The Secret to a Perfect Cafe
An interesting phenomenon is that cafes have come to be synonymous with culture. Each social caste of human being is represented in cafe form somewhere in the world. We have punk rock cafes, hippie cafes, vegan cafes — you name it, it exists.
These places serve as breeding grounds for new ideas and waves of cultural growth within each type of social circle. While being representative of their own identity, cafes are welcoming to all. Myself, who is far from punk rock, can walk into a punk rock cafe, and find something I love to eat, a drink I will much enjoy, and a face to share some smiles with. It’s an important experience to have — walking into a world not your own and being welcomed there to observe and partake. It serves as a healthy way to play with human boundaries; to understand something not your own, to open your own eyes, and to open those of your hosts.
But what is it about coffee and a good bite to eat that makes us feel at home? What is the secret to cafe magic? Is it that we can be surrounded by people and yet be spending time alone? Maybe it’s that feeling of having complete control over our day, able to sit in a comfortable nook for as long as we damn well please. Or perhaps it simply brings back the comfort of motherly care, having warm cooked meals served to us in a cozy setting where we feel utterly at ease.
Needless to say, I’m extremely fascinated by cafe culture and admit to being a true victim of its seduction. There are a few, in my hometown and across the world, that have managed to capture my heart. They are the spots I will happily return to and sit for hours.
I wanted to uncover what truly makes them special; when did they open, how did they plan the menu, and what thought went into their environment? It all comes together to create their individual brand of culture. Take a peek into their personalities for yourself, and tell me, where have you found some of your favorite cafes? What do you think is the secret to their lure?
Red Hook Coffee & Tea, Philadelphia, PA, USA
We opened our café about five years ago.
We wanted to create a place where creativity was not only on the walls by local artists, but in the menu we designed.
We source our coffee from Equal Exchange, a fair trade and organic coffee co-op based out of Massachusetts.
We built the menu to include a variety or choices for all dietary needs. Whether you eat meat, have an allergy to gluten or you are vegan, there’s something homemade, inventive and delicious at Red Hook.
Most people order a coffee or latte. Food wise, for breakfast, many people order the Huevos Banditos: eggs, black beans, cheddar, avocado, fresh pico and sour cream.
But the really adventures ones will try the thai latte: espresso, steamed milk, peanut butter and ginger syrup with sriracha. And the Sweet Baby Blue: Eggs, bacon, bleu cheese, fried onions and fig preserves in a wrap.
Our playlist almost always includes CCR.
We find it really funny when customers kick their shoes off and lay down on the couch.
The chairs here are mismatched and old.
The wall art changes every month to feature a different local artist.
One of our favorite customers is John Braverman.
S/he always is our very first customer every day and greets us with a smile and a good story.
One of the best memories is when we had a joint birthday celebration with all our customers, friends and loved ones. Live music, BBQ and muscle cars.
On the craziest day we had a line to the door for hours.
One day, we dream about opening a food truck.
In the end, it’s all worthwhile because we are doing what we love.
Le Marche St. George, Vancouver, BC, Canada
We opened our café in 2010 in the middle of nowhere.
It was the same year that we bought the building and had our daughter.
We wanted to create a place that felt like you are somewhere else.
We source our coffee from the Oughtred Family.
We built the menu to be simple and seasonal.
Most people order an americano and an almond croissant.
But the really adventures ones will try a noisette and a crépe.
Our playlist almost always is not in English.
We find it really funny when customers let their children eat the soap that is for sale.
The chairs here are from the thrift store.
The wall art is a feature plaster wall my sister and I made.
One of our favorite customers we have a lot!
S/he always brings us veggies from her garden, one brings us dinner occasionally, one brings us foreign food products we’ve never seen, one likes to sing us his order.
One of the best memories is when we have pop-up dinners outside in the yard.
On the craziest day there will be 6 of us working in our tiny space. Ricocheting around the “hall kitchen”.
One day, we dream about more space and a walk in cooler!
In the end, it’s all worthwhile because we love our neighbourhood!
Chestnut Revival, Hinton, WV, USA
We opened our café in 2010.
It was the same year that we married.
We wanted to create a place that brought the community together.
We source our coffee from fair trade, organic, shade grown and single sourced Cafe Màm beans.
We built the menu to intrigue the customers.
Most people order the Tall Dark and Handsome, our homemade hot chocolate and espresso.
But the really adventurous ones try the Jekyll and Hyde latte, a white chocolate dark chocolate duo.
Our playlist almost always has Gillian Welsh.
We find it really funny when customers have whipped cream wars.
The chairs here are admittedly slightly tipsy.
The wall art is home grown consignment pieces.
One of our favorite customers is Randy the mailman, who we named a banana frappe after, the Randy Banana.
S/he always greets everyone by name several times as he orders and leaves a trail of rubber bands in his wake.
One of the best memories is when we hosted a concert benefit for the local animal shelter and had crowds on the porch.
On the craziest days we sometimes have to shut down, recoup, bake more, (sometimes have a shot of whiskey). And reopen.
One day, we dream about having enough funds to redo the roof.
In the end, it’s all worth it because coffee makes people smile.
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