Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Ins and Outs of a Local Coffee Shop

American's love coffee, in fact the NCA estimates that 80% of American adults drink the beverage regularly.

Most people get their "giddy-up" from coffee shops (not like the kind in Amsterdam), and it is my firm belief that most people take their local coffee shop for granted. These cafes service hundreds if not possibly thousands of people every day and therefore it is essential to have a smooth operation and healthy atmosphere to ensure coffee satisfaction. This past Sunday morning, in order to investigate the workings of the cafe to get a better understanding of how they operate, I was given VIP access into the morning operations of Espresso Royale Caffe (ERC), a local coffee shop near Northeastern University.

The baristas arrive at the cafe at 6:30a on weekdays, 7:30a on weekends, they open the shop to their patrons a half hour later respectively. I showed up at 7:18a this Sunday to observe the opening. It was still dark when we walked in, the cafe has neon signs that light up the room in a very cool and colorful way (picture above), setting a nice mood, even in the dark. The lights were turned on and work began. In the process of setting up shop the first thing to do is "clock-in, turn on the music, and then start brewing the coffee," said barista Lea Spencer, 21.

With the baristas hard at work getting ready for business I took a look around the normally busy but now empty cafe, and thought about what I saw. It seems to me that coffee shops are mostly set-up to look very trendy and Utopian, they try to attract coffee drinkers not just with their coffee but also with the style of the cafe. They strive to create a unique and artsy feeling place where young intellectuals want to hang out. This is easily apparent in any Starbucks, usually upon entry into those establishments there is immediately a snooty looking fellow on his lap top in the corner looking all snotty. I hate Starbucks.

ERC is no exception. Not so much in terms of its snoots but with what seems an innert desire to to create a unique and trendy place to have coffee and hang out. Albeit, I believe ERC does this in a more unique way than the other chain shops and locals. ERC has local art and photographs on the walls, really crazy colors, and great tables. The tables are all individually hand painted by different artists who might have been employees, former employees, or even customers according to Laura Webster, 22, barista at the cafe. The cafe uses recycled cups for their coffee to help preserve the environment, a policy which I'm sure appeals to all the Greenpeace solicitors on Huntington Ave. These local ideals are some of the what make ERC special. "I love the fact that we're green and we're funky," said general manager, Chris Davey, 34.

At about 8:17a the first customer of the day came in, totally unaware to all the prep that had been done to make him the perfect cup of coffee at that moment. He was the first of what would be hundreds of people to get their daily dose of coffee at ERC today. Why did Lucas Maclaurin, 27, alumn of the New England Convervatory decide to get his coffee at Espresso Royale Cafe today?

"I've been coming here for seven, years, I just think the coffee is better and the place is nice," he said.

So the early morning work has paid off.

(click photo at top of post or click here for photo slide show)

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