Back in Washington, there are coffee shops everywhere. Not only is there a surplus of Starbucks (probably due to the fact it was founded in the wonderful Evergreen State), but there are a number of regional chains, local coffee shops and locally owned cafes. It’s not hard to find a place to get a dark roast, latte or tasty hot chocolate. It may be that Washingtonians just drink a lot of coffee – supply and demand? However, I think it’s something a bit different.
Coffee shops and cafes offer more than the drinks and snacks they serve. They are a great place to meet up with a friend and catch up, or hang out for a bit before your movie starts, or – one I’ve very familiar with – do some homework. Part of the experience of ‘going to a coffee shop’ is the atmosphere. They are often cozy and have just the right amount of ambient noise to make you feel things are happening, but not feel like things around you are hectic. They are places you can go and be in your own world, yet feel connected to others.
Local shops provide this very well. They might be one of only a few shops in a chain, or maybe they’re the only one. The customers are probably locals, and very likely to be regulars. The owners want to make people feel comfortable, and want to come back. Unfortunately, Starbucks has the luxury of people coming regardless. You always know what you’ll get with Starbucks and they are so common [there are at least 3 on ASU’s campus alone], they act as a dependable morning stop for coffee drinkers. If Starbucks gets so much regular morning traffic, the inside atmosphere plays less of a role in getting people to come by; it becomes less of a priority.
There was a regional coffee shop in Washington that I loved, and I probably went there far too often. I’d take any excuse to go out and sip some delectable treat in the cozy atmosphere. Upon arriving to Arizona, I hoped I could find something that might do as a temporary substitute. As alluded to before, a Starbucks doesn’t quite cut it. Thus began my search;
So far I have adventured to 3 different cafes/coffee shops. The first was Cartel Coffee lab. Being near the university, I had high hopes for this place to be a good stop for getting some homework done. However, when you walk into this space you are a bit confused. The aesthetic is cold and minimalist, makes me feel more like I should be sitting on the edge of my seat, rather than settling down in it. Half of the space is storage. Now, they’ve played it off as a ‘lab’ feel, as through you get a glimpse inside the stock room – cool chemicals and all. However, to put it frankly, it’s storage. It’s not even organized, just piles of stuff. For food and drink, the menu was sparse and there were no obvious options for Alex, who does not drink coffee. Finally, they played strange music, and played it loudly. It would be a pretty hard to concentrate unless you brought some headphones for your own tunes (a quick glance around told me that’s a common solution). The one positive was that the barista who took my order was very nice, and made a tasty, nice looking latte. Even so, I couldn’t see myself spending long stretches of time there.
The second was Lola Coffee. This was an adventure because this location is in Phoenix, just outside of downtown and therefore involved a bit more of a trek. This was a much better experience. On the topic of food and drink, they had a delicious lemonade option for my non-coffee drinking companion and a unique house spiced latte recipe that I quite enjoyed. It was pretty easy to set ourselves up and play a round of 13 (much like rummy), enjoying conversation amidst the ambient noise and comfortable atmosphere. We enjoyed it so much, we went back for more card games the two weekends after. The distance is a downfall. If I were to go at a time other than a Sunday afternoon, I would have to contest with traffic.
The third was the Coyote Cafe. This location was incredibly small and, while still in Tempe, pretty out of my way. I had a nice latte and Alex enjoyed a smoothie. However, it felt awkward sitting and doing work at one of the two tables. It would be a nice option for stopping in for a cup on your way to work. However, this doesn’t work for me. It’s on the other side of town!
Alas, after multiple weeks of searching I have yet to find a local cafe that fits my needs. For Sunday afternoons, Alex and I will continue to play a game of 13 at Lola coffee. As studying/working goes, for now I’ll have to be content with the limited change of scenery the Starbucks down the road provides.
I’ll find a cozy place to work eventually…..