Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Wave Coffee Shops

When you give up alcohol you end up spending a great deal of time in coffee shops. There used to be two kinds in London which sold passable coffee:

Italian coffee shops, eg Brunos, Bar Italia, Ponti's

They were making lattes when Starbucks was still the Seattle Coffee Co. They buy eye-poppingly strong coffee from the Algerians in Soho on a contract going back 70 years. They'll sell you a gristly bacon sandwich, but for cultural reasons are generally unable to make tea. Coffee comes in an unbranded Styrofoam cup and costs £1.50. There is rarely music, other than the sound of media types affecting allrightmateyeah camaraderie, like they spent the day digging up a road, rather than hatching a really exciting social network strategy for stock cubes.

Chain coffee companies, eg Starbucks, Caffe Nero, Costa

As stand-up, Rick Shapiro, says Starbucks is a true representation of modern America: 'fag food, at Jew prices, in a WASPY environment'. (It's funny when he says it, trust me, and/because he is Jewish, and used to be a rentboy). There isn't really anything I can tell you about Starbucks that you don't already know. I don't like Starbucks, and yet it is a business I patronise on a daily basis, more than almost any other (apart from Amazon). Everyone feels this way about Starbucks, and you can tell from their toilets. There is always someone in the Starbucks toilet, and no matter how meek and apologetic they look when they come out, it always turns out they've enacted a hideous dirty protest all over the loo seat, the back wall, the mirror etc.

These days there is a third kind of coffee shop:

Boutique coffee shops, eg Nude Espresso, Flat White, Wild and Wood, Store Street Espresso

You don't have to have a sailor tattoo on your fucking neck to work in these places but it helps. Fewer Eastern Europeans, and more people who look like they might be in a band, but aren't actually in a band - beards and piercings also encouraged. Don't even think about asking for an extra shot, or hot milk with your americano, because it will 'ruin the flavour' of the coffee. The soundtrack will be some combination of Beck, MGMT and Fleetwood Mac. Coffee is venerated in these places, in fact the point of this post, was that I realised on Saturday that the whole aesthetic of these cafes, including the staff who'd rather you weren't there, is taken from galleries. Look, check it out:

Store St Espresso

Hmmm. What could it mean?
In some places, like Nude Espresso, the prints on the wall actually show coffee.

The point is to venerate the product, by giving it the trappings of art.

You could probably break most kinds of advertising or branding down along these lines also. Things are made to appeal on price, convenience or sensibility. Agencies too, fit the typology - think CST, JWT, Mother.

Another thing that Nude Espresso proves is that the only good thing about antipodeans is that they're usually not pretentious.

PS: I should probably mention that the Coffee Plant on Portobello Road, is not just my favourite coffee shop, but one of my favourite places in the world bar none. Doesn't really fit any of the above types, and they will often be playing The Idiot at 8.00am. 


Anonymous said...

Shit I thought Nude had New Zealand origins...


Anonymous said...

Nice redaction.


Gordon Comstock said...

I'm on it.

Anonymous said...


Gordon Comstock said...

Yeah, yeah all right. You lot are on pedantic form today aren't you?

Gordon Comstock said...

Although it is a variant spelling ok?

Anonymous said...

Haha! Sorry about the pedantry...

I love Starbucks, because you get a lot of coffee. Nude you got bupkis for the same price.

And its full of Wiedens planners as well. If I wanted to hear people talk about "trans-media narratives" I would read an APG paper...