The Café Nomad

I was in Israel the first time I drank an entire cup of coffee. It was the summer after my ...

I was in Israel the first time I drank an entire cup of coffee. It was the summer after my freshman year, and the time had come to graduate from chocolate milk and move on to more caffeinated things. The mug I used was small; I filled it with that instant stuff, but the ratio of sugar and cream to actual brew was high. For me, that cup of coffee served purely utilitarian purposes—I was still jetlagged and exhausted from a busy trip, and I thought caffeine would help.

It did. I couldn’t believe how much my day improved—and how much my life could improve—by drinking a mug of caffeinated gold. I was hooked. I now use various liquid mediums to stay awake, usually espresso drinks at cafés or soda from the dining hall. And what wonders it has done for my social life! Going to cafés with friends is a new option that makes me hip.

I’m not, however, addicted to espresso, but I am addicted to cafés. One of my most important tasks each week is to find coffee shops in which to do my homework. Why? I think it’s cool. I think I look cool in them. I think my homework looks cool in them. I can count at least 18 cafés in Harvard Square and the immediate surrounding area in which I have done my homework. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order, with their corresponding charming attributes:

Crema Café—Best Scene to See and Be Seen; Best Cookies.

Au Bon Pain—Extreme Makeover: Chain Restaurant Edition.

Dado Tea—Best Random Place You Always Forget About But is Actually Pretty Good.

1369 Coffee House—That’s Right, I’ve Gone to Inman Square for My Coffee. That Is Really, Really Legit.

Tealuxe—Runner-up, the Dado Tea Random-But-Good Café Memorial Award.

Lamont Café—Most Convenient (er, post-sewage fiasco); Best Place to Burn Board Plus.

Starbucks on Church Street—Best Starbucks in Harvard Square.

Starbucks in the Garage—Second-Best Starbucks in Harvard Square.

Clearly, I am a café nomad. At times, I attempt to find a home base. Last year, I took a stab at ingratiating myself in Café Pamplona. That effort was about as fruitful as trying to leave Lamont Library without having one’s backpack violated. I told my mother that I wanted to become a regular at Pamplona and heeded her advice to figure out the waiter’s name. I even said to one of the waiters, “See you soon,” in the hopes that he would start to consider me one of Pamplona’s kind. But it just never quite fit. Sure, I learned his name (Chris), but he didn’t know mine (Liz). I spoke American English while there, not Spanish or French, and I wasn’t working on a film. I still gladly patronize Pamplona, but I have accepted the fact that I will never be a regular there.

Where else could I become a regular? Au Bon Pain wouldn’t do the trick. Before it was renovated, ABP was just a little too disgusting to spend a significant amount of time in. If I had to make a Top 10 list of the Grossest Things in Harvard Square, I’m fairly certain at least five of them would have been inside the old ABP (e.g., the congealed food displays ... the bathroom ... the birds flying inside the restaurant ...). But now that ABP looks like a legitimate institution, it’s lost all of its charm. I have no interest in it anymore. Right now, my spot is Café Gato Rojo, but will it last? I simply don’t know how long I’ll call “the Gato” my teafault.

As much as I’ve tried to become a regular at various institutions of higher caffeination in Harvard Square, I’ve become comfortable with my nomadic ways. I like roaming. Not being a café regular means I go to different spots depending on my mood. I like going to Algiers on some occasions (think Casablanca) and to the COOP Café on others (a reward for being sufficiently ripped off). I go to Petsi Pies when I want, well, pie, and to Simon’s when I want a good cappuccino. I’m not a regular at any of these places, but that’s okay. For me, coffee shops are just a place to detox—but never with decaf.

—Elizabeth C. Bloom ’12 is a junior in Currier House. She’s got a latte of caffeine in her system.