coffee

Iced Hazelnut Lattes

Erica.

When I was thirteen, the local Starbucks sat on the perimeter of my accessible world. With no driver’s license and no reason to leave the house every day (homeschooling felt restrictive sometimes), it was the most exhilarating escape from school and home. Walking a mile just to sit at a table and drink a strawberries and cream Frappuccino was an adventure, and at age thirteen, my life needed adventure.

As time went on, Starbucks served not only to put distance in my life but to bridge it. Becoming friends with Allison in high school meant a 3000-mile friendship filled with copious texting and seeing each other only a few times a year; this scarcity brought along the sense of responsibility to fill every minute with excitement, but the frantic darting from museum to museum in New York and Los Angeles drained even our eager souls. And so we often dipped into the local Starbucks, sitting down with green tea lattes, charging our phones, and talking about the more serious things that never came up while paddle boarding or mini golfing.

But as college rolled around so did friends in closer proximity, and instead of going to coffee shops to chat, I spent Saturday mornings studying with them, together, but separately. Three cups of coffee and a few bagels on the table, we pored over textbooks, each listening to his own Spotify playlist, on the coffee shop patio as Lake Austin lapped on the boards beneath our feet.

I, on occasion, expanded my limits to outside Austin: one Tuesday morning last semester, my cousin and I ended up in a coffee shop in Waco, Texas, a hundred miles from the physics class I was supposed to be in at the time. Fatigued by school, we had impulsively bought bus tickets the night before, hit the road at six am, and there we were, drinking iced chai and planning out our adventures for the day.

As I write this, I am in my seventh coffee shop in the past couple of weeks, and as you read this, I may very well be on my fifteenth. This summer, in all its quiet, uneventful glory, has brought about mornings of opportunities to find the best coffee in Austin. My Moleskine journal is slowly filling up, Jack Johnson’s music has made more frequent appearances on my Spotify, and here I am, scouting out more new coffee shops to house the adventures and memories that this next semester holds.

 

I am continually in awe of the ability of coffee shops to provide an escape from reality amidst reality—the bustle of conversation between cashier and customer not breaking the peace but rather facilitating it. There’s something to be appreciated about these forty different personal bubbles existing at the same time; those typing away on their Macs and those eating their bagels and those sitting with friends and those scribbling away in their journals not infringing upon each other’s space but somehow calmly coexisting.

If these coffee cups could talk, they’d tell of my lightest chats and heartiest laughs, the my rawest conversations and most-appreciated company. They’d tell of the best first dates, the most productive studying, the calmest journaling, and the most tranquil breaks from this harried life. They’d tell of the times I sat with an iced latte, baring my soul to another human, and the times I sat with the same type of latte, baring my soul to a piece of paper.

It’s amazing how much can come along with a cup of coffee.

Embracing the Stereotype

Local goat lover, checking in. (It’s Allison, if we haven’t established that yet.)

Starbucks.

I’m sure everyone is already rolling their eyes, annoyed that I, an upper-middle class teenage girl whose preferred form of pants is a pair of black leggings, wants to talk about Starbucks. But really, there is something to be said. Because sure, I spend too much money on overpriced green tea lattes and perhaps I shouldn’t really drink 20 ounces of a chai latte in one sitting, and sure, I know my frequenting the coffee conglomerate makes me a stereotype, but honestly, Starbucks is an amazing place.

I drive to my local chain when I need to study for a few hours and want to be surrounded by different scenery than my bedroom or when I want to catch up with a friend and need somewhere to sit while we chat about our college applications or some equally boring subject. I’m familiar with the baristas at my local Starbucks, which frankly, is probably shameful and and all too accurate indicator of how much money I’ve wasted in one store.

People complain about the the prices or laugh at how stereotypical and annoying Starbucks is, but I love it. I love sitting and watching the constant flow of people, the confusion of messed-up orders and angry customers, the exchange of rushed hellos and unconcerned how are yous passed between worker and consumer. I love the drive-thru and mess of traffic and tangle of drivers trying to order six coffees but only one can be sweetened and the rest need extra milk and don’t forget the extra pump of vanilla syrup please.

I enjoy the rush, the general disinterest everyone has in one another. They’re all here for one purpose: they want coffee and they want it now. I love that so many people took time out of their hectic stressful lives to drink an overpriced cup of tea. I love that so many people come to the same place to simultaneously complain about prices while pulling out their wallets and spending their money. I love that a business man tries to enter a conference call while sitting next to a Britsh couple who can’t seem to understand that no, they don’t sell crumpets here. 

Sure, this exists elsewhere. Sure, Starbucks is far from the only place that sells coffee. Sure, I could better spend my $4.25 than on another venti drink, but something about it the familiarity is pleasant. It’s so human, to be so close to so many people yet so distant. The girl next to me pouring over her biology textbook could’ve just dumped her boyfriend of five years. The woman standing on line with two complaining children could be in the middle of a merger at her Fortune 500 company. Honestly, I wouldn’t know. Honestly, I wouldn’t care.

There’s an appeal in being so tangled in others’ lives while remaining so entirely disconnected. When I stand up to leave, I smile at the girl next to me and I hold the door open on my way out for the woman and her children. I’ll probably see them again next week when I have another test to study for and they have another craving for coffee, but I’ll probably never learn their name or their favorite color. I’ll probably never find out what school they go to or what company they work for. But I do know the girl always drinks a small iced coffee with extra caramel and the woman always orders a double espresso.


 

(In case you were curious, I wrote this because Erica yelled at me for not posting recently, and when I told her I didn’t know what to write about, she suggested the words hope, split ends, and Starbucks as topics. I have plenty to say about the split ends that are my head of hair, but I chose this for now. I was going to write something along the lines of oh please don’t judge me for loving Starbucks at the end of this post, but you know what, go ahead. Judge me.)