My Favorite Coffee Shop Experience

May 26, 2014

Note: This is a guest post that I wrote which originally appeared on back in June, 2010. As far as I know, the site is no longer operational.

Coffee shops are well-known for being a community gathering place and a venue to meet friends and strangers. I typically go to a coffee shop to get work done, generate ideas and get out of the house. In other words, I’m often anti-social and immersed in reading and getting things done when I do go.

Last November, while running errands in downtown Chicago, I headed into my favorite coffee shop, Intelligentsia. It was cool and crisp outside and I needed to warm up and get energized.

As a coffee lover, I can appreciate the service and quality of coffee served at the chain coffee franchises. But there is something extra special about the coffee served at Intelligentsia. One look at the baristas behind the counter and you’ll notice how intense and serious they are – they don’t just care about their coffee, they obsess about it. I’m serious. Their barista’s are as passionate about their coffee much like a graphic designer is passionate about his or her Mac.

I get my medium latté served to me in a fairly large ceramic cup, complete with a very artistic swirl on top. Not only has Intelligentsia perfected the taste of their carefully-roasted beans, but they’ve perfected latté art.

As much as I love Intelligentsia’s coffee, dining space at their Monadnock Building location feels a little tight. I find a spot at the counter against the wall and sit down. I savor the taste of my latté and immerse myself in a notebook filled with ideas and notes.

As I work, I notice a slightly heavy-set middle-aged woman glancing toward me. After trading several glances, she steps toward me and asks with a noticeable accent, “where is the art museum from here?”

I tell her that it’s less than a mile from here. As a lifelong Chicagoan, I enjoy playing tour guide to visitors to the city. I love to direct tourists to places off the beaten path and places that are unique to the city. Had I been asked about the best coffee shop to visit, I would have said Intelligentsia.

We talk for 15 or 20 minutes about our home cities. It turns out she’s an artist from Amsterdam. We also talk about the current state of the economy in the United States, corrupt politicians, art and sports. I learn that she’s in the United States to visit her son who plays college basketball at a local university.

Both the conversation and the coffee are equally enjoyable. Even though I’ve only talked to the woman for 15 minutes, I feel like I’ve known her much longer. I admire her for her exploration of Chicago by bicycle in November and I give her ideas for places to visit while she’s in Chicago.

We finish our coffee and she realizes that its starting to get dark and that she should get going. She writes her name and email address on a small piece of paper and invites me to stay with her family if I ever decide to visit Amsterdam. I thank her profusely and we say goodbye. I’m awestruck by her generous offer.

While it was an ordinary fall day, my conversation with this woman was unforgettable. I head home feeling grateful – grateful for the feeling of community and for the taste of my favorite coffee. A great combination….ah, life is good.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of nathanborror.