Coffee is new to me. So is this town. Before leaving Sri Lanka, my motherland, to attend my summer exchange programme at UW, most of my friends educated’ me about the inseparable relationship between Seattle and Coffee.
“Cham, you can do either of two things: you could be very American and drink bitter cappuccino every day or you could be incredibly Sri Lankan and carry a packet of black tea with you. “But you know, when in Rome, do as the Romans do!”, my best friends chimed in.
So, I left without a packet of black tea and here I am trying not to disappoint my best friend and mother.
Now that I have landed well and safe in the coffee capital of Seattle, my days are spent experimenting different types of coffee from different types of cafes while simultaneously converting the price in dollars to rupees and blaming my own self for trying to be too fancy on coffee I discovered amazing parts of the Seattle coffee culture I didn’t expect to see.
‘Truth is we don’t believe that our purpose on earth is to make coffee. Most of us are different kinds of artist, so we do it with art. We serve coffee with art”, Joel, the general manager of Cafe solstice says with a charming smile. Sitting on a high stool in the small quaint coffee shop that she works, which is already full of customers, she tells me about the coffee culture deep rooted in Seattle.
“Best part about this cafe is people know each other. This is a small community where they can meet and talk, more than coffee this cafe is about books and friendships”
She is sweet, but the coffee isn’t! I love the pretty leaf she made on the top of the latte, to be frank, it looks like a tea leaf to me.
Tea is one of the biggest prides of my country. Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest tea exporter despite the size of the country. (For those out of depth: Sri Lanka is same as West Virginia in geography) For Sri Lankans’ the mood of the day depends upon the first sip of their early morning tea. The quality of the tea depends on how sweet it would be without sugar. Ceylon Black tea is good with sugar, that’s the breakfast tea. Jasmin green tea is to drink after the heavy meals. ‘Silver tips’ are for special occasions, its sweet even without sugar.
Sri Lankans don’t go to cafes, they brew their own tea. We drink tea, but we are not crazy about tea which upsets me most of time. Ceylon tea is worth going crazy for, it’s that amazing.
One of my caffeine-induced dreams include opening up a tea house in Sri Lanka; a cozy place, bean bags, good rugs and people knowing people over tea, but she looked at me like I had grown an extra head.
It’s different here in Seattle, I can see my idea here. Everywhere; with coffee though.
I’m typing these words at Cafe Allegro, first Espresso bar opened in Seattle. ‘Why do you think Seattle is crazy about coffee?” I asked one of the co-workers at cafe Allegro.
‘I really don’t know. He gave it a thought, ‘may be because it’s cheaper than beer, He laughed. ‘One thing we know is that, they are not here just for coffee.’
It took few days for my exotic taste buds to adjust to the taste of coffee. Espresso- No, Americano- No, Latte- yes!
Statistically, there’s at least one cafe in every 200 meters in Seattle. Do people in Seattle drink that much of coffee?
Surprises to the Sri Lankans. Such a loyalty to this bitter drink!
Cafes here isn’t just coffee; its Jenga, its books, its music, its art, it’s even garage sales.
I don’t miss tea now, it is still it’s a love hate relationship that i have with coffee. But I love how coffee is bringing people together. Coffee is sweet in a way, bitter sweet. Life like.
The shift from tea to coffee dragged me out of my comfort zone. The most precious things we could achieve are out of our comfort zones, they say. I want to go outside of my comfort zone and to challenge myself to work my idea!
“Charm’s Tea Den, Cham’s heaven, or maybe …Cham’s SpecialTea….”
I’m so glad I came all this way and tasted Seattle coffee.
Thank you Coffee!
“Well , one can die after all,
It is but dying and in the next world thank god…
There’s no drinking of coffee..
and consequently no waiting for it….”