Layla Kamm
by Layla Kamm

In my quest to create my dream teahouse/coffee shop, I am visiting different coffee shops around town to get ideas.  And I have seen a few, some of which are very interesting.

Today I revisit Funnel Mill in Santa Monica, California.  The first time I stumbled upon this place, I only had a cup, or shall I say a tiny teapot of their special Jasmine Green Tea which cost me $4.60.  I can’t say I was impressed by the taste of it.  Nor was I impressed by the price.  This time I have come back for some coffee, perhaps a good espresso drink.  Classical music is playing in the background. (And I apologize for not knowing whether it is Bach or Beethoven or which other one of the dead European men.)  The person behind the counter says hello to me with a nice wide smile, as if he had missed me since I came here seven months ago.  I look at their menu and they have names of so many types and brands of coffee I have never heard of—from all over the world.  I am in the mood for some Latte.  When I tell the guy I want a Tall Latte, he asks me if I want European or American.

“What is the difference?” I ask.

“European is two shots of espresso with two parts of milk, American is only one shot of espresso.”

“I will stick to American, thank you.” I say politely. It’s already 5 p.m. and I don’t really feel like being wired for the rest of the night.

My Tall Latte is costing me $5.36.

I put my stuff down on a very comfortable light brown leather sofa in the front area of the store, which is decorated like a cozy living room, with a couch, a sofa and an armchair and a rectangular black wooden coffee table.  It is done so intentionally to get strangers to talk to each other, you know… to meet new people and form new relationships.  I don’t think that happens often in Los Angeles but I do respect the idea.  People who come with friends will talk to their friends, and those who come alone, like me, will either get on their laptop (to secretly write a review) or use the free WiFi provided by them.

Here is what is impressive about Funnel Mill: it takes 15 minutes for them to bring my Latte.  That, you may ask, is not a good thing.  But this place is here to slow you down, to make you be in the present moment while you drink your tea or coffee, to make you be here. Finally, an employee brings my very Tall Latte in a glass on a tray accompanied by two types of sugar, raw and Splenda, with tiny spoons to pour it in, a very tall silver spoon to stir it and—get ready for this—a glass of water on the side.  Yes, I get Latte and water because once I am done drinking my Latte I will be inherently thirsty and will need water.

This, my fellow readers, is called personal service.  Almost like sitting in first class of a flight but better because I have more leg room and WiFi.

I meet a good friend there later.  We talk about work, life, family, writing, how to make money from coffee shops, and whether we are going to start a non-profit organization one day.  She gets her drink on a silver tray with water as well.  More importantly, we slow down as if this is the only moment we have.

Next time you are in or near Santa Monica, visit Funnel Mill and see for yourself.   By the way, I just noticed that strangers do actually talk to each other by virtue of sitting in this pseudo living room. So you may meet some really cool people here too if you visit. (www.funnelmill.com)

Notes to self for opening a coffee shop in the future: Smile to customers, play some classical music, charge them hefty prices for teas and coffee, but in exchange give them excellent service.  This can include giving them some free water on the side.

Today’s Healthy Living Tip: Slow down when you drink your tea or coffee.  Be present. Feel the heat arising from the cup. Discern the level of its sweetness or bitterness.  Analyze its color.

It will do you wonders.



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