I am sitting in Van Dyke right now on a Friday afternoon and I am truly witnessing something that is wonderful. I look around and see groups of people sitting and enjoying coffee, but more importantly, enjoying the company around them. Community is something that the culture in the United States has lost in the recent years. but I would make the argument that the Third Wave Coffee shops have brought this sense of community back. I would like to put forth the idea that coffee is not just about the drink, but rather, about the people that we experience it with.
There are three main reasons why I believe that coffee is now creating a sense of community: through creating a space where we must slow down, it promotes discussion, and it creates special spaces for community.
Coffee has a terrible reputation for being an on-the-go drink that people grab to just get a spike of caffeine to get us to the cup of coffee. The reputation has been furthered by the rise in popularity of the pod machines. These are coffee makers that can produce a cup of, uninspiring, coffee in seconds. If you have been to Van Dyke recently, or at all, you will notice that we would never even think about using a pod machine. Good coffee takes time and it is something that we will slow down to make. Many coffee shops have also gone away from the act of making a giant pot of drip coffee to sell. The third wave coffee shops have continued this mindset of slowing down in order to make the best possible cup of coffee. This mentality leads to taking a rest from our busy lives and engaging in conversations. Ordering a pour over almost forces you to either take out your phone for the wait or to engage in the person standing next to you (or even the barista), we encourage the latter.
Third Wave coffee is complex. If you have looked next to our coffee roaster you will notice a pile of notes about the different roasts that we have done in the past. If you look at the photo below you will see the coffee tasting chart. That chart is complex even for me who has been heavily involved in the coffee community for around two years now. The great Jackie Chan once said "coffee is a language in itself." Learning languages, and coffee, are not easy. In the learning process for both Coffee and language are vastly different, but there is a common denominator in the two, communication. Both of these require interaction and communication, both of which lead to a sense of community.
The final reason that coffee creates community is through the different opportunities it creates. Just a few weeks ago I was at a latte art competition. There were shops from LA to Riverside competing. It was no longer just about each individual shop, but rather about a larger coffee community coming together to make the best possible latte art.
Last February there was a very unique experience that happened in Long Beach. It was the U.S. Coffee National Championships. This event brought baristas and coffee lovers from all over the world in order to produce the best possible coffee. Not only did it bring coffee, but it also brought community. Baristas from New York were talking with roasters from Seattle. Coffee cupppers from Chicago were chatting with coffee addicts from Los Angeles. It brought a group of coffee enthusiasts together to form a coffee community.
Coffee is no longer just the drink that we grab on the way to work. Coffee has become something more. It has become a drink that brings people together from all over in order to form a community. Next time you are at a coffee shop, slow down. Enjoy the community around you. And of course, enjoy the coffee.