By Chérmelle D. Edwards, The Coffeetographer
Imagine the young morning sun beginning to bloom on the sidewalk, a fall wind sweeping leaves into circles, the bustle of a city slowly rousing. As you awake, the choice to have coffee away from home is an easy decision, and it is because these natural elements somehow incite a feeling of wanting to travel somewhere else and be human: consume, commune, and connect. Yes, the human element of a coffee shop breeds the habits that make a person a “regular”—a consummate attendee of an environment and its culture.
I am a regular. I wake up, all year long, season-by-season, and, on almost every day of the year, choose to bring my humanity to the place where I know I can share it with others. Why? The cafe space gives me life, by being a voyeur of the craft of coffee, engaging in meaningful conversations, and allowing the muse of all the creative components aligning within the space to have an effect on me.
What I feel about coffee shops, what most of us regulars feel, is that their central uniting force—coffee—doesn’t discriminate. At its simplest, it’s a fruit, enhanced by water. However, that simplicity is a complex agent that has brought regulars to its spaces for social purposes for thousands of years. In the 17th century, coffee was one of three—tea and chocolate being the other two—things that were considered new and exotic to Europe as was the new counterpart to the tavern: the coffeehouse. According to Richard Charlton’s History of Coffeehouses, the coffeehouse was “distinct.”
But, why the coffee shop? Why does the “regular” find him or herself loyal to this space? To understand the present, I believe one must always look to the past. It’s in the history and the intention of the coffeehouse, a place for stimulation, creativity, and imbibing non-alcoholic beverages, which allow one’s full mental faculties to be in commission. While waves in coffee culture have moved coffee forward as an industry, isn’t there truth in the adage, “the more things change the more they stay the same?” Yes, because while those waves ebb and flow, humans still desire a space to travel to, to exist in, to commune with, and to exchange the currency that only humans can: ideas.
Last year when I interviewed James Freeman of Blue Bottle he said, “It is the pleasure of socializing [in coffee shops] that is distinct.” I believe this is the crux of the power of the coffee shop. The social exchange doesn’t just consist of our thoughts of the day, what happened at work in the morning, or where we’ll go after the coffee break, but the ideas that caused what exists in our cup: craft and connection, the sharing of who we are, authenticity. Consuming the hand-crafted stimulant of inspiration and romance fills us with new ideas that give us purpose. It’s the consumption and the creation, both happening together, that makes the coffee shop such a powerful entity for the regular that he or she can’t do without it.
Ashley Tianah is a blogger at Any and Everything L.A., a coffee enthusiast, and a coffee shop regular. For coffee lovers, she suggests, “Don’t ever forget the romance of coffee and how you feel being surrounded by the space and your neighbors. Coffee shops are more than coffee, they’re places to build connections, network, and make some of your best friends—even if you don’t know it at that moment.”
Chris Punterere is a photographer and a barista based in Los Angeles. His approach to verbalizing the power of coffee as a craft brings to light the craft of it, which imbues connection. He said, “Coffee is a conversation, and I don’t necessarily mean verbal per se. A conversation with coffee is one of pure spiritual connection; it is one drenched in love, grace, and delicate craft. When someone makes your coffee with absolute care and love for the process, your cup becomes so much more than a daily morning eye-opener or your midday pick-me-up, it becomes an exchange between barista and recipient, one of trust and love, one of absolute good conversation.”
Reggie Black is a writer and composer of Sticky Inspiration, an Instagram platform that inspires and connects people with authentic daily thoughts and creative inspiration on a sticky note. He does this from cities and countries all over the world, including the space of the coffee shop. About the space, he said, “It’s the core of creativity, humanity, and innovation. Coffee shops have more of an impact on the world than boardrooms. Coffee creates community, it sparks engagement, and builds networks that generate revolutions.”
These are just three regulars, of three different backgrounds with three worldviews, but all bound by how the four walls of a coffee shop affects them. They, like most regulars, bask in being in the space, seek out new expressions, and thus will find a platform that will mirror them wherever they go. The regular in his or her most altruistic form seeks to find a place where he/she can be real, an authentic expression of him or herself through their work that they will give to the world. I know that I do. And, that authenticity recalls the words of the great artist Picasso, who said, “all that one imagines is real.” The regular imagines that inside the coffee shop, he or she gets to be real, and that is the most powerful stimulant for life.
Chérmelle D. Edwards is a writer, photographer and storyteller. She writes and curates coffee as a culture on her webzine The Coffeetographer. She is a contributing writer at Cool Hunting, a contributing photographer and blogger with the global coffee and breakfast series, Creative Mornings and has been featured in The Guardian. She is a proud UCLA Bruin, with a degree in Creative Writing.