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Coffee Shop Vibes: Bringing the Brew to Your Home

Savannah Kuchar
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Coffee chat over Zoom

Even though they're all spread across the country for now, this group of friends from Rice University still finds time to enjoy their two favorite things - coffee and each other's company. Pictured are (from top left to bottom right) Grace Weng with a hot latte, Savannah Kuchar with a caramel cappuccino, twins Loren and Natalie Goddard with hot mocha lattes, Yvette Martinez with a cold brew and Emmy Chavez with a homemade hot café de olla.

In the pre-COVID days, when I was still living on campus and going to classes at Rice, one of my favorite things to do with my fellow caffeine-addicted friends was go out on the weekends to different local coffee shops. We would order a cup of the house brew or splurge on a specialty drink, then settle into the open café space, sometimes for hours on end, studying, reading or just chatting with each other. 

Needless to say, this pastime hasn’t been an option for us since mid-March, when public spaces like coffee shops had to close due to COVID-19. And now, as the state reopens businesses, most of our group of Rice students has left Houston and returned home across the country, keeping in-person gatherings still out of the question. But inspired by the rise of virtual life during these times, we’ve found other ways to keep the tradition alive. 

So for anyone else who found their second home or office at a coffee shop table, here are some ideas to bring back this space, or at least elements of it, to your own kitchen or living room. An at-home-café set-up is perfect for virtual hangouts with your group of friends, or for adding some caffeine to your daily grind of working from home. 

First off, you need the coffee, of course. If you’re really craving that specific mocha latte or blueberry scone from your favorite local spot, check to see if they’re open for to-go orders right now. But if you’re not ready to get back out into public yet (or just don’t feel like changing out of comfy loungewear), you can become your own barista instead and try making your favorite drink or dessert from home. There are plenty of guides online for everything from a simple cold brew to a tasty vanilla latte, and likewise there are many available recipes for the accompanying tasty treats, including scones, biscotti), muffins and more. 

Loren Goddard

Rice senior Loren Goddard has her coffee ready for her day of working from home. (Photo: Natalie Goddard)

If you’ve been on social media at all during quarantine, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about “Dalgona coffee” or what is commonly referred to as “whipped coffee.” Hop on the internet bandwagon and try out this popular blend of instant coffee powder, sugar and hot water, served over milk for your morning fix. 

Any coffee shop regular knows, though, that it’s not just about a good brew. You also need that café ambiance to really make it a complete and authentic scene. For starters, the right music is important. Many coffee shops tend to favor a more alternative sound, and fortunately there’s an abundance of great playlists with this music available on various streaming services. One of my personal favorites is the fittingly-named Spotify playlist iced vanilla latte.  

Other sounds distinctive to a bustling coffee shop, like background chatter and clinking mugs, are key elements of the café community. The website Coffitivity offers a virtual substitute for that commotion you might be missing right now. You can pick from a few different free options depending on the setting that feels most right to you. 

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