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Author Archives: cafeworking

Iced Coffee or Iced Tea?

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I’m totally a coffee gal first thing in the morning. I wish I could make the switch to green tea. I’m sure it would be better for my system but I need the java jolt. In the summer though, if I find myself struggling to focus on work mid-afternoon, I turn to tea. Well, iced tea. I just find it way more refreshing than iced coffee. I especially love iced mint tea. Through work, I’m lucky enough to get a lot of cool, free stuff and recently sampled Numi’s Organic Mint Pu-erh Tea. It’s their green pu-erh tea blended with their Moroccan Mint. Very refreshing! And the pu-erh does wonders for your energy levels. This is a nice treat, but on a budget, and with an iced tea maker that requires eight bags per pitcher, I usually buy the mint tea that’s on sale. And although I was born and raised in the South (yes, I do consider Louisville, KY the South) I am not a fan of sweet tea. [Insert gasp here.] I take raw sugar and milk in my coffee, but prefer my tea straight up. While my husband drinks his coffee black but likes his tea with so much simple sugar you could stand a wooden spoon up in the pitcher. Go figure. Sweet or unsweet? No there’s a whole different post.

What’s your favorite cold pick-me-up?

BYOM: Bring your own mug.

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How green should I go? Aladdin Recycled and Recyclable Tumbler, $8.99 at Amazon.com

I have been on a serious hiatus for a couple of reasons.

1) I’m horrible at keeping up blogs. I was like this with diaries as a child (see box of semi-started, half-written journals in my closet. Actually, stay out of my closet. That’s creepy). But I’m trying.

2) I’ve had to cut back on my cafe working. As much as I can rationalize it for my sanity and as a well-deserved diversion from my home office or hole I carved out for myself amidst back issues at the open desk at my company’s office, it still costs more to work at a cafe than it does to work at home. I was hoping at this point to have more submissions from others to share in place of my own reviews, but cafe working has not created the buzz I’d hoped… at least not yet! It would help if I could keep up with my posts (see #1).

While typing away in my hole the other day, a coworker shared with me that he can bring his own mug into Malaprop’s (a local Asheville bookstore and cafe) and they’ll fill it for only $1! This opened my eyes to a budget loophole that had been staring me in the face at every coffee shop counter with their handmade price tags. Travel coffee mugs! How many other coffee shops offer severe discounts if you BYOM? Sure, there’s the initial investment and it means lugging around a mug in addition to my water bottle (and diapers and my laptop) but what’s one more straw on this camel’s back? I’m a mom of a toddler, a sherpa with a Subaru.

So with this new awakening, I’m ready to venture back into the world of cafe working, my own mug in hand, and see what it does for my wallet. First, I need to find the right travel mug. So many out there to choose from. Anyone have a favorite? Suggestions?

Is coffee still an affordable luxury?

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According to market reports, the prices for coffee keep rising as does the demand, which means for most people coffee remains an affordable luxury. In other words, an extra five cents per cup isn’t making most of us balk at the counter. But with gut-wrenching gas prices, for those of us country folk who have to drive at least 10 minutes to the closest coffee house, getting there is half the battle.

My son is in preschool two mornings a week (I refuse to call it Mothers’ Morning Out… I’m working, not getting my nails done), and I used to drop him off and park myself at a nearby cafe without batting an eye. But now, even if it means my husband leaving for work an hour earlier, I’ll have him drop off Jed one of those days on his way to save me money on gas and coffee. Even when I drank my coffee at home and drove to our downtown office, I still had to pay for parking. When you factor in the child care and gas, an average morning of cafe working costs me $30. And I have to think about that when I consider that cup of coffee. I wouldn’t call it an affordable luxury, but more of a semi-doable sanity saver.

What does your cafe working time cost you? Do you still consider coffee an affordable luxury?

Lingering guilt.

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How long do you linger after your last sip? The answer is different for everyone.

Empty chai and just bought a bagel for hour #3. Cha-ching!

This morning, I planned to be budget-friendly and work in our downtown office, but I was greeted by my co-worker with bad news–we no longer have wireless. While this is an annoyance to the full-time employees who like to bring their laptops in from home but are also provided with desktops, it’s a downright dealbreaker for me. I have to have wireless. I have no choice. So while I was deciding where to pack up and head off to, my co-worker asked me the question: how long can I stay in one place on one cup of coffee without feeling guilty? I can always stay one hour, no problem. If it’s off peak hours and most tables are empty, I can feel okay about staying for a couple of hours. I have occasionally gotten really into my work and pushed three, but that’s rarely intentional. The last time I did that was at a former favorite haunt. I say “former” because as I was getting up to leave, a guy from the kitchen snidely remarked, “Leaving so soon?”

That did it. Not going back there for awhile. I’m sure he was only joking, but not only was the place empty, I’d also eaten an overpriced egg and cheese biscuit in addition to my coffee plus a generous tip. So I’ll be taking a true coffee break from said coffee house. That’ll show ’em.

I was surprised to find out that my co-worker’s guilt sets in after only 20 or 30 minutes of cafe working. I can’t imagine investing two dollars for a cup of coffee and a place to work only to feel like I needed to get up and move mere minutes later. That’s barely enough time to log on and check your email.

How does your guilt goad you and how long before it sets in? Do you get up and go? Get a refill? Buy something else?

Freedom Writer: Taking it outside to Freedom Park

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Freedom Park, Charlotte, NC

I discovered this laptop spot by accident while taking a break from work to enjoy a beautiful spring day. There I was, sprawled out on the grass, savoring my Moe’s naked burrito when I decided just to see if by chance I could get online in Freedom Park.

Photo by Mike D'avria, HelloCharlotte.com

Not only could I get online, but they had their own wireless network! I will say that it was super duper slow, but it allowed me to prolong my cyber splendor in the grass rather than return to the South Charlotte Caribou where I’d set up camp for the week (a great chain find, but that’s for another post). I’m just glad I was fully charged—obviously nowhere to plug in at a park. But you can’t beat the atmosphere: fresh air, no obligatory purchases, blades of grass between your toes while you type. And in my case, a jogger going by periodically singing at the top of her lungs to her iPod. You go, girl!

I lived in Charlotte for five years and had no idea. Does everyone know about this or have I unearthed a remote workers’ best kept secret?

Freedom Park, 1900 East Blvd., Charlotte, NC

West End Bakery

West End Bakery, West Asheville, NC

I was sitting in this very place when I decided that I absolutely had to move to Asheville. And we actually ended up moving a block and a half away from West End Bakery where we lived for a year. I had the good fortune of being in walking distance of this blissful stretch of Haywood Road and all the fair trade, local, organic goodness it has to offer. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Credit: WestEndBakery.com

COFFEE: Like we said, it’s fair-trade, organic, and you can’t get more local than roasters right down the street. Get your mug at the register and choose from two thermoses of regular and one decaf. They also have organic espresso and tea options including some tempting herbal iced tea specials in the summer.

Credit: WestEndBakery.com

FOOD: This is a bakery first and foremost, so any pastry, sandwich or biscuit-based menu item you order is gonna be a winner. They have cinnamon buns the size of frisbees, and a chalkboard listing the many locally sourced ingredients. For a bakery, they’re awfully conscious of the gluten-free customer, and it’s West, so you know there’s plenty of vegetarian options (try the tofu sandwich on their spelt bread — yummm!).

INTERNET: The Wi-Fi is free and flowin’, but my one complaint is that the smaller room toward the back where I prefer to work doesn’t have any outlets. And I only counted a couple of places in the main room to plug in. So be sure to scout before you sit or come fully charged if you plan to stay awhile.

VIBE: This place just says West Asheville to me. It’s a very  neighborhoody, hold-the-door-open-for-the-person-behind-you kind of place where at least one person in earshot will say “No worries.” The last time I was there, a woman two people ahead of me in line was short a couple of dollars. The woman between us handed her some cash to make up the difference. There was the obligatory refusal/insistence dance until the first woman finally, gratefully accepted. I assumed they were at lunch together and that it was a friend paying for another friend’s coffee. Turns out they were total strangers. That’s West End Bakery.

Credit: WestEndBakery.com

GREENERY: What isn’t green here? They compost, they recycle, they support sustainable agriculture, they use 100% organic flour and use organic and local everything else whenever possible (there’s even local soap in the bathroom).

KIDDING: If your child can play nicely in one area (and not climb on tables and crawl behind the counter under the waitstaffs’ feet like mind would), this would be a great place to come with kids if you want to get a little work done outside the house. They have a play area at the front of the bakery with toys and books and comfy chairs so you can keep one eye on your screen and one eye on your little guy. The area is not contained and is right near the front door, so you would need make sure your child stays out of door traffic. Basically he or she has to be able to listen. And if your child does listen to you, please share your secret. I’d love to know how to get my son to do that.

West End Bakery, 757 Haywood Rd, West Asheville, NC, 28806


Pekoe Sip House

Contributed by Brooke Edge, PhD candidate in Media Studies at UC Boulder. Thanks, Brooke!

Pekoe Sip House, Boulder, CO

I’m in the final throes of the first year of a doctoral program, and two months’ worth of back-homework is threatening to crash down on my head. In the interest of holding this mountain of reading at bay, I need a productive work environment. And lots of caffeine.

So it’s amazing that I keep coming back to the Pekoe Sip House rather than a coffee shop where I could mainline the sweet dark roast that keeps me plowing through the work. But Pekoe has just the right table and lighting, so it’s won my hard-working heart.

I live in Boulder, where it’s sunny something like 300 days a year. That’s great for hiking, but a pain for reading on an iPad. All too many coffee shops here have big, lovely windows that flood the place with light. This sucks when you have a reading device that glares big time. But Pekoe has sunny seats in the front, and then a narrow recessed seating area. See that table way in the back? That’s where I like to work. Most of the chatty people hang up front, while the workers tend to move back. It’s nice and quiet and glare-free.

The music choices are usually somewhere along the jam band spectrum, but just a few minutes ago they switched to dance music. That isn’t really my thing, study-wise, but it isn’t openly distracting. And the tea drinks are tasty, and served in actual glasses. Finally, a major perk is that it’s two doors down from my favorite market (the fittingly named Ideal Market), so fresh fruits, sandwiches, and sushi are just feet away.

Ok, time to get back to political economy or whatever I need to ingest before class. Happy cafe working to all!

Pekoe Sip House, 1225 Alpine Ave, Boulder, CO 303.444.5953