A Very Zen Cafe

Author’s photo, Kenzi Coffee and Tea Garden, San Diego, CA  https://thekenzi.com/

My love-hate relationship with waiting is such that while I never want to, the juicy rewards have lessened my resistance over the years.

Recently, on a trip to San Diego, I did a thing I do when traveling. Opened Yelp and punched in Matcha latte near me.

A neighborhood café popped up that was far from tourist traps, so my daughter plugged it into her GPS and off we went. I volunteered to get the drinks and on approach, I noticed one employee, who also turned out to be the owner, running the show. He was barista, pastry grabber and cashier. Although there were five people in line, he was moving leisurely and having “real” conversations.

Not quite a sloth, but close.

He belonged in the Caribbean because the chill, No problem mon, no worries vibe sweetened and relaxed the customers like a slice of rum cake, seaside.

Suddenly, I wasn’t in a hurry either, although I knew my daughter was wondering what was taking so long. Had mum volunteered to grind the tea leaves into powder? She often calls me mum, by the way, and no, we are not British.

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

I surveyed the customers — two young women, two middle-age women and a man resembling actor Winston Duke from Black Panther who wished me a hearty, “Happy Juneteenth!”

Knowing I had never seen such a thing before and probably wouldn’t again, I studied the owner taking his time to fashion each drink into a masterpiece while exchanging lengthy pleasantries. The patient customers, probably regulars, not minding the slow-motion service. Maybe, he was putting us all in a sedating trance with his Zen-like movements. Did he do Tai Chi in his spare time? It seemed so.

Chill, too was the indoor/outdoor lounge.  It said “spa lounge” in Costa Rica with its rainforest colors, naturalist lines, and serenity.

When it was my turn, he sincerely apologized for the wait (about 20 minutes) and put his full attention on me with an almost intimate gaze. Like he really saw me and wanted to make me happy.  He thinks I live there, I thought at some point as he chatted me up (because tourists don’t wait in lines like that and then have conversations).

He wanted to know why matcha. “Why not?” I responded around a chuckle. “I’m weird, matcha’s weird. I’m a ritual geek and you can’t make matcha in under five minutes.” So, it’s a perfectly odd, ceremonial, Dr. Seuss-green drink for a quirky tea lover that I thoroughly enjoyed even before it started trending.

“When did you open your shop?” I asked back as he whisked the matcha powder in a bit of hot water. “I can’t even remember,” he said, the corners of his lips tugged up in a way that could have meant a year or five. “I just had to get out of the Matrix.”

His gently-worn eyes brightened before he threw his head back and laughed. Somehow, I couldn’t imagine him in business casual swigging endless coffee in a cubicle. That he had lost track of the time slogging around in a nine-to-five only convinced me he had mastered collapsing time to only be in the now, which was how he applied himself to the first matcha latte. He built the drink in layers. Hemp milk first. Matcha. Then, he drizzled in honey and it fell through the milk in a brown swirl, eventually self-blending into a creamy green all on its own. Was he hypnotizing me with my own drink?

We kept talking quietly, not a lot, but enough that the line refilled. Fortunately, no one demanded to see the manager or make their own drinks infinitely faster.

As, I floated back to my daughter’s car with two beautiful matcha lattes, I felt like I’d just finished meditating. I felt like I kind of knew the owner. I felt like this would be one of my spots if I lived nearby.To write, refresh after a walk, catch up with friends or people watch, all while slipping into Zen mode.

I’m all for getting things done, grinding more than not, but sometimes waiting hits the spot. Even when it’s not on the menu.

6 thoughts on “A Very Zen Cafe

    • Cool, thanks. I was on a bit of a break and in the coming months, I will share some more adventures that touched me. Do get to this cafe when you can. You won’t regret it!

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