Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Why a café and not a pub?


The difference between the two
Perhaps it’s just a matter of tradition. Licensing hours used to be much more restricted. You used to go to the pub to drink alcohol. Bars used to be full of cigarette smoke. All of that has changed now. Pubs and other licensed premises now open for longer, serve a lot more than just alcohol and have a smoking ban. Many cafés are licensed. Yet we go to the pub for recreation, to relax at the end of a busy day and maybe to share comments after seeing a play or a film. At the café we are more awake and perhaps seeking to become even more alert.   
Is it just the caffeine?
Coffee used to be a wicked pleasure.  Just think of Bach’s coffee cantataThe Viennese coffee houses were a little decadent. Caffeine of course wakes us up and makes us strong.  We feel clear. There is more, though. We are also close to our audience in the café. Often there is more light than in a pub. Young people are more welcome. Not everyone drinks coffee anyway.  So no, it isn’t just about the caffeine.
There is something about cake
Cake has featured highly in my career. I like baking anyway. There is something very rewarding about mixing the ingredients and the wonderful smell in the kitchen as the cake bakes. It’s extremely satisfying serving guests. When I used to be a language teacher my boss always provided chocolate cake for our meetings. My team of creative practitioners always appreciate a slice of something delicious as we problem-shoot. In fact, they’ll do almost anything for cake. Even a choir I belong to offers gigs entitled Acappella and Cake. And in that former existence as a language teacher I used to organise massive “Kaffee und Kuchen”   for my learners of German. The Dutch have the Koffiekonzert  – a musical concert by up and coming musicians for the price of and including a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.        
Rent a table     
This is perhaps a crucial element. Coffee cups are big now – even the small ones. So, spending a long time in a café is permitted. In fact, it is almost expected. It’s only polite of course for visitors to make sure they have a beverage in front of them or at least that they don’t sit behind an empty cup for more than half an hour. Even so, unless the place gets very crowded you’ll not be asked to move on. Chances are you might buy something else if you stay long enough.
Recently I arrived early for a meeting. There was a café over the road from the venue. I ordered a coffee and read The Times on my iPhone whilst I drank. There was a group in the corner discussing lessons for children with learning difficulties. So, two good creative café activities going on. The teachers were obviously off-site. Did the coffee and the café atmosphere help them to get better answers? I expect so, because I saw the news in The Times as part of a bigger picture and not just as something irritating.                     

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