Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Seattle Coffee Shop Culture: Community in a Cuppa

What does community mean to you?

Sure, there's the physical community in which you live. But in the human connection sense, community is the groups and places where we find camaraderie, companionship, and belonging. It's vital to thriving in this big, diverse, crazy world. It's important to our health and well-being, so say the experts.

Some find community online through social media, which has its limits without face to face interaction. Many still find it in their everyday work or school lives. But increasingly, for those of us who work in the "gig" economy or live alone, our local bakeshops, teahouses, and coffee shops are an important place for us, where we can go to be around and with others.

Personally, my life is enriched by connections and friendships I've made at several local spots in northwest Seattle. As an independent contractor, I don't go to a regular office every day; I mostly work at home. Sometimes in the heat of deadlines, I realize I literally haven't left my house in a couple days except to walk out to the mailbox. Cabin fever can set in if I don't get out and connect with people.

Besides the friendships I've made and interesting people I've met, these regular, casual gatherings are ongoing and evolving. Some regulars have been meeting up for years, and some have come and gone. New people join. It's fluid.

Miro Tea in Ballard

Here's my half-baked comparison:  The 7 a.m. coffee/tea/pastry most mornings at a few rotating spots in Greenwood and Ballard is the capital letter at the beginning of the sentence. Then there's the the comma during the mid-afternoon break at another couple spots in Greenwood.

Not all of the regulars are human.
I don't think it's a total coincidence that several of my community spots are cafes that don't have wifi but feature artisan-craftsman quality fare. At tiny, cozy Cafe Besalu, lines are often out the door for their exquisite pastries/coffee and seating is at a premium. (Earlybirds get the seats.)

Preserve & Gather owners Kayla Blincow (a Cafe Besalu alum) and Tess Smedley purposely don't have wifi to foster a more social environment.  Last spring Tess told me, "We want to create a place for people to gather, for community." Exactly! It's the kind of friendly place that has me bringing them extra herbs, flowers, and vegetables from my garden.

Preserve & Gather peanut butter chocolate oatmeal bars. Must share!

At Miro Tea in old Ballard, manager Emmy and her partner/barista Spenser and I share garden starts and recipes. When I'm in town on the weekends, I attend Sunday morning "Church of Tea" at Miro with several friends, going on over 6 years now.

So here's to neighborhood coffee shops, cafes, and bakeshops everywhere that provide a place for people to gather. In a big city, they cultivate community and can make you feel like you're in a much smaller town, where you know and recognize people.  In small towns, they can be a community gathering place where people meet who might otherwise live in greater isolation.

Maybe it's enough just to go and be greeted with community in a friendly smile.

Rachel Coyle of Coyle's Bakeshop in Greenwood, Seattle.
Kayla Blincow, co-owner of Preserve & Gather. (Apologies to co-owner Tess Smedley who wasn't in when I took this shot.)

How about you? Where do you find community? Do you have a coffee shop/cafe community? Would love to hear about yours in the comments below.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

When You Go
Above are links to most of my standout community spots:  Coyle's Bakeshop, Preserve & Gather, and Chocolati in Greenwood in north Seattle, Cafe Besalu  and Miro Tea in Ballard, Seattle. I used to regularly go to Zen Dog Teahouse in north Seattle's Crown Hill, but these days Zen Dog isn't serving at the teahouse as much. Give him a call because if you catch him, it can be a fantastic experience sipping fine tea around the table with almost always interesting other customers.


jan2ski said...

Love this Jill!
Our community spot here in Maple Leaf is Cloud City Coffee on Roosevelt & NE88th, and my other favorite is Cafe Vios @ Third Place Books on NE 65th & 20th.

John said...

Life begins with pastries and a double tall Americano! For whatever reason, I meet the nicest people at the coffee house!

jill said...

Jan, thanks! I've been to Cafe Vios at Third Place a few times and stopped by Cloud City once. Not enough to know anyone but glad they serve a purpose in their neighborhoods too.

John, me too!

asugar said...

Thanks for featuring Tuppence! What a great photo and I really agree with this article. There is such a sense of neighborhood and community in all these spots.

Jill said...

Alexandra, thanks for the comment. Always enjoy seeing you and Tuppence!