When I first began writing this post I had a list of reasons why I believe local coffee is better than Starbucks/Dunkin'/etc. Better atmosphere, experience, and yes, coffee. But I decided to ask my good friend, story teller, musician, and coffee connoisseur Manasseh what his thoughts were and this is what he sent me :
DESTINATION: WHERE ARE WE GOING?
So here I am at Pavement on Newbury St. It's a lovely sunny day outside and I finally have a full moment to write back to you. It took a little while for me to come up with what I wanted to say. I think I have it.
Why did I come to Pavement today? Why did I not go to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, or some other non-specialty coffee shop?
A few days ago I ran into my friend Lucas. We hadn't seen each other in a long time and decided that getting coffee was in order. We agreed to meet and I was given the honor of choosing the spot. I chose Pavement on Newbury St.
For Boston, Pavement is probably one of the most accurate litmus type coffee houses around. It is not too shabby, not too nice, it's just right, it's an authentic spot that represents the overall coffee house culture in the city. The coffee served at Pavement is called Counter Culture which by name, for sure, at least subliminally, adds to the vibe of otherness and exclusivity that one feels when walking into the place.
tell me about the atmosphere.
The baristas are knowledgable about what they serve, and 'hip' looking - in a way that communicates that they are native to the culture they offer. There seems to be no bottom to the depth of conversation one might want to have regarding coffee here.
As I write this my empty white ceramic 12oz coffee cup sits on a dark colored tree stump coffee table about knee height that rests on a plain mosaic floor just a few feet away from a La Marzocco espresso machine, Italian made of course. There is natural light everywhere and Paul Simon plays in the background just loud enough to encourage conversation.
People sit at small tables with their laptops next to exposed brick walls, working on who knows what. I assume they are students or creatives of sorts. I am both of that. It would make sense to me.
I am writing this post-meeting with Lucas and of the many details I've written down here there are surely many more I have left out, yet all if the above make this shop completely unique in this huge city. There is no other place just like it and I like it that way. The uniqueness is something that I wish to identify myself with. I'd like to think I was unique too, wouldn't we all.
how do starbucks & dunkin' donuts compare?
Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts are nothing like this place. They couldn't be, and neither is that their desire. It is the nature of franchise.
Now this is not to say that I think ill of SB or DD. I have had my fair share of desperate moments when they are the only shop around, right on the convenient corner when I have 5 minutes to get to where I'm going. But that is probably just the problem. When I'm on the go I will endure the generic franchise and it's less than care-fully made cookie cutter product and ambience. After all I'm only passing through.
But when I want a destination, I go somewhere beautiful. To be with other likeminded people who value a unique experience and a craft well done. Usually, that is a local place.
It is the nature of systems to be authentic and detail oriented at small scale.
A question we might ask is: In what way will I use my time in this space? Am I being utilitarian with my time by just getting in and getting out (which isn't all bad) or am I looking to take a more experiential approach by getting to the destination and investing time there before my getting out.
For me the pro of local coffee is that it's always going to be unique for worse or better. I like that. It broadens my world view.
To experience a franchise that is not as good will never expand my world view or make me take a risk. It can't. By design franchise exists to make me feel safe with a known consistency - that does nothing for the adventurer in me.
Every day is an opportunity to explore a little further the place around us. There are many local businesses own by Boston natives with wonderful visions, creating amazing things, and sharing those things in their unique spaces. We are given the open-door option to try them out and experience their visions every day but many of us decide instead that the unknown is not worth the risk. To which I say: Where is the fun in that? It's just coffee!
I choose the handmade indigenous to my hometown destination experience. I may not know exactly what will happen when I go but at least it will be exciting.