What's Brewing Next
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
These cafés offer you coffee and a taste of the churn defining societies globally.
By Charu Sudan Kasturi
From mocha to matcha and more, cafés today offer customers more variety in their cups than ever before. But increasingly, there’s more on their menus than just coffee. Sure, cafes have been passive hubs of debate and discussion forever. Now, they’re actively shaping themselves as theaters of social, economic and political change.
Across the world, in Cairo and Cologne, Salt Lake City and Spokane, Bishkek and Bogota, cafes are reinventing what it means to serve coffee. They’re emerging as the thermometers measuring change in their societies. Whether you love your morning cuppa or are just keen to keep tabs on the pulse of society, this OZY original series tells you What’s Brewing Next.
Stung by increasing terror attacks — including on the country’s Coptic Christian community — Egypt’s government, security agencies and religious authorities are turning to cafés to win young hearts and minds. They’re sending clerics to deliver lectures on moderate Islam at the country’s most popular cafés, proactively trying to cut off the supply of youth to extremist groups by reaching out to millennials in settings where they’re most at ease. Welcome to the latest battleground where the struggle over the country’s secular soul will be fought.
The waiter’s deaf. But she can show you just how blind you may have been, to the life and culture of the 360 million people over the world who suffer from disabling hearing loss. All while sipping on the best brew you’ve tasted in a while. From Cologne to Cape Town, and Bangkok to Bogotà, deaf-owned cafés are opening up with more on their menu than empowering people with hearing disabilities by giving them employment and exposure. They’re also teaching people with hearing about deaf culture and sign language. You may enter looking for coffee. You’ll likely leave with a lot more.
They’re tired of cafés and chains like Starbucks that promote liberal causes like same-sex marriage, welcoming refugees and anti-gun legislation. Conservatives want to sip coffee while defending guns and speaking up for veterans they believe liberals have maligned. Now, they’re getting such spaces. Across America, conservative coffee shops are opening up, offering an alternative to those who want to meet fellow defenders of the Second Amendment and talk politics with like-minded opponents of same-sex marriage and abortion while draining their cups.
In Kyrgyzstan, the poorest of all post-Soviet republics, the international-style coffee shop is fast-growing into a measure of the country’s progress, as young entrepreneurs and a society with steadily rising incomes challenge the entrepreneurial monopoly that the nation’s ruling elite have long held. There were no Western-style cafés in capital Bishkek until 2012. Now they’re on almost every street. But Bishkek is no Brooklyn. Here, independent millennial café owners have to worry about more than beans and customers: they also need to battle deep-seated corruption and threats from the ruling establishment.
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- Charu Sudan Kasturi, OZY Author Contact Charu Sudan Kasturi