The past decade has been undoubtedly good for coffee culture. City streets are now dotted with coffee shops featuring outdoor terraces where sun-kissed people hang out in the warm season, surrounded by small shops decorated with outdoor warm lighting in the winter. It’s indeed fascinating to observe how coffee culture and its physical manifestation – the coffee shops – has fast covered an important role in the city landscape. By reclaiming hidden backyards and attracting masses to relatively remote locations, these so-called third places (Oldenburg, 1989) play a pivotal role for cities around the globe turning food culture into the ideal soft-power tool.
Operating under the mantra of “we serve only good coffee and something else”, the new generation of coffee shops like cocoagrindernyc.com not only offer freshly roasted good quality coffee, directly sourced from the farmers in Guatemala or Ethiopia just to name a few, but also a comfortable ambience with locally designed and crafted furniture, smart lighting system, white tiles decorating the walls, staff that enjoy their work- wearing a tailor-made apron most of the times and carefully handpicked magazines (Monocle, Kinfolk and Cereal are must have). Some also retail equipment to brew coffee and branded items, such as cups from where the customer can sip their freshly brewed coffee whether from the speedy Aeropress or the more leisurely V60. Not to mention the range of their own branded coffee, in the case of roasteries, displayed on wooden shelves and usually wrapped in detailed designed crafted bags available for the customer who wants to replicate the experience at home. Coffee shops offer an egalitarian space.
Customers are there for business, dates, surfing the free wifi or idling before a train. Coffee places are where love begins and love ends. Coffee shops offer company and conversation but also solitude when needed.
Customers witness a dedication from coffee professionals that is not often found in commercial spaces and that goes from bean to cup. The dedication and passion of the barista and/or roaster leads to the desire to educate the consumer. If the coffee shop is annexed to the roastery, personnel can organize tours to give the opportunity to learn about the process of roasting and discovery of their roasting philosophy. Coffee shops attract and gather innovators, designers and creatives in general. These folks regularly visit the coffee shop not only for meetings and relaxed hangs-out with friends but often they become part of the experience as a whole. It’s not a rarity to encounter collaborations – long and short term – that goes beyond and across creative disciplines. For instance, tailor-made aprons, unique crafted pottery or chalk boards that change every week in look that are designed by the artist who drops by every morning for an espresso.