Zoka Again

It’s Saturday, it’s noon, and I’m sitting in the University Village Zoka again. I don’t have a particular pressing need to be online, honestly, but it’s nice to have a destination to go to when it’s kind of rainy and grey out. Besides, there are worse things to do than to blog randomly. I don’t really have a set goal with this post, so we’ll see where it goes.

I drink a hell of a lot of chai — it’s my drink of choice in most coffee shops. I’ve noticed that a lot of the coffee shops in Seattle tend to have two kinds of chai: sweet and spicy. What this really means is “Oregon Chai” or “Morning Glory Chai“, two particular brands of chai. While having the options of different types is nice, there are other choices out there that I really wish they’d consider. In particular, there are a few brands that I think would go over really well in Seattle’s coffee-culture. There is a Mate based chai called Pixie Mate Chai that I’ve been really impressed by. It has the spices of a sweet chai, but none of it is so overwhelming that you can’t taste the tea beneath it, which is really important and often missed with Oregon Chai. As far as spicy chai goes, I may be bucking a trend, here, but I like a spicy chai to have a moderate bite, versus the strong bite of the Morning Glory. The best I’ve found along this line is a Portland local brand called Dragonfly Chai. If I could convince one of the local coffee shops to try it, I think they’d be well pleased with it.

It’s interesting to sit in a coffee shop near the counter, because you really notice the sort of pattern and flow of traffic. It seems to be a steady trickle of people until it abruptly floods in. I don’t know what else is going on in the area that would cause the momentary surges, but they’re definitely unmistakable. It’s all about the ebb and flow and cycles. (And being patient… it’s time to refill my chai, but I’m waiting until the current surge dies down).

I recently read a blog post that talked about how delightful it was to have a grapefruit, Photoshop, and an empty apartment to work in. While there are certainly days that sounds excellent, that’s not really my model. I like my solitude as much as the next introvert, but what exactly that entails differs between people, I think, and for me, it comes down to having solitude without being alone. This is why I’m so fond of coffee houses and cafes: I’m left to my own devices generally, but other people are around, satisfying my desire to people-watch when I want (watching the social dance between people is something of a pastime… I find it fascinating). That sort of “communal solitude” is my happy medium where I feel like I’m the most productive. I’d really love to sit down and get a discussion going between a number of creatives to talk about that… where our productive “sweet spot” is. I’m not sure this blog really has enough of a readership to get as broad a sampling as I’d like, but I’d still love to know folks’ thoughts on the matter nonetheless.

2 thoughts on “Zoka Again

  1. I am envious of the amount of time that you have to explore Seattle’s coffeeshops! I should develop a habit of going after work, but by the time 6pm rolls around and I’ve been sitting at a desk all day I’m pretty much braindead and uninspired by Starbucks and Caribou coffee.

    My creative sweet spot varies wildly depending on where I am living and what I’m working on. When I was in NYC writing my thesis, I holed up in my apartment after work, desperate for more time. When I worked in London I had all of my good ideas on my train commute into the city, and then I wrote on the weekends. Here in DC I tend to opt for coffee shops, because I don’t have my own bedroom here and I’m bound to get distracted at home. I crave some kind of distinction between everyday life/work and creative endeavors, whether it is a shut door, my own table at a coffeeshop, or confinement to a seat on a train. I can’t work in my bedroom, kitchen, at friends’ houses, etc.

    Artificial stimulants also play a huge role–not drugs, but something that you mentally associate with writing. For me, it’s coffee. You like chai. Occasionally I’ll use mate and cookies, too. :)

  2. I like chai, I like coffee, I like tea, I like mate, i like most things you find in a coffee shop or cafe ;). I’ve got to admit, a lot of the reason why coffee shops “clicked” with me so much is the idea of it: the image of sitting in front of a cafe, a book on one side of the table, a stack of saucers on the other, and a notebook in hand, writing out poetry and essays and novels and anything else. It’s a very enticing image to me, and when I find myself slipping into that “image”, that’s my sweet spot. Not sure if that makes any sense, or invalidates it through trying to fit an “image”. Obviously I don’t think it makes it less valid, since I follow it, but I do have some reasoning: the biggest complaint about worrying about “image” is that it gets in the way of being yourself… an alternative way to look at it, though, is that an image is appealing because it resonates with your true self.

    It’s interesting that your sweet spot changes with your living situation, but it actually makes sense, considering how disparate the style of living was between each location as well. I can definitely sympathize about the braindrain! I’m not a big fan of corporate coffeeculture myself (the Starbucks and other big chains, and the indies that try to emulate them), and it’s a shame that you haven’t found a nearby coffeeshop or cafe that has a revitalizing draw for you for during the workweek. There’s a great quote via Utah Philips of a Fry Pan Jack that goes:

    “I learned when I was young that the only true life I had was the life of my brain. But if it’s true the only real life I have is the life of my brain, what sense does it make to hand that brain to somebody for eight hours a day for their particular use on the presumption that at the end of the day they will give it back in an unmutilated condition?”

Comments are closed.