Culture

Just A Thought: I Worship The Altar Of My Coffee Shop

While caffeine isn’t a perfect substitute for religion, the local coffee shop has nonetheless become an important place for community.

By Jamila Rizvi

Culture

While caffeine isn’t a perfect substitute for religion, the local coffee shop has nonetheless become an important place for community.

By Jamila Rizvi

I worship at the altar of my local coffee shop. On weekdays, I steal ten minutes between exercise and starting work to visit this sanctuary. The smell of Seven Seeds fills the air, as the clunking noise of beans being ground for a morning pick-me-up, ring in my ears. There’s an easy sort of lightness when I enter the space. Smiling and waving to the other regulars, eyes meet in contentment. People, whose names I will unlikely learn, share a moment of respite from a too-busy world.

I don’t have to order and that comes with a smug sense of belonging. They know me here. They can sense the kind of salvation I need on any given day. My favourite barista enquires as to how the writing is travelling. I shake my head and confess that it’s not progressing the way it should. He nods in the direction of his cabinet filled with delicious sugar-topped, baked goods and today, my calling comes in the form of an almond croissant.

Come Saturday and Sunday, the atmosphere is changed. My morning communion transforms from a quiet call to prayer, to the busy coming-together of a larger congregation. My husband and I drag ourselves from bed and bundle our kid into the car with urgency. We are the most committed of disciples. Especially after an evening when we’ve indulged in more than one bottle of red wine.

It’s a common refrain that inner-city Aussies take our coffee too seriously. However, I’ve started to think there’s more to it than hipster snobbery. Increasingly, Australians don’t subscribe to a religion. There are very few who attend regular weekly services. And while I admit caffeine isn’t a perfect substitute for spirituality, the local coffee shop has nonetheless become an importance place in the formation of community.

Young and old, we’re united in our ritual that marks the beginning of a new day. My 4-year-old knows this already. He doesn’t yet know the days of the week but is aware of when the morning hustle to kinder isn’t making itself apparent. That means a coffee shop visit. He cherishes his weekend interactions with the owners. They understand and accept his desire for excessive numbers of blueberries on a bowl of granola.

I’m not a person of faith and never have been. So, I wouldn’t for a second be as rude as to suggest that my cup of beans is akin to a spiritual moment. Yet I have always envied the steady traditions of those who believe, the way communities of people with seemingly little in common come together each week. We often spend over an hour at the coffee shop. Sipping our drinks, ordering another sneaky dose of caffeine before finding the strength to re-enter the fray.

Just A Thought explores the cultural and political musings of Jamila Rizvi.