One of the best things in the world must be entering a coffee shop, either to meet up with a friend or to escape life if even for a few minutes. My favorite is the coffee date. Two words that when strung together, completely and utterly appeal to me.
In fact it really is one of the perks of city living, and therefore conversely one of the hardships of living in a rural setting. Mind you one can make a myriad of wonderful coffee beverages right at home, of course.
And I enjoy sharing a cup of coffee on our front covered porch any day of the week. It’s a truly lovely spot to dwell in, especially during one of the many thunder storms of late.
But…a good coffee date at a charming coffeehouse…c’est magnifique! The epitome of a well spent afternoon.
I actually did not frequent coffee shops as a teen, and only remember Tim Horton’s and Homestead Bakery, which were both technically more about donuts for us kids. It wasn’t until I’d moved to the city to go to university that I was lured there by friends, and it certainly didn’t take much convincing. I was completely hooked by the appeal; the music, the smells, the atmosphere…the coffee.
Even though this was way back in the early nineties, we had the cute ones with the catchy names, the chains, and the ones that were also newsstands like The Daily Grind. I actually went to work at one, part time one summer, and it was so much fun.
The shop I worked in specialized in coffee drinks and teas, and had some lovely desserts, but it was their sandwiches (and salads) that I really recall fondly. They were made-to-order on fresh baguettes and man, were they good.
Just off campus, back then in a renovated old house, there was a chain coffee shop that was technically on my way to class depending on which street that I chose to walk down. I loved every minute of going there after class with my girlfriends.
I was just starting to drink coffee, probably buying some flavored one that I haven’t tasted since 1994, Irish Cream or such. I was likely too poor to buy cappuccinos and lattes.
We would hunker down at a table for hours to discuss everything under the sun. It was a refuge from the cold and hot weather. I remember so clearly going there with one of my closest friends and relaying every minute detail of our loves lives to each other for reflection, as we navigated those treacherous paths.
And it was the years around the television show Friends, with their hangout the Central Perk coffee shop in NYC, so a lot of the shops were just starting to furnish sofas and love seats for comfy heart-to-hearts, or curling up with a good book or newspaper.
I mentioned it before…the music. To this day I still love, love my coffeehouse compilation cd called Slowbrew (Music for a Cafe Culture). Takes me right back. But then again coffee shops almost always have some type of interesting or enhancing music wafting through.
Even now, after living outside of or north of an artsy, college town for the past sixteen years I find myself envisioning how great it would be to be able to walk over to one of the eclectic city spots. It’s so easy to romanticize the thought, on tv shows and movies the streets are tree lined and there are always lots of string lights and café lights.
In fact when I found out I would be able to accompany my husband to Stockholm, Sweden one of my first thoughts was their world famous coffee. Once I started researching it a bit, as I love to make lists of the best places to visit, I learned they have an entire cultural concept over there called Fika, which basically means “to have coffee”, often accompanied with pastries or sandwiches.
Fika is considered a social institution in Sweden; it means having a break, most often a coffee break, with one’s colleagues, friends, date or family. The word fika can be used as both verb and a noun. You can fika at work by taking a “coffee break”, fika with someone like a “coffee date”, or just drink a cup of coffee, tea or other non-alcoholic beverage. As such, the word has quite ambiguous connotations, but almost always includes something to eat, such as biscuits, cakes and even sweets, accompanied with the drink. This practice of taking a break, often with a cinnamon roll or some biscuits or cookies, or sometimes a smörgås or a fruit on the side, is central to Swedish life.
In other words I fell in love with Sweden before I had even arrived! Once there I confirmed my adoration on as many of my daily outings as possible.
Some of my daily Fikas!
I continue to totally love being invited to meet a friend for coffee. Sadly I haven’t done so in ages, maybe only once since Christmas! Much too long.
I still enjoy passing an hour or two, three, even four, chatting with a friend over caramel lattes, or especially caramel macchiatos. Even at Panera Bread or the like (our nearest sit-down spot).
Over the years the conversations have largely switched and grown more mature, less about our not-so-treacherous love lives, and more to the art of parenting, or some such theme. Catching up over coffee is simply as appealing as ever, maybe even more so.
My husband and I used to go for coffee dates, too, but we’ve switched to a standing Saturday morning breakfast date where we eat, drink coffee and do a crossword puzzle out of the newspaper. It’s something we started doing every weekend once our boys were grown.
But when we travel we always love to find a local place to enjoy. And if we ever do move back into an urban setting, you can bet we’ll be frequenting the cutely lit-up coffeehouses on a lovely evening walk whenever possible.
Raina K Morton May 19 2015