My first impression of Echo Coffee Shop was a library, except instead of librarians you had skilled baristas and a vast array of coffee selections. I walked into the shop and the first thing I noticed were the rows of laptops partially covering pensive expressions. The room was so heavily pregnant with everyone’s thoughts that I felt compelled to whisper my order to the barista: Café Americano with a peanut butter cookie. The cookie was delicious and the coffee was strong, but I tasted a slight bitterness, which is usually associated with burned coffee beans. Even though there were places to sit, I was cramped at my little table by the window. After 30 minutes of drinking my coffee and reading a copy of Java, I left to go home.
I can’t say there’s anything particularly wrong with Echo. The coffee is better than most places and the selection of pastries is more than decent and they even offer some gluten free options. The baristas are pleasant and there are plenty of tables and a few sofas for people to sit and work. The way it’s decorated reminds me of a Starbucks. It’s clean, with light colored walls, and full of natural light from the large windows. However, my experiences at Echo have always left me feeling emotionally sterilized. The energy of the space colors how I feel about this particular coffee shop. I’ve been to Echo about a half dozen times and the energy is always the same. There’s never much conversation going on and in fact, when I met one of my friends for coffee, she and I both felt uncomfortable talking because it was so quiet that we felt like we would get into trouble if our voices were above a whisper.
My visit to Echo made me think more about how the definitions of community and connection have changed. Social media and smart phones have made the virtual seem more real than the physical world. It’s more natural to be connected to your lap top computer than it is the people sitting next to you. If the power grid were to ever go out, humanity would have to relearn what it means to be part of a community. And yet, I would argue that our lack of physical community is creating an epidemic of detachment, self-absorption, and bullying. Empathy is not created over the Internet.
It’s challenging pinpointing why the energy feels the way it does at a place. However, sometimes places are just not good matches for people, and for me, I prefer places with more hustle and bustle. I want to feel a part of something, even if it’s just drinking coffee and reading a book. If I want quiet, I’ll go to a proper library. Due to Echo Coffee Shop’s menu, coffee, and hospitality, I give them 8 out of 10 beans.