I admit that I think I am a coffee snob. I need to go and get coffee from a real coffee shop. Truth be told, in a blind test, I probably could not tell you the difference between a McDonalds or Starbucks, or for that matter the fabulous coffee that is sold at boutique, trendy hip coffee bars.
After moving to small dot USA, I decided that it is not the Coffee that I am addicted to, but the experience and ambiance of getting coffee. I didn’t realize how important such a mundane task like this could be or how much I took it for granted. After living in a city for years and having a variety coffee chains and independently owned coffee shops, all within walking distance of my home, I assumed that this was how the world operated. We moved to the Midwest, to a town whose mentioning is overlooked on major maps (because it is hardly big enough to exist?) On regional maps, it is just a small dot. The actual town had, when we moved here, a couple of stop signs, a pizza joint, a few bars and a couple gas stations. There was one café that I was most excited about, but then I realized it didn’t cater to working people with ‘traditional’ office jobs; it opened after I needed to be parked at my desk working. There were many other culture shocks that I experienced, but realizing that I couldn’t walk to get coffee and if I did drive to get it, it would have to be between the hours of 10 and 2, but only on the days they were open. I couldn’t keep track of my own scheduled, so trying to remember when the café was open was simply not going to happen. So I asked my husband, “Where do people go to get coffee?” In my mind there is a distinct differentiation between getting coffee and buying a cup of coffee to go. Clearly he didn’t see it that way as he answered, “You can make it in the kitchen.” That was not the answer I wanted because I wanted to GET coffee and my heart sunk with the realization that I had moved to an area so isolated that getting coffee was not on the agenda of the community. So I responded in my most friendly-yet still sounding spoiled tone, “But I don’t want to make coffee. I want it made for me.”
I like getting coffee: placing an order and having someone make my coffee, exactly to my specifications (that would be a triple grande soy latte, no foam extra hot). I don’t have too many people waiting on me ever, so when I can place a fancy, complicated coffee order and someone makes it for me – just for me, I love it. It is almost like an act of love, that I can ask for something so ridiculous sounding and without hesitation, I get a “yes, my pleasure.” I like being taken care of and waited on.
The other part of the experience is that I adore walking into a coffee shop and smelling the aromas; I get light headed with each deep inhalation. I imagine that I am inhaling microscopic, air-borne coffee bean powder that directly infuses my body with caffeine. I breathe in deep, full breaths. It makes me feel like I am floating and leaving my earthbound troubles behind. More likely this feeling is a just a result of deep inhalation and I am the fact that I am getting more oxygen in my system. But I prefer to think I can get high off of coffee inhaling coffee shop aromas.
Hearing the symphony of sounds of the grinders, foamers, baristas shouting orders, and patrons all yammering away is like the sweetest music to my ears. I envy the fancy equipment that is way too expensive to be stocked in my home kitchen. So even if I did try and make coffee it would be the equivalent of me trying to play a Foo Fighters song on my son’s crappy First Act Guitar. I’m no trained barista, I have the wrong equipment, and I have no back up.
But, secretly, I also like seeing all the smart people who tend to flock to coffee shops; in coffee shops across the country there is a predictable crowd of smart people – the people who read the paper-papers and turn their reading activity into a physical activity. They audibly flip, fold and shake the paper to turn the pages, almost to say, “LOOK, see I am reading the financials. I have money.” Or “LOOK at me, I am reading the Arts section. I am very sophisticated.” The loud flip and shakers of the Wall Street Journal/New York times are in stark contrast to the insolent hipster who is reading the local entertainment rag announcing where the latest band is playing. Hipster can barely muster the energy to turn the page, so his reading activity is mostly silent. And in slow motion. There are the other readers who have electronic gizmos. They could just as easily be playing angry birds, but I like to think they are reading something so relevant, and current that it can’t be read in a paper-paper because by the time it would be printed, it would be out-dated. With every page-flick, they are updated with news, politics, or style. Or sadly, maybe, they just killed a few pigs with flying birds.
The other industrious crowd is the ‘home office’ crowd. These workers appear in a couple distinctive forms. My favorite though is the worker who types and occasionally stares off into the distance (Mac or PC? I could write a whole post on those differences!). Maybe she is a student writing a term paper, a professional writing a proposal for selling software to a high tech company or simply updating FaceBook. I can’t see her screen, but as she sits there in the latest LuluLemon and sipping an iced venti Chi Latte, I would like to think she’s about to close a million-dollar deal.
The coffee experience isn’t so much about the coffee, it is about the human connection. Getting coffee for me is about getting out of my surroundings and being transported to an environment that is filled with people who represent what I want to be. If I am closer to them, I could just possibly become the smart gal in snappy clothes who is closing a big money deal and killing a few pigs all while reading the most current wiki leak. I will do this as I bask in the feeling of gratitude that my extra hot, triple grande soy latte with no foam, was made especially for me with love and no complaints.