As a Northwesterner raised by a Midwesterner and Southerner, coffee was a foreign substance in my household. In its place was pop – a drink often rationed by my siblings and I. Coffee didn’t enter my life in a meaningful way until I returned to Seattle in 2007 for college at the University of Washington.
After years of drinking pop out of a fridge or vending machine, the notion of brewing coffee or going to get it from a shop seemed downright foreign, if not absurd. Venturing to shops with friends proved to be an interesting challenge. I’d often get to the menu board and be overwhelmed by the choices. It was a stark change from my standard options at home – Coke or Pop. Dazed and often very confused, I’d frequently leave shops with a mocha, my default/security blanket.
It wasn’t until I graduated from college when I truly started to appreciate coffee. Oddly however it wasn’t the taste which drew me in. No, instead it was the culture around the shops and its powerful distinction as an independent space for interaction, business, and relaxing. I hadn’t experienced anything like it before and was hooked by the notion.
Much of my experience with coffee came as a direct connection to the close of the Great Recession in 2009 – as documented by economists. During this time I found myself constantly hitting the pavement, making cold calls to potential employers, and emailing leads I’d discover through contacts. Responses were mixed. Many people were unresponsive, a few were downright rude, but remarkably I found a majority were actually very warm, friendly, and open to a conversation.
The receptive majority which I began to befriend always had a particular place they’d like to meet – coffee shops. Timid at first, I found myself bouncing from coffee shop to coffee shop meeting a variety of different professionals. During the meetings they’d provide in-depth insight into their lives, careers, and passions. The warmness I felt from those experiences still lingers with me today and is a major factor why I find myself frequenting coffee shops today.
Now at a new stage in my life as a budding freelance communications consultant/unemployed young professional I often find myself calling coffee shops home. It serves as a place to connect and work. In just a few years, this once foreign drink has become part of my natural routine. Happy to say I drink it mostly black with just a bit of sugar these days.
[Photo courtesy of Flickr user Nicola since 1972]