UT students find inspiration and community in local coffee shops

Chandler Rowley, Life and Arts Reporter

The hum of the espresso machine and the beeps of various coffee apparatuses — drips, presses and grinders — accompany Amanda Garcia as she calls out the coffee orders of her fellow students.

“The morning rush at Starbucks can get very hectic,” the sociology and government sophomore said. “There are so many people that come in to get coffee every day, whether they stay or not, it’s refreshing to interact with so many UT students.”

Before moving to the Forty Acres, many UT students expect to spend their time studying and socializing at libraries and academic buildings on campus. Like Garcia, these same students often find coffee shops as better hubs to meet their social, academic and communal needs.

When she’s not donning her West 24th Street apron, Garcia can be found doing schoolwork at other caffeine hubs in and around campus, such as Cafe Medici, Lucky Lab and Mozart’s. She said she prefers the atmosphere of a coffee house compared to the Perry Castañeda Library (PCL), where she spent the majority of her freshman year studying.

“I needed a change of environment, it’s so quiet and un-homey in the library,” Garcia said. “On campus, there’s more pressure to be hyper-focused on your work, while coffee shops have a more laid-back ambiance to them that helps put me at ease.”

Garcia said she thrives off of the sense of community provided by the constant activity of those around her.

“It helps to have this organized chaos in the background while I study,” Garcia said. “I’ll come in and see one of my friends and we’ll just sit together and do our work.”

Catie Orwin, a communication and leadership junior, said she enjoys using the cafes — opposed to her apartment — as a destination for get-togethers.

“What’s great about coffee shops is they’re cozy and comfortable like a home, especially the good ones with really nice couches,” Orwin said. “It’s nice to have music playing in the background so you don’t feel too much pressure if there’s a lull or moment of silence in your conversation.”

Even if she isn’t meeting someone for coffee, Orwin said she finds herself drawn to the establishment.

“I don’t like to feel isolated so sitting down in a coffee shop is great,” Orwin said. “I can go sit at a table by myself and get some work done while still feeling like I’m in a community of people.”

Over the summer, Sarah Crawford, a human development and family sciences junior, started an Instagram account, @sarahs_sips, to review the many Austin hotspots.

“When I started the account, I truly didn’t realize how many coffee shops were in Austin,” Crawford said. “I love coffee, so I just started going to different shops, taking pictures and rating my orders.”

Through her Instagram account, Crawford said she has broadened her horizons as an Austinite and gained a newfound appreciation for the city.

“I’ve been able to see more parts of Austin than I’ve ever seen before, and it’s made me realize how vast and unique the city is,” Crawford said. “Austin has such a diverse populace and you get to see it in coffee shops. It’s such a welcoming environment full of people who enjoy each other’s company.”