1/8/10 The Importance of Coffee
By Mike Shinn
Every Saturday, I wake up early with my daughter to go out for coffee. We get up early and do our best not to make too much noise - this gives my wife a break and lets her sleep in a little. We head out, and take our time getting to our final destination, usually picking up my friend, Billy, along the way. Once we have arrived, I get my treat and enjoy some time in the coffee shop with my daughter. Having done this every weekend over the last couple of years, I've picked up a few tips.
"Child's Hot Chocolate": This is an off-menu item but most baristas know exactly what to do when you order it - it's regular hot chocolate but watered down in a small cup made warm, not boiling hot - this allows them to start drinking immediately, and feel grown-up, like everyone else drinking from similar cups.
Destination: Santa Barbara has a lot of coffee shops, and our local coffee shops have a lot to offer. For example, the Santa Barbara Roasting Company roasts their beans in a large industrial roaster while you wait for your order. Mojo's has chessboards and pieces sitting out and ready to play - my daughter can't get enough of chess pieces. Newly opened, Jitters has a fun upstairs lounge. Any coffee shop that offers something other than impulse-buy items within the reach of a toddler keep kids wanting to come back. [roaster picture]
Open early: Most coffee shops open up significantly earlier than anything else in town. If your kid wakes up early, no problem, there are fewer people in line! Forgot to fill up your baby's bottle in the hurry to get out of the house? The baristas will often clean and refill the bottle with any type of milk - usually without charging for it!
Stuff on the walls: Many independent coffee shops will display their tea selections on the wall or counter. Kids love to point out the different colors. Unfortunately, many coffee shops will also display items for sale. Beware - mugs are breakable, and toddlers are attracted to them like magnets. Don't get me started on French presses on display that can break if you look at them wrong. Be sure to distract your kids with the extras that your local coffee shop provides, such as lids, straws and heat wraps. My daughter can't pick up a cup with a plastic lid without instinctively pressing in each of the buttons. [picture of lid buttons]
Post-coffee Destination: Going out for coffee alone may not give enough time for your partner to get the additional rest that you were hoping for. Extend your outing to include neighboring businesses or destinations. Once my daughter could walk, we started going to the beach after coffee. I found that she loved chasing the birds, and I loved getting the free parking because I was there so early. The farmers market is the perfect after-coffee destination. Enjoy your coffee while getting the first pick at local produce. One of my daughter's favorite post-coffee destinations is D'Angelos, for a large pretzel. [pretzel picture]
Whether you drink coffee or not, getting out of the house once a week provides everyone with something to look forward to.
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