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Why coffee is more than a pretty drink we post online

By Andrei Santos Published Apr 19, 2024 5:00 am

It’s 11:47 on a peaceful Wednesday morning. I’m at a well-known coffee chain, hoping to get some work done. Instead, I find myself staring at the signs displaying different types of coffee: Americano, cappuccino, espresso. This has been an ongoing routine for quite some time. 

People often ask why I bother coming here to work when I could do it for free at home. I have this odd sense of comfort at a cafe. On my left, a guy is typing quickly on his laptop. Behind me, a group of friends share a few laughs. Why did they choose to stay here? In every place I go, I always catch a glimpse of people’s lives.

There are parts of myself I lose and gain with every coffee shop visit. Over the years, these cafes have seen different versions of me.

Coffee, after all, has always given me a sense of comfort. It’s there when I’m studying for an exam at night or meeting friends I haven’t seen in a long time. A cup of coffee always brightens my day since I know nothing can go wrong with it. Its familiar taste, with each sip, transports me to happy moments from the past, evoking the comforting routine of my usual order. 

Welcome to the coffee shop sanctuary, where conversations flow like espresso and every cup holds a hint of creativity.

I was amazed to find interesting combinations of drinks and coffee: a mint mojito latte (which I hated), sweet corn coffee (which I found odd), and a coffee-orange juice hybrid (which I loved). The dedication and creativity poured into coffee draws me into it. 

I recently got to chat with a like-minded coffee enthusiast, Gio Aragon, the mastermind behind Street Kohi, a cafe that artfully combines Japanese and Filipino flavors in every cup. His earliest memories of coffee started in kindergarten when his mom would prepare him black coffee every morning, which continued until high school. He was never a big coffee drinker despite this, only rediscovering it in college. It became an escape from stress, thesis, and part-time jobs. 

Initially dreaming of owning a mechanical shop, his perspective took a turn when friends consistently discussed the idea of launching a coffee shop. Their enthusiasm ignited his interest, steering him toward the world of coffee.

While on a hunt for vending machine coffee in Japan, he stumbled upon a quaint cafe. He felt a warm hospitality despite the language barrier. Enchanted by the experience, he asked if he could be a barista for a day to learn more about coffee.

Coffee delights on display, ready to awaken your senses.

Gio gained valuable lessons, later incorporating them into his coffee shop. Inspired by that memorable trip, he crafted a sweet potato latte, earning praise from a Japanese customer who found it reminiscent of home. 

In the comforting embrace of coffee shops, I find others like myself—people wanting to take a break from all the noise in our lives. It's a moment to breathe, to let the world fade into the background. 

At the same time, coffee shops serve as a haven where different groups of people gather. You can spot the nine-to-fivers seeking a post-work retreat or the coffee enthusiasts exchanging notes on their latest favorites. There’s a sense of community and belonging whenever I’m here. 

Good times and good coffee

Reflecting on the coffee industry, Gio views it as surprisingly non-competitive. He has made long-lasting connections with fellow cafe owners, generously exchanging recipes along the way. He envisions his coffee shop as a welcoming space where people can gather comfortably. To contribute to the community, Gio organizes free coffee workshops, sharing his knowledge and passion with others. He also invites local talents for open mic nights, creating a space where everyone can soak in the uplifting atmosphere together.

One thing I find sentimental about my coffee shop journey is the parts of myself I lose and gain with every visit. These establishments have seen different versions of me. Coffee has been a journey of self-discovery for both Gio and me. Each day, a cup of freshly brewed coffee joins us in our routine, becoming a familiar presence in both good times and bad.

Back in high school, cafes became my sanctuary. Growing up an introvert, I rarely initiated conversations. I was sheltered and couldn’t even cross the road without company. I never got to attend high school parties and hangouts. But through coffee, I made up for lost time with people who shared the same love for a good brew. 

Slowly, I began to open up, finding a community where I felt truly at ease. I’m no longer that high school student who used to exclusively order a Java Chip Frappuccino at every Starbucks visit.

I’m in my third year of college now, with different interests and a love for bitter-tasting coffee. A bit more talkative, too. Whether it's a break from the noise in your head or a celebration of small victories, cafes have seen the ever-changing versions of you amid the complicated journey we call life.