Let’s get this out of the way right up front: I don’t drink coffee. I’ve always been a tea person, so I have nothing against steaming hot mugs of caffeinated bliss waking me up in the morning, sending me to sleep in the evening, or keeping me company at any hour in between. I just don’t like the taste of coffee, though I usually enjoy the smell.
I do love coffeehouses. They’ve evolved in recent years to become true community centers in their home neighborhoods, way beyond simply selling hot drinks. Great coffeehouses serve food from local vendors or their own kitchens, host local musicians, post flyers for local events, and show up at local festivals and school fairs. They let you plop down with your laptop or a magazine and linger. They help you escape the outside hustle and bustle and never hurry you along.
This month’s “Coffee Culture” section highlights more than 30 area cafés and roasters who embrace their important roles in our lives. They’re building connections and relationships one cup at a time, supplementing the coffee occasionally with beer, cocktails, wine, kombucha, books, groceries, and dinner. Some build relationships all the way down the supply chain, personally getting to know coffee bean farmers and growers around the world and striving to support their families.
A great coffeehouse is a respite from daily life, a place to be alone with others while you focus on answering work e-mails or working the crossword puzzle. It’s also a wonderful way to get to know a new neighborhood or a new city. No matter how far you are from home, the best coffeehouses treat you like a friend the minute you walk in.
With the pandemic easing once again and life starting to open up a bit, take some time to stop in at your local coffeehouse and soak in the welcoming vibe. Be thankful that we can warm ourselves with each other’s company (and a cup of coffee or tea) again as the winter chill approaches, and that we’ll be able to gather with friends and family again at Thanksgiving.