Capetonian coffee shops never seem to rest. Before most of the proletariat trundle into their offices to start the day, these coffee parlours are already wide awake. They are filled with whizzing, hissing, clinking noises and undecipherable chatting, as the team of unbelievably, refreshingly cheery baristas serve cups brimming with liquid gold to sometimes not-quite-awake patrons.
Coffee shops don’t merely sell coffee – they grant us a happy, relaxed, stimulating, caffeine-fuelled kick to our quotidian ambulations. Coffee outlets are culturally important places, too. The greatest cities in the world enjoy vibrant and indelible coffee cultures: think New York with thousands of people walking down traffic-congested streets while clutching cups of Starbucks; Paris has its oft-praised cobbled-street cafés. This seems to indicate the two extremes that exist under the umbrella term “coffee culture” – New York’s highly frenetic approach to the consumption of coffee, and Paris’ more relaxed enjoyment of the beverage.
Coffee houses provide a venue and an aromatic backdrop for business meetings, first dates and reunions. They offer a place in which to dream up your next big idea, or to pen chapters for the novel you always promised yourself you would write. They present a place away from the office in which to work, or perhaps even a place to which to escape the busy day for an hour or so. Businesspeople have caught onto the idea that creatives have long-since espoused: that working in an environment different to the one in which you usually work allows you to gain a fresh perspective on old problems. A change of work environment imbues even those who are difficult to inspire with renewed vigour and passion.
The secret of coffee houses is their emphasis on community. Even though people are sitting in groups of two or four, those sitting in a coffee shop at any one time form an energetic community whose members are all passionate about different things. The term “melting pot” has never been used so accurately as when describing coffee houses. Students occupy the same space as CEOs, entrepreneurs share the space with writers, painters, yoga devotees, photographers, philosophers, industrial engineers and estate agents.
Cape Town strikes the perfect balance between the New York-styled coffee culture, and the Parisian-styled coffee culture. One can easily rush in and pick up a cup of coffee before dashing into the office or hurrying to a business meeting. But one can also amble into the fragrant venue with the aim to finding a quiet corner in which to spend time with oneself while sipping a latte and watching people rush in and drift out, coffee in hand, invigorated and inspired.
~ Written by: Melissa Claasen. Photography: Melissa Claasen