The Best Part of Waking Up: How My Coffee (Family) Inspires Me

by: Kiki Kirk

I met a girl my freshman year of college whose sister passed away in a bike accident. I never knew her sister, as I met her a few months after the accident. Her sister, Liza, worked for Metropolis Coffee Company and loved coffee more than anything. After her death, my friend decided that she wanted to keep Liza’s passion for coffee and legacy as a barista alive. This is the beginning of where my love began.

My friend began working at a coffee shop that was just opening in Lakeview. I would go there all the time and drink many a cortado, a drink that I tried because it was Liza’s favorite. I would do homework or write for hours. Even if I was living in the suburbs, no amount of miles was too many for a perfect espresso drink and comfortable company.

I developed friendships with the people that worked there. I was, and still am, enamored by their passion for their “job.” Whether it’s perfecting latte art or pulling the perfect shot, they give a shit about something that most people don’t think twice about.

Almost two years has gone by since this coffee roller coaster started. It completely blows my mind when I realize that the coffee community and culture has impacted my life more than any other. I know that I sound like most other people when I say that I “can’t function without my coffee” but it’s so much more than that. In the physical sense, it’s true. My mind just feels hazy without coffee. But the addiction is more than for the coffee itself.

I work and go to school in the Loop every day and recently moved back to the suburbs. Each morning I take the Metra into the city and stop at Intelligentsia (53 West Jackson Blvd.) on my way to campus. I’m greeted by people that I consider my friends and we make small talk and keep each other updated on our lives as I drink a macchiato and they manage the choas of the morning. Business people in suits with brief cases shuffle in and out and the atmosphere reminds me of Europe. There is something about that twenty minutes each day that gives me such an optimistic start to every day. Not only is the caffeine definitely better than most other place I could get coffee, but I also get to see friends every morning in an atmosphere that I love.

At least one day a week I make it to The Wormhole (1462 North Milwaukee Ave.) in Wicker Park. A few of the people that work there used to work at the shop in Lakeview that I would frequent. I’ve gotten myself into a good or bad habit depending on how you look at it: Wormhole is the only place I can write. The motivation or inspiration just isn’t present when I’m anywhere else.

My coffee friends (aka. my second family) have been some of the most supportive of my queerness and coming out. They have seen my struggles first hand and have helped and supported me when they could. I have also had opportunities to help and support them in different areas of their lives. Because of this, some of them have become people I would easily consider my greatest friends. As it turns out, queers love quality coffee!

With all of that being said, I still feel like there are feelings and reasons I can’t accurately put into words. Here is my last effort: Coffee might seem like a dumb thing to be in love with, but it represents so many things to me. Coffee and everything that comes with it is an addiction, a crutch, a best friend, a partner, a motivator, and most importantly, an inspiration. I don’t think I would be the person I am today without having experienced the coffee world.

Kiki Kirk is a writer, painter, and coffee drinker who studies at Columbia College. She makes a zine called Glass Sea and can usually be found hassling people for submissions. She identifies as queer and is trying to educate herself and those in her life about feminist, gender, and sexuality issues that exist globally.

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