By Grace Lucht |

While size is one of the many factors differing Waco from Austin, a similarity shared between the two cities is a rich coffee culture. The coffee shops in a smaller town like Waco help to create close relationships between customers and workers. A beverage that so many people rely on and enjoy drinking on a daily basis has such a strong ability in bringing people together.

Having worked at Pinewood, a Waco coffee shop located on Austin Avenue, since January of this year, I have found myself meeting new people everyday, and engaging in meaningful conversations with friends and strangers on a daily basis.

Having a background in coffee prior to working at Pinewood in Waco, Jacci Pinson, has trouble naming just one favorite part about working in the coffee shop environment.

“I think there is a really sweet relationship and friendship between staff members,” Pinson said. “The general attitude of friendship flows into the interactions and relationships with customers and creates a really beautiful atmosphere.”

There seems to be a growing interest in craft coffee and lots of people college students, adults, people from all walks of life enjoy spending time in coffee shops. People gather in these spaces to enjoy coffee and each other’s company, but also to be productive. The balance between work and being social can be seen quite clearly at coffee shops in Waco.

Students can be found studying for exams in the same location where old friends reunite to chat over a couple of lattes. This type of environment creates a space for regular customers to come in on a weekly, or even daily, basis to either take their cup of jo to go, or to sit awhile and chat with baristas and friends.

Common Grounds barista and coffee shop dweller, Sarah Hamill, sees coffee culture as a social experience.

“My favorite way to spend time with my friends is getting coffee,” Hamill said. “You’re out and doing something but you also get to talk and people watch. But even if you’re at a coffee shop alone, I think there’s some social aspect just being around other people.”

One aspect of working with coffee is the knowledge gained about the craft. The roasting processes and the different tastes that go along with different coffees based on their region are just a few of the things I have learned in the several months I have worked at Pinewood. Learning about coffee and sharing this knowledge with those who enter the shop are valuable conversations that I strive to have every shift.

Coffee shops are places where creativity is sparked, exams are studied for, and some of the best conversations are had. Lots of coffee shop dwellers, myself included, find great comfort in these places, creating communities here and having it become a sort of ritual. There is something extra special about a local coffee shop filled with familiar faces.

While there may not be much to do in Waco, we sure are lucky to have places like local coffee shops to stimulate our creativity and caffeinate our bodies.

Something about being surrounded by people having meaningful conversations or studying hard, mixed with the smell of coffee, makes these shops feel like the perfect place to spend an early morning or an afternoon.

For myself, working at Pinewood has not only taught me so much about the craft of coffee, but has taught me just as much about humans. The interactions I have with customers on a daily basis may be brief, but I always make an effort for them to be meaningful.

Close friends can be made through these moments shared over a cup of coffee, which I would say is worth the $3 charge.