I’m sure you know where every cafe in this town is!”
Allowing for the human talent for exaggeration, my father wasn’t too far off the mark. For me, the explosion of cafes over the past 20 years has been one of the big advances in human interaction.
Of course you can make yourself a hot drink at home, but cafes are about so much more than the beverage.
Think about it for a moment—deciding to have the treat of a coffee made by the barista at your local cafe means you are taking a break from all the other things you have to do in your busy life. If it’s a day when you are at home, there might be the bonus of a nice walk in the fresh air to and from the cafe, which is great for our general health. And if you’re at work, it’s a welcome chance to leave the computer to head out for a quick coffee.
And for people living on their own, cafes provide a vital service—in placing your coffee order and having it delivered to your table, there is a chance for pleasant conversation, and that’s something that always makes us feel good.
If you are meeting friends or family at a cafe, it’s a precious social occasion. Of course, if you or your coffee buddy are feeling low, you have the opportunity to cheer each other up. And all for the price of a latte or cup of tea.
As well as the above, some cafes have a social purpose motivation. One of these is Western Australia’s Coffee Booth at Northbridge, run by The Salvation Army’s Doorways program. This cafe is a coffee shop for everybody, which provides training experience for hospitality students and unemployed people through the Salvos’ Employment Plus Program.
There’s also the international Suspended Coffee movement at cafes displaying the Suspended Coffee logo. When you buy your own coffee you can pay for another coffee for someone else who is doing it tough. The cafe owner keeps a tally and then provides a free coffee for anyone in need who asks for a Suspended Coffee.
It’s important to share the joy of a hot drink and the personal interaction that can go with it and it’s been happening since biblical times.
In the Bible we are exhorted not to neglect to show hospitality to strangers (Hebrews Chapter 13, verse 2) and we also read that Jesus spent time eating with ordinary people, including those who others wouldn’t spend time with.
Thinking about cafe culture and hospitality, there are words in Matthew’s Gospel that always move me.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew chapter 25, verse 35).