The dispatch was going to be on holiday this week, but there were too many good things to share with you!
First, as you might expect, the Uncommon community has a bunch of thoughts about what makes a great coffee shop. From pastries and outlets, to providing space for both conversation and solitude, the various perspectives and priorities collected below are fascinating to read. If they inspire your own thoughts, feel free to send them along and we'll include them online.
Second, Fast Company has written a terrific profile of this thing we call Uncommon! I had a great conversation with Joshua Rivera about the slow web, social networks, and whether there is room for a different sort of online community. This is the result: Finally, A Social Network That Won't Turn Us Into Addicts--But How Will It Thrive?
In Bailey’s view, this has resulted in an erroneous conflation between the language of social media and the language of community. Now every company worth its salt has a social media strategy, claiming a desire to foster community--when really all they want is an audience. Uncommon was built to create an online community more reflective of a real-world one, and not the kind that we’ve grown accustomed to through social media.
The story delves into the ideas and questions behind Uncommon and reflects two years of dreaming and conversation with many of you. There are also more images from the site that will debut soon.
I love this community, now nearly 1,200 people from around the world, the friendships that have formed, and the honesty, thoughtfulness, and optimism found at every turn. I hope you enjoy the article and the part you've played in a story that is still just beginning. Pass it along to your curious friends and let them know that the internet has warm and supportive corners.
Last week's dispatch asked, What defines a great coffee shop for you?
What defines a great coffee shop for me: Comfy seating in vantage positions for people watching; Just the right volume of calm conducive to reading, chatting or eavesdropping. :) The right salon/parlour/living room ambiance.
Coffeeshops in Vienna have this cornered in amazing way. Austria has such a long history of coffee houses that they're an institution. Part of what's amazing is how the same venue shifts in tone through the day; from a traditional meeting place for breakfast and lunch, to happy hour and dinner. And lingering is encouraged; you could spend your entire day in conversation, your newspaper, or people-watching, fueled with coffee, food and Viennese pastries. Some of the grand historical ones have additional entertainment like live classical music in the evenings, while some of the modern ones have interesting functional combinations like being coffeeshop + design studio, with furniture in the cafe also for sale. Yes, I could live permanently in a Viennese cafe if possible.
A place that sells great coffee to have people be there, not has people be there to sell them coffee. More living room, less retail space.
Really good coffee; an independent space; a place that gives you privacy, alongside with a sense of community; music: eclectic, interesting, not too loud; friendly staff who get to know you but respect your need for personal space; really good coffee.
A great coffee shop has the following qualities: Nice big wooden tables you can play games on; Interesting music, played at a volume you can easily speak over; Really tasty baked goods; Great tea in addition to excellent coffee; Employees who know when to hold a conversation and when to just let you go read a book. Or maybe that's just my favorite coffee shop from grad school. I miss it.
A great coffee shop to me is somewhere with friendly faces that remember you (bonus points for remembering your name and drink too) and have fairly quick service. Obviously, good coffee is a must, which for me means a bold, full-bodied flavor. Funky and quirky atmospheres with ample seating and comfy chairs are great, but not completely necessary. It really just goes back to the customer service, though, and I can be just as content at a Starbucks (potential blasphemy, I know, to the hardcore coffee fans) as I am at a spunky, little mom and pop shop.
Revel Caffe is my special coffee shop here in Stratford, ON.
The owner, Anne Campion is a passionate barista, but more importantly, she cares about her communities, near and far. She sources her coffees from local roasters who have family ties for generations to the fields where the coffee is sourced originally and she is constantly advocating for and educating about sustainability for crop, producers and small businesses.
She has the most amazing story about how she turned to her community to expand her business, totally bucking the traditional bank loan system, and instead using a CSA model.
On top of that, she actively spotlights local artists, artisans and food events in her space, has the most beautiful community table which is the hub for all that visit, AND she's a beautiful woman, with a beautiful soul, whose wifi password really says it all: soulspace.
Tough one. You know it when you see it -- some right, paradoxical blend of standard elements and unique features; the vintage and contemporary; sameness and uniqueness; process and expression; crowd and quiet; public and isolation; friends and strangers; inspiring views and retreats; a setting that channels the flow of new ideas and lets old ones settle to the riverbed, clearing the stream; strong wifi and the embrace of disconnection; and of course decent coffee.
A great coffee shop: also has nice loose leaf tea, great light, outlets, a mix of couches and workspaces, and I can always find a seat.
A great coffee shop must have free wifi and great drinks besides coffee. Ideally, loose leaf tea, so that I can get my tea snob on while my friends get their coffee snob on.
Where my big sister would buy me a caffe mocha with shakings of chocolate powder on top, and we would sit and talk. That was - and still is for me - the greatest coffee shop.
Great coffee served in coffee cups (not paper). The willingness of staff to let customers linger. The ability to sit curbside and watch the world go by. The occasional tasty pastry.
Uncommon's questions have just been right up my alley lately. Last week it was lists and this week it's coffee shops-- two of my favorite things! In answer to your question about what defines a great coffee shop, I have to point you to my recent blog post, which is (...wait for it...) a LIST of my favorite COFFEE SHOPS in Austin. :) Ah, I love it when things come together like that.
For me a small glass of ice cold sparkling water with a spoon laid over across the top means a high measure of quality and the nicest treat. The popping bubbles and the chilled glass cool down the spoon and stirring the coffee with it makes the beverage just a bit less hot and drinkable. Then after the coffee the sparkling chilled water is the most awesome feeling of cold right after the warmth, and also starts the hydration process instantly, which lets me make the most of the caffeine intake and keep being energized longer.
One that I can get into and out of quickly, ideally without encountering 12-year-old girls ordering coffee concoctions that require a breath midstream, adults ordering cappuccinos after noon, "co-workers" tethered to laptops (and cut off from the world) by headphones, or the word "artisanal."
I love working at coffee shops. It is a way for me to be around people and and the same time be alone and focused on my work. When I need a micro-break I just sit back and look at the people around me, it always gives me energy and inspiration. A great coffee shop needs to have music, but it needs to be in the background and not too loud. I also prefer a sofa or an armchair that I can sit cross-legged in and have my laptop in my lap. The most important feature of a coffee shop though is that they need to have ice tea. In the US you can get it everywhere but in Europe it is much harder to find a coffee shop that serves ice tea.
It all starts with good baristas! A coffee shop without friendly, enthusiastic, knowledgeable baristas is like a museum without docents. The barista is a sacred ambassador for the world of coffee, setting the mood and tone for the customer's whole experience. After good banter over the careful selection and loving preparation of thoughtfully-sourced grounds, a superb selection of seats should follow. Whether high tables, low tables, padded chairs, firm chairs, stools, indoor, outdoor, wood, or steel, an immense variety is key! Everyone likes different spots, and sometimes even the same person likes to mix it up on the same day. Next, power outlets near every seating area, without exception. After that, stellar Wi-Fi with a password in plain site (and no silly click-through pages). Finally, the atmosphere — cool air with the wafting touch of fresh brews, unassuming ambient music, lamplight at night or soft sunlight during day, and artwork of a consistent aesthetic adorning tastefully color-coordinated dark pastel walls.
No single coffee shop has ever achieved all of this for me, but a few places in Austin come very close — Houndstooth Coffee (on North Lamar), Epoch Coffee, and Dominican Joe's. Long live the pattern of coffee and people!
A great coffee shop is one that makes me want to order decaf coffee so I can stick around and work after I've met my caffeine requirements.
A new coffee shop recently came very close to defining for me what I want a coffee shop to be. Three Crowns Coffee opened in September in a social space I already frequented, and it combines excellent roasting, innovative brewing techniques and drink recipes, and a solid selection of teas with the luxurious and hand-crafted atmosphere of a cigar lounge. The business is still ramping up and hasn’t yet completed all their planned renovations to the space, but I still love to drop in every Saturday morning before heading downstairs to the members-only part of the building to write. My only substantial complaint I probably share with everyone else who’s found a great bar or coffee shop: their hours are too short.
A great coffee shop, like most things in life for me, is more about the people and the space than it is the coffee. The coffee should be good, of course, but having friendly baristas, and inviting atmosphere and a good environment for working or reading are all at the top of my list. Hint: Vintage Heart Coffee has these things in spades.
As Flies to Wanton Boys by James Grimmelmann:
This study is a scandal because it brought Facebook’s troubling practices into a realm—academia—where we still have standards of treating people with dignity and serving the common good. The sunlight of academic practices throws into sharper relief Facebook’s utter unconcern for its users and for society. The study itself is not the problem; the problem is our astonishingly low standards for Facebook and other digital manipulators.
Things in the era of dematerialization by Jon Udell:
In the age of dematerialization, some things will matter more than ever. Things that aren’t data. Things that are unique. Things made by hand. Things that were touched by other people, in other places, at other times.
Radiolab on Things:
From a piece of the Wright brother's plane to a child’s sugar egg, today: Things! Important things, little things, personal things, things you can hold and things that can take hold of you. This hour, we investigate the objects around us, their power to move us, and whether it's better to look back or move on, hold on tight or just let go.
Disruption by Erika Hall:
Now our devices, by extending our perception across space and time, disrupt both society and solitude. It is no longer possible (in areas of reliable service) to be innocently out of touch, to go out for a stroll and reconnect upon return. Being present is now opt-out rather than opt-in, and all absences require an excuse.
What was the first magazine you loved?