You Need More Than Just Coffee for the Perfect Coffee Shop Vibe

Iron Bull would make killer latte art.
February 14, 2020, 10:47pm
Image courtesy of Bioware and Getty Images, collage by the author.

The coffee shop playlist. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee. The soft clinking of ceramic mugs. There's a very specific vibe you get when you think of a coffee shop. There's also a social component to a coffee shop that fandom has used time and time again to explore the relationships between their favorite characters. What if the characters from Dragon Age: Inquisition worked at a coffee shop? Who would be the barista, who's the regular, what drama and romance might spark? We discuss this and more on this week's Waypoint Radio. You can read an excerpt and listen to the full episode below.

Austin: I hope the two of you are with me on this. You know coffee shop [Alternate Univers?

Gita: Yes.


Austin: Do you know Cado, you know what I mean?

Cado: In theory.

Austin: Okay, what is a coffee shop AU about for you? What is the ideal? Because I have a very particular vision of this. For people who don't know what we're talking about, in fanfiction there is like a very popular kind of scenario that that gets used across fandom in which you move your core characters from a work, you take your Dragon Age characters, and you move them into a coffee shop. What if instead of fighting demons and living in a castle, they were in a coffee shop together?

Gita: I'm so happy that I get to talk about this right now. In the coffee shop AU obviously what I'm looking for is the barista and the customer to fall for each other.

Austin: So barista-customer falling for each other good, solid. I like multiple people working at the coffee shop.

Gita: Yeah, I want the whole crew from Dragon Age–

Austin: That's it

Gita: –behind the bar.

Austin: For me, the way I pitched this to Janine who just came up in conversation a little while ago, last night I was like "what I want from coffee shop AU: owner who's like absent but mysterious and kind of shows up now and then and like what's what's their motives? Then three employees, manager, junior employee, new employee, right? New employee is like your perspective character, new employee is like the player character in a way, right?

They show up, they don't know everybody around, but like they are they make friends with the junior, that's a good romantic possibility. The manager is there, who is the most senior and kind of gruff, but like maybe [has a] Heart of Gold, but understand things about the world, whatever. Then a couple of key customers, your regulars who come through. Then a little bit around the edges, you get the music shop next door, or the apartments upstairs, or someone's siblings.


Gita: Oh no they're having lease problems!

Austin: Exactly, exactly. Oh, no! Or there's a block party or there's, you know what I mean?

Gita: Bernadette Peters Slaves of New York Rent party.

Austin: Right, whereas [Coffee Talk] is just you the barista, talking just to customers. That's just a bartender. That's just the bartender without the alcohol, and that's not the coffee shop fantasy that I have!

Gita: As a point of comparison, there is a very good visual novel short, very good visual novel called Hustle Cat and it takes place in a cat cafe where the hook is that you work in a cafe by day, but at night you turn into a cat and they all turn into cats and it's really really cute. See, that game doesn't have any coffee making stuff in it, but it hits all of those buttons for coffee shop AU for me. Where you they've got a bunch of workplace drama. It feels like Empire Records in a way.

Austin: You want Empire records, but coffee, and coffee has a nice smell. It brings out lots of good, you know, aromatic vibes. Cado you had something where you're gonna say?

Cado: I was just gonna say, I don't know, maybe this is just the coffee shops I'm in, but l feel like you rarely even see the bar that you can sit at anymore, right?

Austin: No, they don't. That's not a coffee shop I've ever been to, or not ever but not often.

Cado: It's more likely that if you're the barista you're talking to co-workers, if you're in the coffee shop you might be talking to other people there.


Austin: Right, and the thing that's actually really interesting about it is, I think in the coffee shop AU I want, where the barista and and the customer end up hooking up or like there's any sort of [relationship] there, the distance is important.

Cado: Right!

Austin: You're supposed to have the customer who comes in–

Cado: You have such a short moment. That you have to make a–

Austin: Right, there's this little window, how do we spark something? How does this crush develop when all I can do is order a drink.

Gita: See, that's what I love so much about the coffee shop au is like people trying to send secret messages through coffee orders and stuff like that.

Austin: Exactly!

Gita: And having that kind of interaction for the coffee making stuff is fine, but like what you need is that kernel of that spark of excitement.

Austin: Right! Well, and you can't leave that door open. It can't be like "Well, I'll have my usua"l and then you sit down across from [them], that's not a barista relationship.

Gita: No, it needs to be rush hour and you see your crush, and you know you only have 2.2 seconds to talk to them.

Austin: Right! And then go "Oh, hi, how you doing? How's your week been?" And [then think] "Oh, was that a little too close?"

Gita: Like remembering the thing they said last time.

Austin: They say your name and you're like "Oh shit. Okay cool, they remembered my name!"

Gita: Yeah, exactly.


Austin: That doesn't work when you're sitting across from them and they go "What is your name?" You don't want them to know your name because you introduced yourself. You want them to know your name because you come in often enough that they remember your order. "Are you getting your usual?" Boom!

Gita: Right now I'm getting so enlivened by thinking of the ways to gamify this thing.

Austin: It would be great!

Gita: You know, like, just even having to remember the person's name.

Austin: Yes!

Gita: And remember what their drink order is before they order it.

Austin: This is what I'm saying.

Gita: Very easy to make this into a video game, and you don't have to change it from the regular mechanics really.

Austin: And I want the other side of it. I want a co-worker who's like "we need to put out more cheese danishes" and I gotta to be like "No, we have to put out more cherry danishes." I want that. I want that frisson, you know what I mean?

Gita: Slap slap kiss a little bit? Yeah.

Austin: Yeah, I want that energy!

Discussed: Coffee Talk 6:25, Cook, Serve, Delicious 3 28:53, Tales From Off Peak City 44:29, Darkest Dungeon 52:31, Daemon X Machina 1:02:36, Final Fantasy XIV 1:04:01, Roadwardens 1:15:13, No Man's Sky 1:18:00

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