The culture of coffee and the lost art of human interaction


I miss it, I really do miss it.


That feeling of just dropping my bag on the ground, leaning back inside the chair, adjusting my sunglasses, and just asking for it -- "Small cappuccino please". A few minutes later, after I managed to take a deep breath, say hello to the person I walked in with, and the aroma filled cup lands at my table, with a side of a small butter cookie. No paper cups here, no lines to stand in while non communicating cell phone glaring humans surround me, no offensive cheap cleaning detergent smell, no dry or cold baked goods. Instead there are sounds of people talking over each other while glaring music surrounds them, the sound of actual spoons clinking on the sides of the cup, a sharp smell of fresh salad being chopped. A constant feeling of something in the air. 

This is not utopia, this place does not just exist in my mind, these coffee houses are commonly found in almost every main street sidewalk, shopping mall, beach, desert, and even some gas stations all around Israel. 

I dare say it is one of the biggest cultural shocks I refuse to adjust too (that, and being told I can get 'cash back'). That fleeting moment of known theater, sitting back, and being seen for a just a millisecond. It as almost as someone stopped time just for you and asked you without too many words "Are you ok?". 


The lost culture of cafe idling is strongly tied to the high demanding office culture. That has yet to make the shift. Most people are expected to be in their work stations by a certain time. The only mark of rebellion is if you are able to walk into the office holding a logoed paper cup -- it signals to all "look at me! I'm so efficient with my time I even managed to drive through and get this lukewarm black something". There is true effort being made to shift in the office coffee culture, by bringing in state of the art coffee machines, some places go as far as bringing in a personal barista crew to your office twice a month. But it's all very artificial. As you are having coffee with the same homogeneous group of self selected people, without the outside world touching you even for a moment.  


Cafes are human interaction sanctuaries.


In Europe cafes were the meeting junctions of many thinkers who could cross reference ideas between disciplines. They are a place where the construction worker, the foreigner, the business person, the tired parent, the young student, all walks of life -- can for a moment have eye contact, possible real human interaction -- if they would only be allowed that moment of 'being seen' and offloaded of this pseudo artificial atmosphere of the 'small, medium or large' paper cup battle hymn. That is not a human way to have coffee, it's as if we are race cars stopping for a pit stop.

In the bedouin culture, a culture of nomads who live in the scorching desert sands, the coffee ceremony is very intricate and particular. Three cups are poured. The first will be tasted by the host, showing the guest the coffee is safe, the second will be drank by the guest himself, and then a third cup will be poured to show hospitality, and allow the guest time to talk and feel safe without being rushed out. 

I really do miss it. 



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