37: Intro and Coffee Shop Culture

So hello all. My name is Tanya. I guess that the gist of my existence at the moment is spending a lot of time “studying” (actually getting sidetracked and reading mindless things on the internet) at various coffee shops in Minneapolis. Maybe you’ve deduced that I’m a student already. I study Urban Studies and Architecture at the University of Minnesota, so I observe things in my surroundings…mostly built things but also humanoid things. Once and a while, I can make some pretty acute observations about very inconsequential phenomena, so, by joining this blog, I hope to write about mindless things (different than mindlessly writing, I hope) instead of just reading them.

Anyway, I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. I’m sure that coffee shops are popular in any urban area, but the number of them in Minneapolis is pretty excessive. Not only does Minneapolis have the usual number of Starbucks location, but the Twin Cities are also home to two of top ten largest coffeehouse franchises in the country: Caribou Coffee and Dunn Bros. I’m not sure how popular these brands are across the country, but here they are everywhere. In addition to the chains, there are, of course, hip independent coffee shops in all the up-and-coming or pretty much gentrified areas of the cities.

What is really the point of all these coffee shops? By no means am I criticizing people who go to coffee shops, because I went to a coffee shop this morning and I totally participate in the culture. It’s just that when you think about, it’s kinda ridiculous.

It kind of makes sense to go to coffee shop to buy a latte or whatever over-sweetened, artificially flavored espresso drink, because typical kitchens do not possess espresso machines and there is actually kind of an art or technique to making such drinks. So therefore a coffee shop could be like a restaurant, bakery or ice cream shop. But I find with coffee snobs and alcohol snobs is that the simplest drink (with good ingredients) is the most “respectable”. So the usual for a coffee snob is a black, dark roast, because most people can’t handle it.

Most don’t even have any meaningful selection of food. When does a muffin or a scone really satisfy hunger anyway? And I’m really skeptical if the “atmosphere” of a coffee shop is the appeal. I just watched the movie “Slacker”. It’s one of Richard Linklater’s first movies and it really epitomizes the 90’s. Anyway, there were a few scenes that took place in the typical 90’s coffee house where unclean flannel wearers talk about crazy bullshit. So if coffee shops were still like this place of cultural conversation, then maybe the trend would be more logical. In reality though, a big portion of coffee shop users are people that are alone, either reading, studying or plugged into their computers. I think it’s quite funny that hipper coffee shops play their hipster music while most people have headphones in. Maybe people with laptops feel obligated to go somewhere other than home with their portable device?

For me, I guess that I like coffee shops because it’s nice to get away from home or get away from campus. Maybe it also has something to do with people watching. Maybe coffee shops are a necessity for people the growing number of people that are self- employed and don’t have a traditional office. I worked at a coffee shop that had an exceptional patio and I think that’s a legit reason to spend time somewhere. Anyway, I think part of it, that I recognize in myself, is that I just really like to spend money. And that a coffee is cheap enough that I can buy many cups and I get the added benefit of a racing heart.

So why do you like or dislike going to coffee shops? How do you feel about McDonald’s coffee?

Maybe I should include pictures next time.I have to run to class.

-Tanya

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