Annie Vainshtein is a Mustang News coffee columnist who writes about her adventures (and misadventures) with her favorite caffeinated beverage. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Annie Vainshtein

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For most of us, coffee is either part of our daily routines or an inevitable outcome. As much as we try to resist it, we assume we’ll end up drinking coffee — even if we don’t want to.

As we mature and start incorporating it into our lives, whether that be through indirect processes (like reading VICE every day) or direct (skipping class to ensure the FedEx guy gets a signature for your imported half-pound of Cafe Kreyol Zombie Desert 100 percent Organic Haitian Bleu), it slowly becomes apparent that coffee has very little to do with how it tastes.

Coffee is a social lubricant, a culture. Coffee has long transcended its organic form. Bearded men with undercuts don’t call themselves coffee connoisseurs because they care about the bean count; it is unlikely they will notice if the drip served to them via mason jar has been “properly aerated.” They will, however, notice the mason jar.

They’re in it for the mason jar. Coffee is the substance you ingest so you can finally appreciate Virginia Woolf. Coffee spurts the necessary words to convey just how much you “love” Majical Cloudz.

If you’ve lived in San Luis Obispo and have regular access to SoundCloud, you’ve probably stepped into Kreuzberg at least once. Your experience there will mostly depend on two things: what you think of Portland and your stance on beanies. It is the amalgamation of aesthetics, the collision of outcasts from public high schools in seven of California’s counties and two of Colorados, the place to see and be seen, the place to drink amazing coffee and look swaggy doing it.

People at Kreuzberg aren’t fanatics. They like coffee just as much as the rest. The difference is in the expression. When you go to Kreuzberg, you’ve chosen Iron & Wine over your dad’s cover band. You’ve abandoned your beloved A’s cap for a felt panama hat. It’s not that you’re leaving parts of you behind, you’ve just swapped out chain cafes for baristas that’ll actually know your name — and something about coffee.

And so, wide-eyed, you step into the store, noting it’s 10 a.m. and Explosions in the Sky is playing. As much as you love post-rock, you really weren’t trying to go to a coffee shop to be depressed, so you order an espresso shot to cheer yourself up. Plus, you deserve it.

You scan the menu and notice the Dostoevsky sandwich. It looks good, but what about the Ayn Rand salad? This is too structural of a question. You start having stress sweats thinking about the former USSR. Alas, you decide on the John Steinbeck — sometimes it’s okay to play it safe.

Coffee time is booming, but there’s nowhere to sit besides what you’ve, in the last 20 seconds, assigned the name “Vape Lounge.” It’s dark in there. The couches are unforgivably leather; everyone in there has, at one point in their lives, brewed their own Kombucha.

You finally find a free seat, but you’re going to have to share it with Yellow Beanie man, who doesn’t look up when you ask him if the seat’s available. The two of you sit in silence, both readjusting your Warby Parker glasses, hoping the other doesn’t realize they’re not prescription. He got pour-over, and he’s judging your puerile need for espresso. He’s grown out of that stage.

The smooth, carefully crafted espresso shot has really done you well. In this newfound conviction, you’ve decided to sneakily VSCOcam the floral wall, but in the abrupt maneuver knock over your espresso shot. All two ounces fall to the floor, but the miniature cup doesn’t break. It’s made of bamboo. What are you supposed to do now?

Tunnel vision directs you toward the beacon of light — you must buy another coffee. You weave through the circus of blue-eyed craftsmen and those who hula hoop — barely escaping the union of a Tinder match. Their first date was almost ruined, by you.

You go up to the front, frantic. Your panama is making your hair look weird. You take out your wallet to pay and realize you forgot to throw out your Peet’s gift card. You may as well delete your Instagram. The man with a bun asks what you want. He then tells you to get a pour-over. You’re asked if you like fruity or chocolate, and you can’t decide because you love chocolate-covered strawberries and suddenly everything seems scary and nothing makes sense, until you realize: It all means nothing. And you utter the two words baristas everywhere hate more than whipped cream.

“Surprise me.”

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