in a clear, plastic cup with ice and a black straw. Photo by Tias Paul.Photo by Tias Paul.

Island Fruit Punch | Caribbean Grill

This island fruit punch ($2.49) from Caribbean Grill absolutely screams summer. To me, it tasted like pineapple juice and a summer in the tropics. It had other fruit flavors that I couldn't particularly place, and I’m happy to let the restaurant keep its secrets.  As far as I’m concerned, its mystery adds to its flavor. This drink is super refreshing, and the sweet, citrusy flavors pair fantastically with the saltiness of Caribbean Grill’s jerk meatballs.

Caribbean Grill
2135 S Neil St
Champaign
Tu-Th 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A milky-looking drink with flecks of ground cinnamon in a clear, plastic cup. Photo by Tias Paul.Photo by Tias Paul.

Horchata |  El Paraíso

Having first fallen in love with horchata from the now-closed Taco Motorizado, I needed to find a suitable replacement. This Horchata ($2.95) from El Paraiso at the Broadway Food Hall in Urbana certainly fit the bill. What did it taste like? Imagine if Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal milk and vanilla had a baby; that would be horchata. Despite its milky appearance, horchata is a non-dairy beverage made from rice. It was surprisingly light on the palate. With a mellow and sweet blend of spices, it was a delicious way to stay hydrated on a hot day or wash down a plate of flautas.

El Paraiso
401 N Broadway Ave
Urbana
Tu-Th 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
F 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.+ 5 to 7 p.m.
Sa 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

An orange beverage in a tall glass with a red straw. Photo by Tias Paul.Photo by Tias Paul.

Mango lassi | Himalayan Chimney

In its simplest form, a mango lassi is a mango-yogurt smoothie. It is a popular summer cooler in India, and I had plenty of it growing up. This mango lassi ($5) from Himalayan Chimney catered to my preference: heavy on the mango and light on the yogurt. It was sweet, smooth, and creamy with the brightness of mangoes and a pleasant sour tang for balance. It served as a great palate cleanser between spicy courses like avocado jhalmuri and fish moilee. It was quite filling, however, and could easily have served as a small meal in itself.

Himalayan Chimney
134 W Church St
Champaign
M-Sa, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. + 5 to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 3 p.m. + 5 to 9 p.m.

A light brown beverage with ice in a tall glass. Photo by Tias Paul.Photo by Tias Paul.

Thai Iced Coffee |  Thara Thai

This Thai iced coffee ($4.99) from Thara Thai is the stuff dreams are made of. I could drink it everyday. It paired an intensely flavorful coffee with a generous amount of cream and sugar, making it smooth, silky, and evenly balanced. The cream helped the flavors linger on the palate in the best way possible. And in spite of the strong brew, there was no bitterness with this coffee. It could easily serve as an appetizer, an interlude, a dessert, or a let’s-just-stop-by-for-coffee. Whatever the occasion, this iced coffee is the answer.

Thara Thai
912 W Bloomington Rd
Champaign
Tu-Sa 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Su noon to 9 p.m.

Top image by Tias Paul.