The Coffee Shop

Most days, I have coffee twice. The day starts at a coffeeshop and if I can find a few minutes in the afternoon, another on campus. I’m a big fan of coffee but I’m a bigger fan of coffee shops.

I usually eat breakfast at home with black tea. There were times when the day started with coffee, followed by more coffee, but the second cup never tastes as good, so switching to tea has been nice. When I arrived in London, I jumped into the tea game and bought a loose tea strainer. It looks like a big grape on the end of some tongs and packing it full makes a strong, dark cup. The intensity is kicked up but it’s not coffee.

When I finally get out the door, I head to Starbucks. Fortunately there are locations on every other street, all a bit different. My morning spot isn’t close to an Underground station, so it usually has open seats. Every morning, I order the same drink: a Tall (small?) filtered coffee in a mug. Not only is it the cheapest thing on the menu (£1), but after downloading the app, refills are free. I rarely get a refill, after all it’s the morning and I can’t sit around all day. Sometimes on the weekends, coffee mugs shine in round two. It’s all made better because American filtered coffee is nearly impossible to find. Just seeing the words Pike Place on the coffee maker makes me feel better.

My first day at this Starbucks, a man, about 70, was served his usual order, cappuccino or latte, in a wide, white mug, brought directly to the table. The two most senior cashiers, women, jumped to serve him and pushed him toward his seat. The kind of excitement that stops the coffee making and ignores all other customers. I was laughing when the cashier challenged me to “come every day”. Four mornings a week since, I’ve headed there for a £1 cup. The conversation isn’t much more than “how’s your day going?”, but maybe once a week it will expand; holiday plans, the cashier’s birthday, or why I have so much time to sit at Starbucks.

There aren’t a ton of seats, I always choose one that faces out the window. Morning sunshine, direct or through clouds, is underrated and looking out the window helps avoid distracting customers. I usually put thirty minutes into writing and reading. The last few months I’ve kept this schedule, reading things that are denser and more challenging, doing my best to highlight on the Kindle or take notes with Post-Its. It feels like a waste of time at first, but it makes the thoughts a bit more firm. Some business and history books require full attention and trying to read them later in the day puts me to sleep.

Less than two weeks ago, I made my usual order but had to wait while the coffee was made. I sat down, waiting for the ‘filtered coffee’ announcement. It found me. The act wasn’t lost on either of us. I had become a regular, but more than that the people at Starbucks looked forward to seeing me. Aside from an odd, new cashier, I rarely have to order. A hot mug is waiting when I get to the front of the line. If I get the right girl, it’s the large mug. If I’m absent, I get a remark.

As I said, I’m a big fan of coffee shops. In most big cities, there are different stores with different vibes that all serve coffee. It’s enticing to try them all, cycling based on the day of the week or my mood that morning. I could even hang out at my own apartment, brewing my own coffee, reading at my own table. But I’d miss out on so much.