When I was 14, my brother's friend Arash took me to my first coffeehouse, Espresso Royale on State St. in Ann Arbor, MI. Spending an evening hanging out with Arash (the world's friendliest person), surrounded by students who were having a great time, and feeling like I'd found a second home made me fall in love with coffee shops. When I returned home to suburban New York I was disappointed to find we didn't have any coffeehouses. From then on, everywhere I went I searched for coffeehouses, trying to recapture that sense of community and belonging I found at Espresso Royale. When I was a student at UCLA, we had a lovely coffeehouse on campus and I probably spent more hours there than at home during my school years. The coffee was dreadful, even when not tainted by hazelnut residue, but the friends I made there and the comfort the cafe provided was probably the most enjoyable part of my school years. When I eventually discovered there was such a thing as delicious coffee, I immediately knew I wanted to own a cafe and provide people the same sense of community and belonging I had found in Ann Arbor.
Scott Rao is author of the Coffee Roaster's Companion