Coffee Shop Culture: Finding Community In Every Cup

It’s raining outside, but within these four walls everything is safe and dry. I’m in my favorite coffee shop—a creaky, cozy refuge for students, workers, poets, and on this evening a man playing acoustic guitar, singing a handful of history’s favorite folk songs.

Outside, the street is illuminated with a colorful glow of storefront signs and traffic lights reflecting on slick, wet pavement. Even the red brick sidewalks along the road seem painted with puddles of green, yellow, and blue—every drop sending dark ripples through the bright color.

The man onstage pours his own heart into each song he plays, just like the baristas downstairs pouring creativity into each drink they serve. He sings with his eyes closed and although he entered wearing flip flops, he’s since kicked them off to the side. His casual demeanor seems to fit the music and mood of the room—like everyone else, this guy seems right at home.

Part 1:
Finding Your Own Cup of Tea.

I look from the stage to the table in front of me, where the ginger tea I ordered downstairs now sits. I’ve been letting it steep in the container it was served in for several minutes—it was given to me in a pitcher-like object, not unlike a French press. As I pour it into my charcoal black mug, I can smell the strong, sharp smell of ginger, cutting through the air, making a beeline for my nostrils. The spicy aroma stings a bit, but it’s invigorating.

I put a hand over the mug, and my open palm catches the warm steam coming up from the tea below. I bring the cup up to my mouth and as it touches my lip—oh, wow that’s hot!

“Yep, that still needs to cool down,” I think, and look back up at the stage.

The man behind the microphone tunes his guitar casually, looking up at the crowd every few seconds with a nonchalant smile on his face. Once he’s finished tuning, he strums into his next song, getting the audience involved with strategically planned clapping and foot-stomping.

“Man, this guys seems like a real pro,” I think, taking a look around the room to survey the rest of the audience behind me. There are maybe ten other people here tonight, but everyone appears to be having a good time.

I look back at my tea.

“Okay, let’s give it another shot.”

Part 2:
A Taste of Something New.

The tea has cooled by now, and I take my first sip. Initially, I’m not sure exactly what to make of it. It’s warm and pleasant I suppose, but then—“yep, there’s the ginger.” It’s sharp with a strong, peppery feel in each gulp.

“This might not quite be for me,” I think. After a few sips though, the ginger-iness becomes something I look forward to with each mouthful.

This pleasant realization gives way to a few more gulps and then quickly I look up from my cup, because suddenly I realize the man onstage is playing a song I know.

“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me,” the man sings. I take another swig of my tea and lean back in my chair, my attention now occupied by the music.

“Isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood?” he sings.

I tilt my mug backward and drain the last of my tea. I fully enjoyed the beverage, but if you’d asked me a few months ago whether or not I’d like some ginger tea, my answer would’ve been, without hesitation, “no, thanks.”

What I’ve realized by coming to this coffee shop, is that sometimes you have to try things you haven’t before. As many times as I’ve been here for instance, there was still one time that happened to have been the first. It was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning, stopping in here alone, but a year and a half later, I’m glad that I did. I’m glad to have become a regular and have built this place into my routine.

Part 3:
Feeling Right at Home.

When it comes to acoustic guitars and microphones, music is (generally speaking) just that—music. It’s enjoyable and entertaining and on some occasions really can move you. And, no matter where you go, coffee is still pretty much coffee (okay, well how about… caffeine is still caffeine?).

In a place like this, though—a sleepy coffee shop in a quaint, little town—there’s something else to be found. A sense of community that doesn’t exist everywhere in the world.

This is a place that’s brought together by music, coffee, spicy ginger tea, and on this particular night, a rainstorm that refuses to let anyone outside without paying a rather torrential toll.

But I think everyone here is okay with that, because of all the things we have—music, warm drinks, toasted bagels, and even a pint of beer here and there—the least of which is certainly not the warm, relaxed feeling you get walking in the front door.

Everything about this place seems comfortable and welcoming in a way, sort of like it’s your grandmother’s house—no matter how many people have stopped in, you know there’s always another cup of coffee to be made or bagel to be toasted.

* * *

The man onstage strums the last few chords of the song and as his guitar gently ceases to generate sound, I’m brought from my thoughts back to the world around me—back to the smattering of applause echoing through the room.

I stand up from my chair as I finish clapping, getting ready to go order another pitcher of ginger tea. I take a few steps and feel the floorboards creak below me, letting out a low groan.

“You know what?”, I think. “It may not be Norwegian, but I think the wood I’m standing on supports a pretty great community.

“So to answer the question, Mr. Guitar Player, I guess I’ll have to say, ‘Yes, it is good. Wherever it all comes from, everything in this building is good, if you ask me.’ “

About the author

Hi, I’m Andre! I’m your standard, run-of-the-mill, millennial with a thing for avocados, a major coffee-habit and a blog I work on when I'm not listening to podcasts or collecting cans of rare, sought-after craft beer.

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