Atmosphere and Other Uses of the Built Environment

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By Sam Lewontin, Cafe Manager, Everyman Espresso, New York, NY

During the last decade, the preparation and service elements of specialty coffee in the United States have developed at a dizzying rate. Thanks to the care and intentionality of professionals at all stages of the game, the coffee that we’re drinking and serving now is leaps and bounds better than it’s ever been. Cafes continue to be at the forefront of this work. They are the end of the chain— the link with which coffee drinkers most directly interact. Through them, we have the opportunity to show coffee drinkers, our customers, just how great coffee can be, and why great coffee is worth pursuing and celebrating.

Our understanding of how to create great gustatory experiences has, however, drastically outstripped our understanding of how to create services and spaces that support those experiences. For all their increasingly well-heeled window dressing, most specialty cafes in the U.S. occupy approximately the same sorts of spaces that they did ten or even twenty years ago. The message that we send by serving coffee that reflects our values is undeniably vital. So, though, are the messages that we send with the spaces in which we serve it, and with how people are allowed and encouraged to use those spaces.

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