Silence of the muffins.

There is no red shirted man making deals on the phone as he paces back and forth. There is no group of large voiced church people being all holier than thou. And loud. Eight out of ten customers in this coffee shop are writers. I can tell because they come in and sit down and write, either on a laptop or on paper. The other two out of ten are artists or book binders.

The other clue to the livelihood of the clientèle is that this is a coffee shop in a writer’s workshop, where writers go to teach and take classes and stuff, attached to an art gallery and a book binding shop. I’m here because my daughter is taking a class and it is a lot easier to hang here and work in the coffee shop than to drive home and back.

But none of that is important. The reason I bring this up at all is the following: The espresso/cappuccino machine is NOT an automatic machine. The milk is foamed with a foamer. The espresso is made through one of those standard espresso thingies that needs to be banged to clean out. And so on. So, even though one can explain the relative quietness of coffee shops in general using the technology (automatic = not as good espresso but much quieter process) it is possible to be non-automatic and quiet.

Why quiet here? This is a writer’s loft. The place is full of people like me. They probably all have blogs. If the guy working here, who incidentally has a pretty good Elvis imitation going, bangs the espresso thingie or shshhhes the milk too loudly, then a dozen blog posts complaining about it go out over the intertubes that second.

They have a folded towel set next to a tiny sink into which the spent grounds are placed. If you hold the espresso holder in your palm (instead of by the handle) and whack it smartly against the towel at the edge of the sink … once …. most of the grounds go into the sink. Quietly. Then you rinse it out. I know this because I positioned myself in a place where I could watch the process.

The entire latte making process is quiet.

The muffins. They are silent.

The brownies. They are made of hemp.

The only loud noises we are likely to hear in this place would be the ulululations of writers getting paid large sums of money by publishers.

So the place is pretty quiet.


  1. #1 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2009

    They make very pretty coffee too. If you want to illustrate it, grab one of Ben’s pieces of coffee porn from FB or Flickr.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    July 23, 2009

    “Ben Zvan grinds his coffee with his teeth and boils the water with his own rage. “

  3. #3 Lilian Nattel
    July 23, 2009

    It sounds like a great place to write. Though I have to confess–I like donut shops. I don’t really like donuts and I don’t really like the coffee in donut shops (though Tim Horton’s is drinkable). But I like the atmosphere. I like watching people and listening to people. I’ve always liked eating in diners when I’m traveling, not because of the food (as a vegetarian it makes hard going in diners) but for the same reason.

  4. #4 Stephanie Z
    July 23, 2009

    Actually, he chats up the baristas and persuades them to make him their “signature” drinks, the things that they really like but which aren’t on the menu.

  5. #5 DuWayne
    July 23, 2009

    I don’t know – it sounds like a really nifty place, but minus some of the general clanking and banging of a lot of coffee houses, I actually like the conversational atmosphere – even occasionally when people mistake me for someone who wants to chat – at least beyond the occasional interjection…

    Lilian –

    I like donut shops. I don’t really like donuts and I don’t really like the coffee in donut shops…

    …(though Tim Horton’s is drinkable).

    …(as a vegetarian it makes hard going in diners) but for the same reason.

    You truly exemplify most of the things that make me rather insistent on INVADING!!!11!!!111 Canuckistan…And you’re a vegetarian to boot!!! If you’re not careful, you could end up with a position in the dictatorship of Canadia – or Texas if you piss me off (I was going to send a different Canuckistanian there, but he bribed his way free – he’ll get Alberta instead)…

  6. #6 Arjay
    July 23, 2009

    Sounds exactly like a(n excellent)writer procrastinating … rien s’empeche comme le papier vide.

  7. #7 Ben Zvan
    July 24, 2009

    Huh. They always bang the heck out of the portafilter when I’m there. Maybe I just inspire that type of behaviour.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    July 25, 2009

    I’ve actually spent a fair amount of time there over the last two weeks. They’ve either changed their tactics (having read my post, no doubt) or we’re talking about two different places.

    The use of the towel and the specific method of knocking out the puck is not random, it is company policy, followed by all four barista’s I’ve observed and confirmed by the one I talked to about it.

    It could also be RT Rybak’s yellow-shirted people. They may have gone in there and told them to be quiet.