Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A review of Cafe Mio

Order numbers on wooden spoons - inspired.
85 High St, Epping, CM16 4BH.

As this cafe is the one I am on most intimate terms with, I feel it is probably where I should begin. Eventually, I hope to review cafes from all over the UK and the world. So, dear reader, do not panic. I will not expose to you to the deepest depths of Essex for long. 

I worked at Cafe Mio in Epping for four months during the summer of 2007. I’d spent my time since finishing my A-levels working in telesales and then travelling around Australia and New Zealand so needed a job to tide me over until I started university (Nottingham, if you’re interested). Thinking I had found myself an easy summer job, I was almost immediately taken aback by the passion of both the owner and manager in maintaining excellent standards of customer service and refreshment provision.

It was here that I first learnt to appreciate that to treat a coffee bean with respect is to provide a more superior standard of cappuccino. It was here that the mystery behind frothing milk into a warm, glossy, hug in a mug was revealed to me. And it was here that I began to fully appreciate the real truth and value behind getting to know your customers, as well as that age old adage “the customer is always right”. 

In life, we are so often anonymous. Sometimes this can be convenient. But at times this anonymity can make you feel isolated, alone, adrift. Of all the lessons I learnt that summer, the one I still hold most dear is the role that cafes can play in the social networks of the communities they inhabit. By getting to know our ‘regulars’ – their tastes, habits, little idiosyncrasies – both I and they felt a greater connection to this otherwise functional space. 

The ‘regulars’ would come in and order the same drink or meal and feel like they belonged. For people without a sense of belonging in the wider community the cafe offered a haven where they could be recognised, valued, remembered. Although the attention to detail required to ensure each ‘regular’ felt that little bit special often exhausted me, the satisfaction in making their day that little bit more meaningful has stayed with me. 

Of all the things Cafe Mio represents to me now, compassion is the one that sticks. In creating a space that is welcoming and inclusive, Cafe Mio is a triumph.

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