The following is a draft from a series of 500-word essays I am writing for my Design Writing Criticism course. If you have any critical feedback, please comment below or e-mail me. I would love to hear your suggestions or edits:
Last week I spent £12 on soy lattes. I may have a problem.
My excessive consumption wasn’t for lack of caffeine. A full container of instant coffee sits between teas of various strengths in my kitchen cupboard. The milk has not gone off. I’ve not run out of sugar. I own four coffee mugs.
Snuggled into my usual drafty corner of Café 67*, the buzz doesn’t matter. What I crave is everything that surrounds my soy flat white. Despite the isolation of laptops, headphones and newspapers, the patrons of Café 67 find silent companionship in our cozy neighborhood of brass-topped tables. Across the way an American accent competes with the soundtracked, ooh-ing magic of Darlene Love’s Winter Wonderland. With every drink ordered, the espresso machine screams in frenetic delight. I could go many days without caffeine. But days without the jovial, excited bliss of a room like this?
I blame it on college. In downtown Columbia, Missouri the most difficult exam-related question I encountered was where to study. The library was distractingly quiet. My house was just plain distracting. But at the intersection of 9th and Cherry a trifecta of coffee shops beckoned me with affordable lattes and decent music. I’d grown tired of smelling Lakota’s burnt coffee beans from my second story apartment. I dreaded the packs of Ugg-booted sorority sisters who “studied” at the Artisan. But the red Delonghi that glistened in the window of Kaldi’s drew me close. I walked in and never looked back.
I attended cuppings. I wrote about fern-shapped latte art in the city’s magazine. I became such a regular that formally ordering my drink was necessary only when I felt like talking to Dylan, the cute barista with the bird tattoo. Still, life at Kaldi’s wasn’t perfect. For its college-town location, there was a serious shortage of power outlets. The plush couches encouraged large amounts of inappropriate snuggling amongst college-aged, sexually-frustrated members of Christian youth groups. But encounters with abstaining co-eds were worth it for more reasons than a dry cappuccino: Kaldi’s was a hub for snippets of conversation and my own knowledge-harvesting in an nonacademic environment. The café sparked my love and addiction to the culture of coffee.
All good things must come to an end. I had to leave Columbia. The owner and I commiserated over chocolate-covered espresso beans. Everything will be fine, he assured me. “There will be others.”
When I moved to Kansas City, I rebounded. For proximity’s sake, I could walk down the hill to the townie cafe. Or, I could drive to the Roasterie for a Mac-using, frequent-smoke-break-taking, Facebook-checking Hipster fix. Every shop had something, but no shop had it all.
When I moved to London, I worried I’d be forced into a life of Twinings. Unable to quell my appetite for froth and free wifi, I embarked on a search for café culture in a supposedly tea-drinking country. There had to be a decent spot in my neighborhood. That’s when I walked into Café 67. I ordered my first drink — soy latte. Delicious. I felt guilty for admitting it was better than Kaldi’s. I stopped by again. And again. Two weeks later, the owner knew my order. Two months later, I am in my usual corner. Café 67 possesses the familiarity of far away but the sparkle of something new. My doctor would be shocked at my caffeine intake. But despite frequent bathroom breaks and late-afternoon shakes, I am happy here.
*Café 67 is actually called Number 67, but for the sake of clarity, I changed the name.