The tier 1 coffee shops are like temples to caffeinated drinks, ready to fill you with a sense of numinous at the imbibing of a drink which can and should be delicious, is rich in variety, and has mild stimulant and diuretic properties.
These places have high levels of diffuse lighting, allowing you to enjoy an aesthetically cohesive and calming environment, with decor and furniture that only the luckiest millennial could be bold enough to dream of ever having at home.
Serious hipsters are poised in front of laptops, scrolling through and adding to screens of text bright with the telltale colours of syntax highlighting, like crouching cognitive tigers. Those not bobbing about in a sea of source code are engaged in the subtle intellectual struggle known as the essay crisis, wondering if nationalism really is entirely imagined, if we are ready for a new theory of the gaze, if Hegal can be re-purposed for the 21st century, or some other imponderable.
The soundtrack, carefully chosen so as not to impinge on your attention too much but to be met with affection when it does, is almost certainly electronic and instrumental in nature.
Groups meeting for social interaction are small and have books to hand. Everyone is young, everyone thought about their outfit before putting it on and almost everyone here is putting their now-emboldened neurons to good use.
You can relax as you sip on your V60 and chew on baked goods rolled (before baking you understand) on the thighs of barrista virgins: you’re amongst cognoscenti.
In London there are many of these, but for starters:
- Association Coffee, Ludgate Hill
- The Grind franchise in London
- The Notes franchise in London
- Cafe Nero, probably the only tier 2 coffee shop of the national franchises
Oh dear, you are now part of the lowest common denominator, sharing shabby decor and ambience with common people, none of whom are engaging in useful activity, idly passing the time with a pumpkin spiced latte for want of a better alternative.
The worst kind of sentimental music plays constantly – essentially pop, but mainly covers to get around licensing issues – like some sort of prehistoric ancestor of emo, 30 years our of date, and with no artistic merit whatsoever.
Sure you can feed your caffeine addiction here, but the fix may not be just right, because as well as not tasting that good, your drink will probably be too large, and the chain may even boast about how they get extra caffeine from their beans, with the result that too much of it enters your bloodstream.
Enjoy for 20-30 mins, because after that you will be bored of your eyes, ears and taste buds being bombarded with mediocrity … Like Hotel California, you want to leave, but before you can you need to wait for your half a litre of Americano in an unreasonably sized ‘small’ mug to cool down enough so you can drink it before leaving.
- Costa – Britain’s answer to Starbucks – with almost all of its foibles