First off, I am not sure I actually like coffee. I have had a pretty steady relationship with coffee for the past year-and-half or so. Sometimes it seems like things are going really well. I find the right coffee with just the right flavor. But the next day I do something like skimp on the creamer, and my whole day is ruined (That might be a bit of exaggeration, but it’s definitely a bummer). In the past couple months I have read several articles suggesting I kick caffeine to the curb. And while I know it’s probably the best thing to do, I keep going back to it time after time. I know it’s wrong. It’s not good for my health, and it keeps me awake at night. But what’s a girl to do? It seems to be there for me when I really need it, so how do I let it go?
If we’re being honest, the caffeine fix isn’t the only thing I am looking for out of coffee. I like having something to sip on, especially when I am writing. I like that drinking coffee makes me feel part of a closer-knit group of bloggers that really enjoy coffee for some odd reason. And I like that coffee gives me an excuse to spend time in coffee shops.
There are many reasons I have a love/hate relationship with coffee shops. Here are a few of them:
I love the feeling of being in a coffee shop. For some reason it makes me feel more creative. At home my creativity can go stale, because it is the same environment day after day. I need something stimulating, and coffee shops definitely fit in that realm.
I hate that other people share this affinity towards coffee shops, and it is often hard to find somewhere to sit. In fact, as I write this I’m wedged in a an awkward crevice at table that has just enough room for my computer, coffee cup and over-sized bagel plate. Oh, and it’s by the door. So every time anyone goes in or out of this place the cold draft hits me, reminding me that I live in one of the coldest cities in America.
Like I said, I’m not sure if I really like coffee. And I guess part of that is based on what you define as coffee. Your coffee might be black, or it might have a little half & half or sugar. Mine usually includes a great deal of creamer or added flavors that make it taste less like coffee. Regardless, there is something about the act of drinking coffee that I really enjoy. It also makes me feel mature–perhaps, even sophisticated–when I drink it.
This pains me to say, but I usually don’t like coffee from cute coffee shops. If I am going to pay $3-4–even $5–for a cup of coffee it better be great coffee. When I occasionally get a Starbucks or Caribou drink, I know I am going to pay too much money to get a caffeinated beverage. But I also know that I am going to enjoy it. Yet time after time, I try out the little local shops, because they have vintage records on their walls or baristas that could have just gotten off from a shift at Urban Outfitters. And time after time, I am thoroughly disappointed, because their coffee tastes too much like coffee (This is also really hard for me to admit, because I really want to like coffee. It’s just not working out for me).
Coffee shop music soothes me. It’s calming, and not distracting. Plus, it’s usually indie music that serves as a great contrast to the top 40 hits on the radio. There are even Spotify playlists dedicated to coffee shop music. My favorite is “Your Favorite Coffeehouse.”
Sometimes the music is so obscure that there’s a reason no one’s ever heard of it. Also, I want to be calm, but some of this stuff could put me to sleep.
People-watching is by far one of my favorite activities in coffee shops. I’m not talking about the college campus shop full of girls getting their Starbucks on. The best coffee shops are filled with creatives and twenty-somethings looking intellectual and chatting over Cherry Biscottis. Or ignoring each other over scholarly readings or their graduate theses, instead of scrolling on their iPhones.
Like I mentioned before, it is a bit overwhelming when there are too many people at any given time. For one thing it is a bit overstimulating and distracting–especially since I prefer to sit without headphones in a coffee shop to really appreciate the whole experience. How else I am supposed to hear the music I have a love/hate relationship with? Or the squeal of the espresso machine that reminds me why people keep piling in? Side note: I love babies. I don’t love babies in coffee shops.