A Practical Coffee Map
I am particularly gifted at getting lost. So when we visit a new town, I have to map things out. Of course, “mapping things out” is really “figuring out how to get to the best coffee shops in town.” There is a trick to it. I have a handy (free) app that I rely on when visiting new places. It is called “Closest Cup.” Opening the app brings up a list of the closest coffee shops. The listing is linked to the business’s website and location in google maps. Wherever I am, a few minutes of scrolling through my “Closest Cup” app and even I can find locally roasted fair-trade coffee nearby without getting lost.
Last weekend, my husband, daughter and I traveled to Denver, Colorado for the first time. Of course, I had to map my trip. Maps can be works of art that show what’s important to the maker. Even one of the earliest “scientific” maps – the Mercator Projection – wrongly distorts Europe’s land mass near the North Pole, making it look much larger than it really is in relation to the other countries, (Seager). I suppose one map of my life would be a street map with little coffee mug icons where the best cafés sit. “Closest Cup” may be my life-map.
Denver has good coffee. I visited four quality cafes in the three days we were there. The coffee highlight of the trip was a visit to Steam, which was listed as one of the “Top 25 Coffee Shops in the World,” if such hyperbolic lists are even faintly realistic.
While my husband was at a trade show (he was there for work, so my daughter and I roamed the town during the afternoon) Carissa and I hopped in the rental car, opened the “Closest Cup” map and had Siri talk us through the drive.
Steam is located in a suburb outside of Denver in a tiny Victorian-style house with white clapboards, a wooden floor, and crowning on the top of the walls. To the back sits a cute patio reminiscent of an English Garden with white scrolled metal chairs, round tables and, unexpectedly, the exposed fuselage of a small plane. Industrial elements inside the Victorian style abode – exposed air ducts, metal tables and iron chandeliers – gave the place a cool retro-yet-modern feel.
I opened the door, anticipating one of the “Top 25 Coffee Shops in the World,” and four baristas in white shirts and pants with black aprons stared me up and down before turning back to their conversation. The twenty or so patrons in the room, all in skinny jeans, fashionable flannel and horn-rimmed glasses did the same.
This is not what was supposed to happen. According to Spurr, I was supposed to be the visitor feasting my eyes upon my new surroundings, (1993) Instead what I encountered was the gaze of two dozen unimpressed hipsters.
Despite the odds, I had to fulfill my quest: I ordered a latte from the black-aproned barista.
The truly delightful beverage was made on a magnificent, shiny Marzocco. The latte art was crisp; it looked like he’d used a brown sharpie on white paper. And it tasted very good – great foam with a deep, smooth espresso. In fact, it reminded me of my favorite Tucson haunt: Presta Coffee. Except that I am not an outsider at Presta.
A Different Kind of Coffee Map
Last night I happened across a PBS documentary, Colombia: Capital & Coffee from the series In the Americas with David Yetman. The host was touring Zona Cafetera, the geographical source of most Columbian coffee. Each coffee farm had its own specialty; each coffee farm owner his or her own personality.
The piece ended with a segment on a great carnival held each year to crown the “Coffee Queen.” Each coffee-growing region sent a beauty queen, a float and local dancers and costumes to parade through the streets. There were groups dressed as butterflies celebrating the butterflies that migrate to their coffee plants at the start of the season. There was a group from an area where former slaves settled; they danced with giant puppets representing death, the devil, and a witch, who were being fended off by a man on a makeshift horse, (Yetman).
This parade was a living, moving map. It didn’t show the spatial relations of each area, but it told at a glance the culture and celebration of each area.
I wondered if the ethos of coffee shops reflect their area like the floats and dancers in Columbia’s coffee parade? Denver’s Steam can celebrate its hipster-ness and Tucson’s Presta its laid-back southwestern-ness while we travelers get to mark them on our mental maps, savoring a taste of each.
Seager, J. Maps. Retrieved from http://chnm.gmu.edu/worldhistorysources/unpacking/mapsq4.html
Spurr, D. (1993). The Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial Administration. Duke University Press
Yetman, D. (2015). Columbia: Capital & Coffee from In the Americas with David Yetman.