The Great Perpetual Independent Coffee Shop Tour

In my dreams (the nighttime ones), my husband and I are always traveling. We board ships and planes and trains and moving hotel rooms and wake up in locations north of here or over the ocean from here…

In these dreams, we haven’t arrived yet, only traveled. Sometimes we lose each other in labyrinthine corridors and behind elevator doors– stuck on the wrong floor, going up up up when we should be going down–but we always find each other again.

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In real life, lately, we’ve been traveling a lot too.
It all started last summer, our 13th wedding anniversary (I like to think I’m not really that old; I got married that young). We took our first road trip together– just us– since our daughters (ages 5 and almost-8 at the time) were born. We drove nearly 3,000 miles, all the way from South Florida up to Chicago and back. Our goal, ostensibly, was Lollapalooza 2012. But I guess what we really intended to do, like in my dreams, was to find each other again.

And we did, like we always do. Like we always have.

Along the way, I thought up a game.
To make the trip interesting, we would visit a different independent coffee shop in each city along the way. It was already a given that we’d be stopping for coffee anyway. Finding the coffee shops only took a little Googling, plugging the address into our GPS and– voila!— instant adventure. Kind of like a scavenger hunt, or like geocatching, but with the most deliciously satisfying payoff: mmm coffee! As a bonus, our forays to independent coffee shops tended to take us off the beaten path, sometimes to places only real locals know about. And it was a great way to support the economy in the local community– wherever that local community happened to be.

sooo much concentration required to drink an iced mocha and take a photo: Ugly Mugs Coffee, Nashville

sooo much concentration required to drink an iced mocha and take a photo: Ugly Mugs Coffee, Nashville

And then, of course, there was the novelty.

I’ve been to many a Starbucks in my day, taking advantage of their free Wifi and expensive coffee. The trouble with Starbucks is, they’re all basically the same. And they all kind of blend together.

Our brains have a tendency to remember the unexpected, the unusual, the new— and to discard automatic routine. I can’t (and don’t want to) remember every single time I’ve walked into a Starbucks and ordered my favorite, not-terribly creative go-to drink (“Grande nonfat latte, please. Yes that’s all. My name’s Jaime. Thank you.”) In Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything Joshua Foer talks about how novelty “unfolds time” and new experiences “serve to anchor our memories,” thus making our lives seem longer, richer, fuller. Mmm kind of like a good cup of coffee…

In this way, our great Perpetual Independent Coffee Shop Tour (that’s #picstour on Instagram and, yes, it’s expanded from one summer’s pastime to become never-ending) now anchors our journeys, wherever we happen to go. I take my coffee shop adventures seriously, so I could probably write an essay about each and every one of the stops on our tour– detailing the smells/sounds/tastes/touches/sights, the people we met/watched, and my specific emotional state/daydreams/ideas/tangents at each. My life in coffee shops. But I won’t– not for now, anyway.

I’ll just introduce you to a few of my favorites, in Instagram pictures. I’ve included website links and physical addresses in case you want to visit. Go there and cast your own anchors. Make up your own stories. Tell me what you find.

I’m taking recommendations too– what other independent coffee shops should we visit?

The Frothy Monkey, Nashville, Tennessee

The Frothy Monkey

The Frothy Monkey * 2509 12th Ave. S., Nashville, Tennessee
Wherein I enjoyed a yummy chai latte made from scratch with milk from local Hatcher Family Dairy. As it happens, I grew up on the Hatcher Family Dairy farm in Macon, Georgia (no relation to these guys, but the milk in Nashville certainly tasted serendipitous).

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Lazy Daze

Lazy Daze Coffee House

Lazy Daze Coffeehouse * 10 Johnson Ave, Indianapolis, Indiana
We found this shop after a night of ill-equipped camping at the Indy KOA. That morning we woke up before the birds and drove around bleary-eyed, in the dark, looking for the coffee shop. When we finally found it, I noted on Instagram, “The ground is pretty hard in Indianapolis… but the coffee’s good. Nice day, definitely worth waking up early.” Drink of choice: double Americano.

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Cup O' Joe

Cup O’ Joe

Cup o’ Joe German Village * 627 S. Third Street, Columbus, Ohio
This was a special place. I spent some beautiful time alone here, while my husband went to a business meeting. I snapped this picture and wrote, “Quiet morning in German Village, Columbus, Ohio. Got an iced mocha; gonna do some writing…”

That iced mocha was gooood, too! This is what I wrote while I was there.

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Kahwa Coffee

Kahwa Espresso Bar

Kahwa Espresso Bar * 475 2nd St. N., Downtown St. Petersburg, Florida
This one was fun because we did it with friends. In total: four adults, two 5-year-olds, one 8-year-old, two jack russells and a vizsla puppy, to be exact. The pack of us wandered around St. Pete on foot –up one block and down another, dogs and children and leashes tangling up together in joyous, barely contained chaos –until we found it.

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Caffe Sapore

Caffe Sapore

Caffe Sapore * 790 Lombard St  San Francisco, California
The Official San Francisco stop on our PICS Tour, during my recent birthday trip. I ♥ San Francisco.

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Cafe Muse

Cafe Muse * 785 8th Ave., San Francisco, California
Shout out to our ‘unofficial” San Francisco Stop on the PICS Tour. We stumbled onto this shop–in Inner Richmond, right outside Golden Gate Park–while we were looking for a bathroom. We settled in for lunch– why not? I ate a tuna melt and watched, through the window, a young man arranging plants in an apartment across the street.

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The Steaming Bean

The Steaming Bean * 635 S Lincoln Ave  Steamboat Springs, Colorado
My home away from the snow in Steamboat Springs. We visited this one twice. My Florida-born daughters caught snowflakes on their tongues and built snowmen right outside the shop, while I, warm and toasty, watched through the panoramic window. They looked like figures in a snow globe. So magical! Here I am wearing an insane amount of clothing (I’m from Florida, remember?) and celebrating St. Patty’s Day with a Nutty Irishman (hazelnut and Irish creame latte)– which was amaaaazing!

Cheers!

© Jaime Greenberg and discovered in play, 2013

 

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