Went to a different coffee shop than usual this morning; I don’t like going to Starbucks before 10 a.m. because the line is always out the door, so I went to the Corner Bakery Cafe where they have self-serve carafes. It was fine, but they don’t have soy milk and there is only cinnamon powder, no nutmeg or cocoa (I feel like there’s sometimes cocoa, but none today). It didn’t ruin my day or anything. But it got me thinking about what my dream coffee shop would be.
I already know my perfect office: Either a bungalow in the Garden of Allah in 1928, or a small studio apartment in an old building with ceiling fans and windows that face the front, sharing a floor with several other writers in studio apartments, on the second floor with a drugstore on the first floor, the sort of drugstore that has a lunch counter with cheap but surprisingly good food, on a street lined with shops (mostly foot traffic, maybe a two-lane road) and a coffee shop directly across from my building.
But what would the coffee shop be like? I made a (probably incomplete) list:
My Dream Coffee Shop:
- Either self-serve carafes, or an express line for people who just want brewed coffee, nothing fancy, but also no judgment if you feel like standing in the regular line so you can ask questions about things
- A condiment bar with: cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and soy milk
- Soy milk (I said it already but why the gosh darn do so many places not have soy milk?
- Plenty of outlets, and then some extra outlets just in case (maybe two outlets per chair), including some in the floor if there are tables in the middle, so people don’t have to stretch cables across the floor
- Free refills. Yes, I’m cheap; I’m also broke and absolutely can not afford coffee shops where I only get one cup of coffee for my two dollars
- Shades or tinted windows. The Starbucks I most often go to has a two-hour period in the afternoon in which the sun hits all the cars in the parking lot and having your face turned anywhere towards a window is agony. Even if you manage to sit somewhere facing completely away from the window it isn’t safe, because anything reflective (include a wooden chair) becomes a pool of ocular hell. I always get a crick in my neck from trying to sit in such a way that my cap brim blocks out the light.
- No music. All right, I like music playing in the background as much as anyone else, but there’s a caveat that I bet most people share: it has to be music I don’t absolutely hate. And there’s so much music I hate. There’s a certain type of singer popular these days, who strains her voice to hit high notes till it becomes all breathy, and it makes my ears bleed. I know for a fact some people hate the music I love just as much. No coffee shop music is going to make everyone happy. Of course I can wear headphones, and I do (although around xmas time they often blast the damn carols so loud I can hear them through my headphones this should never happen) but it still makes me sad if I’m waiting to order or setting up. Why not just turn it off? Why not, darn it? Or, okay, how about Vivaldi? Played at a reasonable volume. Compromise!
- Napkins at the counter where you order. When I give the barista my re-usable cup, I have to take off the lid and carry it around with me until my pour-over is done. It is always covered in coffee, which I want to wipe up as soon as possible. Anyway, what if someone spills something? Why is this not already a thing?
- Decaf all day long. I know Starbucks wouldn’t stop brewing decaf after noon if they hadn’t been losing money doing so, but it’s so weird. You have to wait for a pour-over, or the barista convinces you to get an Americano and promises free refills but when you go back for your refill it’s a different barista and they’re all like ‘no refills for Amercano, that’s for brew only’ and it’s a whole thing.
- Free parking.
- A place to wait to pick up coffee that is not in the way of where people are going to obviously want to walk.
- Double-sided condiment bars. Places that have these are the best. Everyone’s so much happier.
- Well-paid, well-treated baristas. People who are happy in their jobs, who are paid properly, given benefits, and treated respectfully by their managers, do their jobs better, and are nicer to interact with.
- Customers who don’t jiggle their legs. I understand this might be somewhat outside management’s control. But it’s my dream coffee shop, and this is an important one. I have a horrible time blocking out movement in my peripheral vision, and while I wear a baseball cap it’s not always enough; if I’m looking at my screen and the person next to me is jiggling their leg, I can not block it out. I have to twist around all weird, and if the person on the other side is also jiggling, there will be no writing. People just don’t realize how much harm jiggling can do.
- Straight-backed, well-padded chairs with good lumbar support. I’m at that age.
- A requirement that any one person waiting in line to get six complicated drinks for six complicated people hold a sign that says “this line is much longer than it looks.”
- Pero, or similar. It’s a grain-based drink that tastes a lot like coffee (they claim it tastes exactly like coffee but, well, it comes close) but has no caffeine. I’m not supposed to have caffeine and even decaf has too much for me sometimes. The only tea I like also has caffeine. I’ve honestly wondered if I couldn’t bring in Pero and ask them to charge me for a coffee but just give me hot water.
- Snacks of the sort you’d get at a 7-11; m&ms and dry cereal and stuff like that. People who sit and write for eight hours in a coffee shop do not need to be munching on muffins all day, especially if they’re not supposed to have sugar. Also, regular food like French fries and things. And soup.
- Warmth. Man I hate being cold in a coffee shop. I feel like half the time I’m in one I’m shivering uncontrollably. Thermostats controllable by management, and a separate cooling system behind the counter so the baristas aren’t sweltering while we’re freezing.
- Rest rooms. I shouldn’t have to say it but there’s a Starbucks on Melrose that does not have a public rest room. I don’t go there, obviously, but imagine going to a place like that by mistake.
- Customers who look just like the people I’m writing about at that moment. Again, I realize this might be outside management’s control. But it’s so nice when it happens.
- Some regulars who are probably good in a fight. A few months ago, when I was at a Starbucks I go to a lot that is also frequented by a bunch of large Eastern-European men, a (probably mentally-challenged) guy came in and started aggressively harassing a girl near me. At once, five men at nearby tables stood up, and the guy quickly left. Then they sat back down. It was awesome.
- Posters and paintings on the walls that are conducive to daydreams, and that change regularly. I’m thinking mainly street scenes.
- A few more tables than are ever needed. Man I hate getting all the way to Starbucks and finding all the tables full. I just hate that so much.
- A separate section for people who want to be noisy. Or, I guess, for people who want to be quiet. Like the no-phone cars on trains.
- An information desk with people who know about screenplay formatting and how long boot camp lasts and how much it cost to ride the subway in 1945. This is my dream, damn it.
- Community chargers (phone, iPad, laptop, etc.) for anyone to use.
- Mobility. You know how Baba Yaga had a house with chicken legs that followed her around? Something like that. This coffee shop should always be a block away from me, unless I need exercise, in which it should be just under a mile away.
- Open 24 hours. Obviously.
I know I probably forgot stuff. I’m going to thinking up new things for the rest of the day. That is understood.
edited to add:
- Trained massage therapists who give five-minute $2 shoulder rubs. Can not BELIEVE I forgot this one.
- Free wi-fi I guess this has become so common I don’t even think about it anymore. Except every now and then you’ll be in a place that doesn’t have it and it’s totally discombobulating. Of course the best is when you don’t need a password; it takes forever otherwise (I’m looking at you, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf).