The Modern Coffee House
Coffee has made its way in the world throughout time to become one of the most popular and relied upon drinks of today. What is it that makes coffee the world’s second most traded commodity? I think it’s fair to say that when a something becomes the second most popular drink in the world after water it’s more than just a craze, it’s a community. Coffee has become a giant network connecting people all over the world; taking coffee beans from Brazil and importing the to places half way across the world like Finland. The love and consumption of this drink has become a pastime in many cultures, and that’s thanks to the places in which this consumption takes place: coffee houses.
A coffee house has become a recognizable symbol throughout the world. When I traveled across Europe I always found comfort in the local coffee house of whatever city I was staying in. It didn’t matter that I was a foreigner because coffee is a universal language. The first coffee house sprouted up in Istanbul in 1475. It then spread to places in Europe such as England where coffee houses soon became business hubs in which many business deals were conducted. The fad eventually spread to America, in which we now have the most popularly recognizable coffee house in the world: Starbucks. As the coffee house has spread over time, so has it’s purpose. Coffee houses, at the beginning of their exponential growth, used to be a place where businessmen could leisurely discuss deals and such. Today however, especially in America, this coffee house has evolved into a coffee shop; An in and out place to keep up with today’s pace of life. An example of this would be the popular American chain Dunkin Donuts. Most of these places have drive-thrus and often no seating. Within this place there is no sense of community, just your morning latte. A few places however keep the original vision of a coffee house going, with a more modern twist of course.
Starbucks has been the number one capitalizer on the continuing coffee house trend. A few notable others are Peet’s Coffee, and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Each of these have their pros and cons, but they all have one con in common; Each of these businesses size seem to work against their appeal as a coffee house. These stores are all very commercial, in that when you walk in a starbucks in southern California it looks exactly the same as one in upstate New York. If the interior was homey and inviting this might be okay, but when the atmosphere is cookie cutter and cold, the business lacks appeal. Another way in which size works against these businesses is their lack of selectivity in hiring and training employees. Yes, they have hiring and training standards, but when so many employees have to be hired “the face of the company” is bound to be a bit flawed. Not all of these businesses locations have bad service, but it is much more common than in a smaller coffee house chain. This impersonal cold atmosphere can make people shy away from using these businesses as they were intended to be: for work.
As a college student I’m constantly in need of somewhere else to do work than the library or my home. My local coffee house in Bellingham Washington, Woods Coffee, has fulfilled that need. Woods is the epitome of what the modern day coffee house should be. They started in 2002 in Lynden Washington and have since then opened up many more in the surrounding area. They are a family run business, the owners daughter came up with the name, and his son came up with the logo. So how does this family run coffee business compete against a big name like Starbucks? They believe that their product can stand on its own, so what really sets Woods apart as a business is its values. They believe in quality all around, from their decor to their customer service, and it shows. Woods have very welcoming atmospheres and the friendliest employees around. The qualities make it a desirable place for customers of all ages and backgrounds to come and stay. What makes Woods a coffee house compared to a coffee shop like Dunkin Donuts is that when customers come they often linger for awhile rather than get their cup and go. Woods has good wifi and ample seating space which allows for a very productive work environment, a key element of a coffee house. In some locations they even offer rooms that can be rented out for those who want a private group work setting, like the one pictured here. Notice how much more modern and welcoming this room at woods feels compared to the bland picture of a Peet’s Coffee above.
Although coffee houses have been around for hundreds of years, their main purpose has not changed; They are a social environment in which work is often done. Many of today’s modern coffee houses however have drifted away from this, providing less than friendly environments. An example of a business that has decided to break the mold however is Woods coffee in Washington. They provide a comfortable work space and friendly environment that a coffee house should have. This model that Woods has established presents a blueprint for the modern coffee house and all it could be.