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Coffeehouse culture


Gray Owl
Credit: Shannon Cornman

And, sometimes, that’s enough.

When you’re running late for work and simply need liquid speed to get you ready for the day ahead, there’s really no need for further consideration.

But when the temperatures are dropping and the fingers start freezing, nothing is more comforting than enjoying a hot cup of premium joe from your favorite neighborhood java outlet.

Winter is truly the best time for Oklahoma City to slow down and actually enjoy its coffee.

College towns are usually riddled with coffeehouses, but few have the subtle gravitas

of Gray Owl Coffee, 223 E. Gray in Norman. With exposed brick walls and bikes hanging from the rafters, it definitely straddles that line between hipster and hippie.

But, then again, what college student doesn’t? It’s this mix of people that barista Laine Bergeron believes keeps people coming back.

“We have a pretty good cross section of Norman culture — students mostly, people who need to get their fix. All kinds of people come in here every day,” he said. “You get to know the regulars; a lot of them become pretty good friends. You can’t get that at a Starbucks.”

Beyond the social camaraderie, Bergeron said he believes that coming to a coffeehouse is more of an experience than simply brewing it at home, especially on cold winter mornings.

“It’s an event.

You get to have a special kind of coffee you wouldn’t get to have at home while you banter with the barista and enjoy the atmosphere and warm up,” Bergeron said.

“Coffeehouses have a personality.

We have a personality. People want to come and stay and hang out, and we’re happy to have them.”

Magic beans
Downtown OKC has its fair share of brew joints, but two of the most noteworthy are Coffee Slingers, 1015 N. Broadway, and Elemental Coffee Roasters, 815 N. Hudson.

Automobile Alley’s Slingers has a spare, modern design with an urban-professional crowd. This is a patron who expects a higher-quality flavor, according to barista Briana Tabey.

“We’re able to make coffee better than you can at home with the supplies and equipment we have,” she said. “Especially when it comes to our high water quality. We roast our own beans here and have a direct relationship, so we know the farmers and the guys picking the beans off the trees. The flavor we bring out in our coffee beans when we roast is something that you can’t do at home.”

Hannah Tripp, a barista at Elemental, located across from the federal building, echoed the sentiments that a better quality of bean makes a better quality of coffee.

“When I go to a coffee shop, I don’t go to talk to people,” Tripp said. “I go out because I don’t want to make my own. I want something I can’t get anywhere, and Elemental does that. We’re really simple. Our main thing is brewed coffee, and we try to pull people into our world to let them know what great coffee can taste like.”

With so many first-rate coffee shops on almost every block, it’s understandable that OKC will host the next Caffeine Crawl, an exclusive national event (OKC is just the ninth city to host one since its 2011 inception), slated from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 16.

It’s similar to a pub crawl, but instead of staggering home at 2 a.m., plan on being wired for about two days straight. Sounds like an ideal opportunity to experience something that Oklahoma’s coffee-counter culture already knows.

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