On coffee shops

Starbucks Matalino

Near my brother’s apartment is the Starbucks where I used to spend most afternoons studying for the board exam. The branch is called Starbucks Matalino. Matalino is Filipino for intelligent. Why would I study anywhere else? I liked its proximity from where I had lived. Its air-conditioning system was consistently cold and extremely indefatigable. I preferred to stay indoors, donning my jacket and embracing the coffee mug with my palms to help me cope with the cold, rather than staying outside in the sweltering tropical heat. I still think summer is highly overrated, and would rather prefer cloudy, melancholic climates.

To navigate through my readings, I had to forgo my afternoon naps. Then I discovered coffee. I started ordering americano—one espresso shot diluted in hot water to make a cup—and was amazed at the jolt it gave me. I had an adrenaline rush of sorts, and my brain was getting sense of concepts in rapid-fire succession. Two weeks of an almost-daily intake of coffee beans allegedly imported from artisanal farms in Africa—I really didn’t care much at the time—my palpitations disappeared. I was liking the bitter taste in my mouth, and I started drinking my coffee without coffee or cream. I liked it best with a slice of cheesecake, which I treated myself with once in a blue moon because I didn’t have any money, and coffee itself was a big assault on my no-longer-a-student-not-yet-employed budget.

Since then I’ve been brewing my own coffee, but I would visit coffee shops to kill time or to finish a report. I prefer places with wide tables that don’t wobble. It’s a plus if the table is rectangular and is made of varnished wood. It’s exponentially better if the place is devoid of teenagers or whining children—why bring your kids to coffee shops, anyway?

I’ve been ordering espresso, too: I like how so much caffeine is packed in the demitasse. I’m still amused that whenever I order it, I often get advised by the highly concerned barista, “Maliit lang po ‘yun, Sir, ha?,” to which I would reply, “Oo, okay lang,” instead of getting irritated. The barista, after all, doesn’t presume I know anything about coffee, and I still probably don’t. I still have so much to learn about the wonderful bean that keeps me up all day.

The scene in this Viennese Kaffeehaus reminded me of John Piper's The Trellis and The Vine.
At Café Restaurant Palmenhaus, Buggarten GmbH, 1010, Vienna, Austria

One thought on “On coffee shops”

  1. Oh boy, I remember the first time I ordered an espresso (because it was the cheapest coffee) and how I couldn't down it easily---it was so bitter! But of course I forced myself to. Mahal pa rin kaya.
    And also the first time I ordered a french press coffee and couldn't figure out what to do with it!

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