Thursday, March 27, 2008

on coffee shops...

So, I'm back at Cafe' Eclectic. I just enjoyed a soy latte' and wrote two lovely public service announcements for my Public Relations Writing course. I'm so very in love with this place. They make great espresso drinks and delicious food!

On to the subject I alluded to in my next to last post: I work at Starbucks, I like Starbucks, but I love independent coffee shops. I think I'll approach this systematically, with a brief description of an aspect of a coffee shop and why I like and dislike each manifestation. These manifestations will be reffered to as The Man (AKA The chain) and Mom and Pop (AKA the indie shop.)

Disclaimer: This post is not a political statement. I'm not even going to touch the subject of Starbucks killing the small coffee shops so don't even go there!

Coffee: The sole purpose of a coffee shop.

The Man has nice coffee, nice selection, and good brewing standards. They also have nice espresso drinks along with specialty drinks. The luxury is that The Man has a pretty consistent product. When I go to New York, Nashville or anywhere else in the world I can expect the same tall latte'. This homogeneous experience is both the blessing and the curse of The Man.

Mom and Pop, usually have nice coffee. Some places are hit or miss. I've had some cruddy coffee at indie shops, I've also had incredible coffee. Usually the specialty espresso drinks are of much higher quality at these indie places. The lack of "wait time" obsession means they take time ensuring the drinks are well crafted and perfect. As a rule, an indie place that roasts their own coffee or purchases it from a pretty spectacular roaster takes more pride in their coffee.

Ambiance: This is what you pay the extra $2.00 for. Yes, you could make coffee at home, but you like the ambiance. Ere go, you come back every day for your "coffee fix" AKA your ambiance fix.

The man strives to keep a similar look in their stores. They do not all look identical, but sadly you can expect the same burgundy/brown motif from most of his stores. Some of The Man's minions do attempt to display local art on their walls. This is a nice attempt to connect The Man to his community. But sadly, his baristas have to wear the uniform. This is regretful, the sense of uniqueness is lost when every barista wears a collared shirt in white or black.

Mom and Pop are traditionally artsy people. No two Mom and Pop stores are the same. Many of Mom and Pop's stores have local art, barista art and crap! Many of the shops have a whole bunch of junk. One local Mom and Pop, who will remain nameless (located on Young Ave) has so much stuff! They have unreliable vintage chairs for your sitting pleasure, sit at your own risk! They also have so much stimulus that I feel dizzy by the time I leave. Too much of a good thing, including art, is a bad thing. One favorable aspect is the lack of dress code. This means the baristas can express their uniqueness and the flavor of the shop in their clothing (within health codes.)

The Man has the sheer size of his establishment on his side. He can offer benefits that Mom and Pop simply cannot afford, such as health insurance for part time employees and free pounds of coffee. Thus is the dichotomy between The Man and Mom and Pop. Doesn't it always revolve around the money?

All this rambling to say I love each for what they are. They are totally different entities. I love the man's standard and the fact that his stores are reliable and convenient. The coffee's good, maybe not spectacular but it isn't bad.

The beauty of Mom and Pop is their uniqueness. When I find an amazing Mom and Pop shop it's a beautiful thing. As a general rule I like the independent things of this world better than the bullying Man. This is one case where I lean toward the indie, yet still have a place in my heart for The Man. Sound contradictory?... Well, welcome to The Caitlyncosm!!!


Susan Cushman said...

Hey! Where is Cafe Eclectic? And congrats on such regular the last few days! I'm enjoying your blog. See you in the morning at St. John for the Sunday of the Cross!

Susan Cushman said...

Oops - I meant to say congrats on such regular POSTS the last few days ... I should have previewed my comment!