The topic of coffee shops has come up a few times in recent threads. Let's look at these critters a little more in depth.
Why consume coffee in a coffee shop? It's more economical, after all to toss a couple scoops of Folgers into the Mr. Coffee unit on the kitchen counter. Consumers purchase beverages at coffee houses for entirely different reasons, which might include: quality of product (sure you can get good quality beans at most grocery stores, but coffee house coffee tends to be consistently higher quality across the board), convenience, and atmosphere. It's the last item listed that I'd like to focus on, as it is closely related to the issue of coffee culture.
Contrary to popular perception, not all coffee joints' clientele consist solely of folks smoking clove cigarettes or wearing multiple garments made from hemp fiber. There are a variety of different coffee-serving establishments which cater to different subcultures, and while some would probably not readily identify themselves as 'coffee houses', their raison d'etre largely revolves around customers who leisurely consume coffee on premises while socializing with their peers. I'll let others comment on the middle and high end coffee joints and focus on blue collar varieties:
Truck stops: these facilities tend to offer a variety of services, products, and amenities, but seating areas where coffee is consumed and cigarettes smoked are a staple. No, you won't be able to buy any Blue Mountain beans here, nor will the help know the difference between robusta or arabica. In fact the only two varieties of coffee you'll find are regular and decaf (or 'leaded' and 'no-lead'). 'Country' music is the order of the day, and if one happens to like Hank Williams Jr. you might be able buy his Greatest Hits cassette tape at the checkout counter for a $1. Harley-Davidson t-shirts and hats abound, many patrons wearing jingoistic 'Murica: Love it or Leave it' attire/bumper stickers. Conversation tends to run along the same lines as can be heard on any c.b. radio. Everyone here comes from somewhere else and often the only common thread is the patrons spend much time travelling the highways. Consequently, lots of truckers and bikers can be found here.
Breakfast joints: Sure they serve food here, but a hefty percentage of the clientele lingers quite a while to gab over coffee afterwards and the waitresses fully expect most patrons will want at least a couple refills or 'warm-ups' (regular or Sanka, dear?). Unlike truck stops, the great majority of patrons are locals and many will know/recognize other regulars. We've ascended a step on the socio-economic ladder, but for the most part the meat & potatoes crowd are solidly blue collar. Conversations tend to run along the lines of people we know/knew and events both current and remembered. Many patrons will be wearing blue jeans or perhaps a cap emblazoned with a branch of service, or a kountry kitsch kitten-patterned sweatshirt. The median age of the clientele is probably around the mid 50's
What type of coffee joint do/have you frequented? Do you ever meet regulars for conversation over coffee at any third place? What other observations about coffee serving establishments can you offer?