Coffee culture in Minneapolis

This month, I explored various coffee shops in Minneapolis to write an article on coffee culture for my school’s student newspaper Spectrum. May is an extremely stressful and busy month for high school/ college students, so I thought an article on many teenagers and young adults utilizing coffee shops for studying/working purposes would be relevant to the season. I had the privilege to meet three experts: Greg Martin from Urban Bean Coffee, Alex Hanson from Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Company, Stephanie Ratanas from Dogwood Coffee Company.

I’m the type of person who truly indulges in caffeinated drinks. It’s impossible to imagine a day without a cup of coffee. I have many friends who drag their cars down to national chain stores such as Starbucks or Caribou for takeout coffee as fuel, but I came to really enjoy visiting local coffee shops, and I would spend a good hour at the shop doing some homework, browsing the internet, and observing the people around me.

My mother, who grew up in the mid 80s and early 90s under conservative and traditional parents, are against the idea of studying at coffee shops. My mother once told me that she went to a coffee shop for the first time while attending college to socialize with a group of friends. When I spoke to the founder of Urban Bean Coffee Greg Martin, he told me that he used to study at a library in college. Mr.Martin adds, “When the internet really hit, from 1995 to 2005, people came to cafes to smoke or socialize.”

Arrived at Urban Bean Coffee West Lake Street location.
Rachel the barista at Urban Bean Coffee proudly presents her latte art.
Greg observes Rachel pouring latte art.
Mr.Martin prepares coffee for the customers.
The simplicity of Urban Bean Coffee’s layout is conducive for creating.
A typical afternoon scene at Urban Bean Coffee.
Greg Martin the founder of Urban Bean Coffee demonstrates a yoga pose.

And I can totally understand where my mother or Mr.Martin is coming from. Particularly, my mother thinks that it’s important to have a concrete study space and time at home because a disciplined study habit has helped her to become a successful student during high school. My mother’s perspective has shifted a little bit after we moved to the U.S. As my mother encountered studious people in coffee shops nearby Lake Calhoun doing their work on laptops, she started to acknowledge that the coffee shop culture was changing.

There’s still a lot of fun that’s rooted in coffee shops because “they were originally created to form spaces for community,” says Stephanie Ratanas the coffee buyer of Dogwood Coffee Company. Ms.Ratanas has never been a “coffee shop studying person” just like Mr.Martin and my mother. A crowded place with loud background music in coffee shops can definitely distract some people. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of people who come into coffee shops with their laptops, and it’s important to respect their decision to “leave their house/office sort of within the community,” adds Ms.Ratanas. And of course, there’s going to be people like Ms.Ratanas who come to coffee shops to hangout with friends, and I think that’s absolutely valid.

The latest blend spring break is produced by small land holders in Ethiopia, and the Vierira Ferreira family from Brazil.
The main entrance to Dogwood Coffee at Uptown.
During a rainy day, people visit Dogwood to work on their individual projects.
Stephanie Ratanas the coffee buyer of Dogwood Coffee Company had tea for the interview because moderation can’t go wrong.

A lead barista/ quality control specialist/ staff educator at Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Company Alex Hanson also agrees that the entertaining aspect of coffee shops is how it brings people together into a common space. Mr.Hanson replied, “people come to cafes to taste good coffee, and latte art is cool to look at.” Furthermore, coffee shops that are built within different neighborhoods like Spyhouse Coffee, located in Northeast, Whittier, Northloop, Uptown, adds a community aspect to the company because they are “always in mind,” says Mr.Hanson.

Alex Hanson greets me in front of the entrance of Spyhouse Coffee at Northeast Minneapolis.
On a Friday afternoon, Spyhouse is packed with people who are in line to order a cup of cold brew.
Some coffee products are on display for merchandise.
Reserved seats for media report and staff meetings are held in a quiet area behind the counter.
A combination of work and social scene at Spyhouse creates a vibrant atmosphere.
The outdoor atmosphere of NE Spyhouse Coffee.

Ultimately, I think people are looking for creative spaces to craft their work. Coffee shops could be conducive for creating. Especially at Urban Bean Coffee located in W Lake Street, the large ceilings, white walls, and the simplicity of its layout definitely helps me to focus on my agenda. The coffee shop culture is getting more impersonal, and people would rather choose to work at a common place instead of home, because it’s also easier in certain aspects to get distracted with your pet or your unfinished laundry at home.

But I think the lesson my mother has taught me over the years is something that I will cherish forever. Although I really enjoy going out to coffee shops occasionally for studying or to boost my creativity, I think it’s extremely important to discipline yourself and find your place where you can forget about everything else and solely focus on what needs to be done by the end of the day. If coffee shops are the go-to places for you, that’s great. But there’s definitely going to be people like Ms.Ratanas, Mr.Martin, and my mother who come to coffee shops for the entertaining and community aspect, so always be aware of the people around you in coffee shops, whether you’re there for your own time or to socialize. And don’t forget try some awesome coffee at Urban Bean, Spyhouse, and Dogwood!





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