Coffee. Even if we don’t drink it, we all participate in its culture. Coffee has become so ubiquitous in our society that even non-drinkers will spend hours at a coffee shop just chatting or sampling the assortment of cakes, pastries, and other products that they sell. The coffee industry has even found ways to sell their product to people who, truthfully, don’t even like the taste of coffee. If your caffeinated beverage of choice is frothed heavily with milk, pumped with added sugar and topped with whipped cream, I have bad news; you don’t actually like coffee, you like cream and sugar.
Nonetheless, coffee lovers and non-coffee lovers alike all flood into coffee shops every single day. These caverns of caffeine are home to people just stopping in for a quick shot of espresso and people who will plop down with their laptops in the corner and spend the next 8 hours there. They are an institution within themselves, which is why next time you step into one you should take a glance around at the people in there. Folks from all walks of life will spend their time and money in coffee shops, and if you pay enough attention you can catch some glimpses of real humanity – both the good and terrible kind – behind the brownish veneer of the world’s most beloved caffeinated beverage.
15. The Starving Artist
The post-art school life has not been kind to him. He pays for his $6 Frappuccino’s with borrowed money and change found in couches, but doesn’t understand why he’s poor. Maybe soon his acrylic paintings of Instagram pictures or his version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” recorded only with cat sounds and potato noises will sell and pay off – but probably not.
14. The Veteran
He used to hang out all day at this same coffee shop before Starbucks or some other chain bought it out and re-branded it. Now he sits in the corner, moping and reminiscing about his glory days back in ‘Nam. He’ll talk to the employees, but don’t you dare approach him unprepared.
13. The Tot
Is that child drinking coffee? Oh my god, that child is drinking coffee. Why does her mom think it’s a good idea to swap out juice for espressos? Clearly this is all part of a ploy to unleash the unadulterated evil of her daughter onto the innocent denizens of this coffee shop.
12. The Überista
She’s a wizard with the beans. You’ve seen her sign her name in the froth of a latte with one hand while brewing a fresh pot with the other – without breaking eye contact. She’s transformed her minimum wage job into an art form, and makes you question why being a barista doesn’t carry the same weight as being a doctor or a lawyer.
11. The First Day Employee
Oh yea, this guy. Technically water doesn’t burn, but he’s going to give it his all to find a way. He can’t brew, froth, take inventory, serve with a smile, or count change properly – and he doesn’t care. He’s the personification of utter disappointment. His stats gain +2/+2 if paired with the Überista, but if he’s alone your orders take 400% longer to prepare.
10. The Rookie
She approaches the counter apprehensively, staring up at the menu with a befuddled look splashed across her face. Americano? Venti? What does it all mean? As the confusion sets in she slowly and cautiously leaves the store, realizing that she will never understand coffee. She goes to Tim Horton’s and gets her usual triple-triple with cream before going on with her day.
9. The Fair Trader
Sit down so he can explain why you’re a terrible human being who deserves the guillotine. The coffee you’re drinking at that other place isn’t sourced from fair trade farmers, and so you’re supporting a fundamentally unjust supply chain that only perpetuates the status quo and widens the gap between rich and poor. The absolute worst part is that he’s totally correct – he’s just being an insufferable douche about it all.
8. The Soccer Mom
She’s sandwiched between Tot #1 and Tot #2, who by now are clamoring for a caffeine injection straight into their femoral artery because of Momma’s terrible family dietary decisions. Her children have picked up their addiction from her, perpetuating a mundane and not-so-devastating cycle of intergenerational coffee abuse. Just get her a latte so she can make it home and stay awake for Grey’s Anatomy.
7. The Professional
He rolls into the handicapped parking spot in front, strolls in casually in a $5,000 suit and presents his membership card that he always keeps loaded. He orders a no-fat soy latte, checks his watch, realizes he’s late and jumps back in the car. No time for lounging about, this man is always on the go. His days are spent being stressed in between meetings, and his nights are spent in a drunken haze with degenerate friends – but he’ll be back at 5am sharp, getting a coffee before work.
6. The Tea Lady
She doesn’t drink coffee (but still says “let’s go for coffee”), and the lack of tea selection at this coffee shop is a disgrace. How could any self-respecting coffee shop not carry her El Salvadorian red-green tea grown using mountain goat waste as fertilizer? It’s like, the best. In her opinion, this small business based on coffee just carries too much coffee and not enough tea, you know?
5. The Student
Books strewn about the largest table in the room, alone, laptop opened (with youtube/reddit/facebook on display), the young student struggles to memorize pages of information that she’ll unapologetically forget 4-6 weeks from now. She ordered a coffee roughly 7 hours ago, and she’s starting to get really annoyed at the dirty looks she’s getting from the staff. She would move to the small table across the room to make space for the large group that’s entering, but her textbooks really need the space.
4. The Writer
Woe be to him, for he is most lost among all of the coffee shop’s inhabitants. He’s struck an agreement with the barista to get discount refills, which is easy to do when you spend all day everyday in the same shop. 20 years ago his shame would have been on display to everyone, as he tore out pages in frustration, unable to accept the level of his literary creation. Now he just slams the delete key and swears under his breath, an equally sad exercise, but one that is at least visually much less depressing.
3. The Connoisseur
She knows coffee, and she knows that you don’t. She travels from shop to shop, trying to isolate the best coffee in the city using her Yelp and Urbanspoon accounts. Customer reviews follow in her wake, some bad, some alright, but none glowing. She can’t be pleased, like a heroin addict chasing the dragon; her excessive standards mean she’ll be searching for that perfect cup for years to come.
2. The Aspiring Entrepreneur
Starting a business is hard, because office space is expensive. The aspiring entrepreneur is left with no choice but to hold all of his meetings in the public coffee shop, but that doesn’t mean he won’t treat it like office space. He’ll be there early, suited up, and pick the largest table and carefully lay out the documents he’ll need to sell his idea to whoever he’s meeting. Just don’t ask him to buy anything more than small coffee
1. The Watcher
He stays true to his namesake; immobile, eyes darting around the room, constantly scanning. He has a laptop out that he occasionally writes something on, but for the most he stays focused on the people around him. He’s subtle enough that no one notices they’re being judged, assessed, categorized, and written into a 15-point list with images.