I come to this blog with a long history of coffee-drinking and a short history of blogging and computer work.  I grew up (my second, or mostly mental,  growth spurt:  no stunting for me!)  amidst an atmosphere of academic coffee shops in the 60’s and 70’s. These provided bottomless cups of coffee to readers and debaters, politicos and intense socializers, people-watchers, students with their eyes propped open by stir sticks, and probably a few students with their eyes closed. The brew was inexpensive and the variety limited, although cappuccino  and espresso were sometimes being offered.  Ambience was the name of the game. Black coffee it was, although not our fathers’  “good to the last drop” Maxwell House or “mountain grown” Folgers. And it certainly wasn’t  “Fill it to the brim with Brim” decaffeinated (what later became fondly known as “unleaded”). It was better, bolder, more interesting (although we hadn’t heard of fair trade), but still relatively inexpensive. Of course Sambo’s continued to offer dime coffee, and parts of the country lagged behind in embracing these (radical hotbeds) coffee shops, preferring the old standby restaurant fare, which can still be had for a high price. Now, at the bottom of the pot, is the occasional rest stop dishwater drink posing as coffee (the redeeming feature of which is that it’s free, with only a guilt-trip).

Then came Seattle Pike Place Market’s Starbucks and the idea of single-cup servings and many choices.  Hordes of up-to-date commuters learned new vocabularies as they slurped up their lattes, mochas and later such concoctions as frappuccinos, remembering that tall=small, and short=extra-small  (Author’s Note:  When I took the train to Chicago and happened to see the long lines at a Starbucks in the city in the early 90’s, I bought stock at the company’s IPO. That  stock then grew and split and grew again).  A new generation, one that had never tasted a black “cuppa joe” , was purchasing these frothy, high-calorie, special-order drinks, feeding caffeine addiction. (note: I sold at a big profit on a very small investment. Why couldn’t I have gotten my mitts on some of  Mitt’s money?)   The market has since slowed due to saturation and the economy, and Starbucks has become stigmatized as another multinational huge conglomerate by some, especially the locavores or grass-roots types. Starbucks still has excellent coffee, and I sometimes patronize them, but only for their drip coffees, especially now that I found out some stores offer “senior coffee” at a reduced price. Previously, my support relied exclusively on the fact that they gave a (recycled or commuter) cup discount and gave away used grounds for gardens. (disclaimer: My knowledge of Starbucks, or of any other coffee houses reviewed, does not include knowing about management, benefits, hiring practices, advertising and sales, social practices, or anything else behind-the-scenes.  What I saw or heard is what you get).

Independent coffee houses are now flourishing, and many have loyal followings, are run by conscientious and creative people, and offer a slew of items at today’s prices. Usually the most interesting are in old structures, have some unique quirks, and have  seating options ranging from mismatched old wooden chairs to overstuffed couches to  stools .  Not always  (A clever concept goes a long way).  I’ll describe some of these quirks and whatever I find of interest, including my fellow customers (Forget them if they seem boring!), in this blog review. I expect to select the houses through a combination of recommendation, happenstance (where I am if I need a caffeine fix), and what-place-looks-good-that-I’ve-always-wanted-to-try. The blog will be sporadic, but I’ll aim for once a week.  (If you have a spot and I don’t seem to get to it, let me know so I can check it out!  Do not feel offended; our paths may never have crossed!) I  will be drinking, routinely, black coffee only, and, although I may eat a roll and will mention most other amenities, I may not report much unless the pastry is moldy (or delectable) or the amenity jumps out at me.  Omissions will need to be overlooked; the rest is opinion:  mine.

I hope some of my observations and insights help like-minded or older folks to seek out comfortable, pleasant, and affordable shops with good fare and delicious coffee (our unifying goal).  I want the blog to wake up the community, with the help of caffeine!