The independent coffee shop is contested terrain, and can only be navigated successfully with a delicate combination of street smarts, courage, wit, and a little pretension, for good measure. Those embarking on this caffeinated journey unprepared will surely fall by the wayside, dooming themselves with the first utterance of “venti macchiato” at the barista’s counter. Here’s a how-to for properly navigating this hipster mainstay, as told by the inhabitants of your local Norah Jones/John Mellencamp-playing, Stumptown-serving coffee shop.
The Hopeful Screenwriter: Settle into a comfortable spot in the corner, next to an outlet, so your stream-of-conscious genius is not stunted by a low computer battery. Try not to laugh at the hilarity and wit of your own script.
The Undergraduate English Major: Order two shots of espresso and add your own milk, because your latte is never quite strong enough and that poetry paper you haven’t started is due tomorrow.
The Distraught Doctoral Candidate: Even though that third shot of espresso may seem like a good idea, opt instead for a calming hot tea—try chamomile. Too much caffeine will only add to your stress.
The Next Great American Novelist: Sit by the window so that you can look wistfully at nothing in particular. Be sure to get your own table—the typewriter takes up a lot of space. Espresso and cigarettes only.
The Loud Phone-Talker: If you cannot use your inside voice, take your call outside. And, whatever you do, do not try to order your drink while also on the phone.
The Basic: Tall, Grande, and Venti are not actual measurements for drinks here, so be sure to consult the menu before ordering your flavored latte. (No, they do not carry pumpkin spice.) Act cool when the barista hands you a drink with some cool latte art. Be discreet when taking that Instagram. Snapchat at your own risk.
The Finance Interviewee: Order a cold-brew iced coffee, so that you look like you know what you’re doing, even though you’ve never heard of this coffee shop and are the only one wearing a suit within a 5-mile radius. Don’t sit by the Next Great American Novelist, because he hates capitalism and keeps shooting you a glare.
The Casual Coffee Daters: Try and sit in a secluded area in the back of the coffee shop because your awkward small talk is not only distracting the Distraught Doctoral Candidate from writing his thesis but is also making everyone else uncomfortable.
The Milk Snob: No, this establishment does not carry hemp milk. This is Boston—not Williamsburg. Make sure to have your own backup supply of almond milk in case of emergency, should soymilk be the only non-dairy option.
The First-Timer: Exude false confidence. Ask the barista what her favorite drink on the menu is, and order it. Settle into a comfortable bar stool by the counter, people watch, and be conversational—you can learn a thing or two from the frequents.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor