You know the place. Perhaps tinted windows, or window shades protect your view of inside before you walk in. Opening the door, you have no idea what is inside, yet you know exactly what to expect. Walking in, you search for the menu – a chalkboard proudly displaying the name of the café artistically arranged around the Hot and Cold menus – each it’s own chalkboard.
Maybe the bar is arranged diagonally across a square room, giving the café a relaxed vibe. Perhaps you don’t think about how the arrangement of the room affects the feeling. Perhaps you do. Tables and chairs are strewn around the café – not carelessly, but in a loved, occupied way. Couches line the edge.
A pot of tea is $2.50? Okay. Sounds good. What varieties, what varieties? Decisions, decisions. A young woman rushes over.
Now you’re not just wondering what kind of tea you want, but how old this girl is.
You review the list as the barista grabs a couple tea canisters from behind the counter.
You sniff one – it’s Jasmine. A strong, beautiful jasmine that reminds me of good Chinese food. You sniff the other. It’s some fruity mango thing. No. Definitely no.
You look at the listing. Earl Grey. Yes, Earl Grey sounds good.
The barista puts away the jasmine and mango teas and pulls down the Earl Grey, scooping it out. You pull some cash out of your pocket and wait, watching, nervously considering discussion points that are not obscenely random, but fall into normal conversation. None come to mind. You stand there, awkwardly surveying the coffee shop and considering the advantages and disadvantages of sitting at each table.
She pours water into the teapot, filling it a quarter of the way, then scoops the loose leaf tea into the canister that fits inside the teapot. The canister fits neatly inside, and she fills it the rest of the way. You pay, collect your change and walk to a table in the corner, hoping for a plug. None nearby. But there is a Christmas tree.
A couple sits on a couch across from you, talking, laughing, smiling. Local art hangs on the walls, and in one corner, a mobile of airplanes hangs down from the ceiling.
The chairs, worn and loved make you think about how this is one coffee shop, but it could be any coffee shop. You notice the things this coffee shop has in common with others, the things that are dissimilar. You turn on some music and write these things down, letting your Earl Grey steep as long as possible.