by Maria Manuela
Energy is infectious. This mantra rings extra true in a coffee shop. Each has its own feeling and the power to inspire a sense of positivity and beatitude for the day. Aesthetics, an impeccable playlist, lighting, collections of plants, and artwork all help create a coffee shop’s vibe. But the biggest part of how I feel in a coffee shop comes from my relationship with the baristas.
I am kind of a hermit, so baristas are some of the people I see most frequently. They know what I am up to, how my dogs are doing. I fangirl over their new tattoos and keep up with them on social media. A great barista makes coffee taste better, literally because they know how to finesse the bean, but also because of the interactions they have with their customers. They have the potential to turn a dull morning bright.
Kelly Cork at Slow Burn. Photos by Ungelbah Dávila-Shivers.
821 Mountain NW, Albuquerque
Slow Burn is the kind of shop that makes me want to stay awhile. Housed in a building that’s over a hundred years old, where natural light bathes the space in a honey-hued glow, it feels cool—but not in an uninviting way.
Kelly Cork is the potions and elixirs manager and has created hit drinks for the shop like the red chile chai. “I was just talking with another friend in the service industry about how much our job has become about maintaining social relationships,” Cork tells me. “People feel lonely and isolated . . . some people’s only interaction of the day is going to get a coffee. My place in the community has started to be more a part of my job than ever before.”
Cork used to work at Prismatic in the Sawmill District before it closed. Slow Burn is a rebirth of Prismatic in a way, co-owned by Zeus Zamora and former Prismatic co-owner Grey Smith. “It was really exciting to see Prismatic become Slow Burn and just be so much more of what we wanted,” Cork says. “It was really cool to see regulars from Prismatic come over.”
My favorite drink at Slow Burn is the iced mocha. I regularly make the drive from Corrales on a whim because my cravings for one come on that strong. And Cork has new drinks brewing for the warmer weather. Look out for a Yuzu London Fog and an iced coffee soda in the months to come. “Whenever someone tells me that a drink I have made for them is balanced, I live for that.”
Ranier Wood, owner of CrashMurderBusiness. Photos by Stephanie Cameron.
312 Montezuma, Santa Fe
This whimsical café in downtown Santa Fe gets its name from the names given to collections of animals: a crash of hippos, a murder of crows, and a business of ferrets. Sticking with the theme, the specialty drinks at CrashMurderBusiness have names like Parliament of Owls, Maelstrom of Axolotls, and Celebration of Polar Bears.
Ranier Wood, owner of CrashMurderBusiness, playfully calls herself a potions master.
As a single mom, creating a space where anyone and everyone feels like they want to hang out is a high priority for Wood. “My favorite part of owning a coffee shop is that it feels like having a living room that people just come into,” she tells me. “All these people I love come in and new characters come in, and I get to meet them and find out where they’re from and what they’re about. I don’t want a shop that’s just for the cool kids. I want it to be welcoming.”
A coffee lover with a sensitive system, Wood started trying to counteract her reaction to caffeine with holistic ingredients like ashwagandha (an adaptogen) and turmeric. This recipe play birthed drinks like the Streak of Tigers, which is made with maple syrup, cacao, curry, and black pepper.
A fun standout on the menu is the Glory of Unicorns, which Wood originally created for kids. The grown-up version includes espresso, maple-cardamom syrup, steamed milk, and edible glitter. It’s a sweet, sparkly sip. The Loveliness of Ladybugs, made with ceremonial-grade matcha, milk, and a rose cordial, is a good bet for matcha fans or anyone seeking a good alternative to coffee. “It is delicious,” Woods says.
Hossanna Scott at Zendo. Photos by Ungelbah Dávila-Shivers.
413 Second Street SW, Albuquerque
Any day that starts with a trip to Zendo is a good day. On every visit, I expect to hear the comforting buzz of folks catching up, punctuated by the babel of laughter. The shop’s enviable soundtrack somehow always captures the current mood.
A full wall of windows lets sunshine into the space; the morning light makes Zendo feel its most enchanting and ethereal. During a cozy visit a few weeks ago, I saw someone sit down with a latte and a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Zendo is like that—people like to settle in there.
The baristas at Zendo know people by name, and what they like to drink. Even when the line is deep, they manage to look up, make eye contact, and give you a nod. Hossanna Scott is certainly one of those baristas. Their big smile greets me and makes me feel happy to have dropped by. “I definitely feel connected to almost all of our regulars,” they tell me. “Our relationships extend past the monotonous ‘good morning’ and ‘how are you?’”
Working at Zendo for the last year and a half, Scott has become a vibrant part of the Albuquerque community. “I’ve made a lot of friends, friends I probably never would have met if not for them coming into the coffee shop . . . artists, lawyers, activists, and so many others,” Scott says. “Some of my closest friendships have blossomed from small talks over coffee.”
Another wonderful part of Zendo is its menu, which includes a ton of delicious specialty drinks. Scott’s favorite is the Turkish latte with macadamia milk. “It feels like a warm, spicy hug.” Seeing a barista I know and love is also a warm hug, an affirmation for my sense of connection to my community.
Maria Manuela is a freelance writer based in Santa Fe, where she was born and raised. She works with publications like New Mexico Magazine and Hyperallergic, focusing on stories about creative New Mexicans. She spends all her free time with her partner, Joel, and their three pups, Darla, Hamlet, and Pea. She’s working on a collection of short folktales based in the Southwest.