Walk into any coffee shop in the world, and you'll probably see somebody typing away on a laptop. Some (most?) of them are working on novels. Actually, I'm not sure what the rest of the laptop-typers are doing. I've always wondered. Blogging, perhaps?
Writing a book requires a special sort of alchemy, a meeting of emotion and intellect. It's equal parts magic and craft. Throw in some caffeine (and maybe a little sugar), and you're most of the way there. That's why I head to a coffee shop to write whenever I'm lacking creative energy or focus. I love the ambient white noise, the smell of fresh coffee grounds, the exposed brick and eclectic artwork. The more hipster, the better. And lucky for me and all the other writers in this city, Denver has no shortage of hipster-approved coffee venues to satisfy every writer's shifting moods.
In honor of my city's incredible coffee scene (and maybe in honor of procrastination too, a writer's favorite pastime) I'll periodically be featuring my favorite Denver coffee shops here on the blog.
The Source isn't exactly a coffee shop. It's a converted brick foundry building that houses restaurants, a variety of shops, a bakery, brewery, and--hooray for caffeine!--an outpost of Boulder-based Boxcar Coffee Roasters. You'll find it in on Brighton Boulevard in RiNo, short for River North, a neighborhood north of Coors Field that's shifting from industrial to chic faster than you can say gentrification (that is a long word). They recently finished a new parking garage, and a huge expansion is currently underway. But construction, especially in the Downtown/Northwest Denver areas, is just part of life these days, right?
So what made me choose a not-exactly-coffee-shop as one of my favorite spots to write in Denver? Lots of reasons. The coffee is good, there's plenty of space to sit and stay awhile, it has a laid-back but upbeat vibe...But my true motivation? Two words:
Start at the Boxcar counter and order a brewed coffee from a rotating list of options, such as the No. 7 House Blend with notes of chocolate and citrus. They'll brew your cup with their Boilermakr process, which is fun to watch. Or how about a big latte with plenty of creamy foam--my choice today. I'm a soy milk drinker, and I always appreciate a barrista who can froth it properly. At Boxcar they're not kidding around about coffee. I like that. There are also some lovely tea options, and handmade biscotti...which I sadly almost never get because, pastries!
After you put in your coffee order, follow the heady scents of yeast and butter to Babette's. They have an ever-growing, ridiculous number of pastry choices, basically guaranteeing that you must come back again and again (or just order a bunch, intending to share, and then end up eating them all because you went to the gym sometime in the last week, right?)
I usually can't resist the morning bun. It's like a croissant combined with a cinnamon bun but so much better, with hundreds of flaky, buttery layers covered in caramelized brown sugar. So good. The almond croissants filled with marzipan-like almond paste are also incredible; likewise, the orange-poppyseed swirls with a tiny hint of hazelnut that takes them out of the stratosphere. Or any of the danishes with seasonal fruit. Or the canelé, these gorgeously shiny, custardy French cakes!
And of course, Babette's has shelves of beautiful, crusty breads to take home. Pick up a Pullman loaf and some cheese from the little market next to Boxcar, and you're set for the best grilled cheese ever for dinner.
A boilermaker coffee from Boxcar, a morning bun from Babette's, and my notebook. Pause for a happy dance. Now I'm ready to brainstorm.
Another great feature of The Source: options for seating. Sometimes, if I have a lot of writing I need or want to accomplish in one sitting, I prefer a table. I might choose one of the community tables beside Boxcar if I'm feeling social, or go for one of the (sometimes) quieter 2-tops by the Yacht Club bar.
Other times, though, I need a comfy spot to curl up. So I'll grab a spot on one of the couches. I can cradle my computer in my lap, set my coffee safely on the low table in front of me, and observe all the goings on around me.
The Source has a lot of seating, but at times, it can get crazy. Especially on evenings and weekends, when you might find a special event, pop-up store or an artisanal market. Come early for your pick of seats (and best selection of pastries). After dark, put away your laptop and stay for an amazing meal at Acorn or Comida, or a pint at Crooked Stave.
The couches beside the brewery and the wine shop. Yep, plenty of booze to loosen your writer's block, or to celebrate reaching that day's word count.
In the morning, The Source is quiet and calm. But it picks up quickly. It can be noisy, a little chaotic. Music plays, sometimes from more than one place at a time. The big TV screen on the wall might be showing a sporting event. The soaring ceilings, open floor plan and plentiful skylights make for an energetic, dynamic mood.
I go to The Source to write when I'm in brainstorming, world-building or outlining mode (as I am right now on my current project). The noise and the openness keep my mind active, and fresh ideas seem to come easily. I can people-watch while I'm inventing backstories for my characters. On the other hand, I don't usually head for The Source past 10 am on a weekend if I'm trying to churn out 2,000 words of a first draft. The craziness that drives my brainstorms also makes it hard for me to focus enough to finish a long chapter. But if you thrive on activity, The Source might just become your go-to spot for drafting.
How many coffee shops also have tacos? Not many, friends. Not many.