The Art Of The Café Pickup

Here, 10 great ways to meet someone while lining up for a latte or stirring your single espresso at your local coffee house.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

dmit it: If you’re like most people, you spend a lot of time in coffee houses. So why not make the most of it by trying these ways of getting a conversation started with that cute person ordering a cappuccino in front of you?

1. Ask the right question. Hint: It’s not “Coffee, tea or me? “It’s shocking how much I overhear people saying this—and with a straight face,” says Brandy Marshall, a coffee jock in Phoenix. “So far, it
Try, “Sorry to interrupt, but I’m dying to read that book—how is it?”
hasn’t worked.” The truth is, clichés never work, so don’t use them. If you can’t think of something original to say, just ask a normal question like, “What are you having?” or “Which do you like better…”? These are much less cheesy and provide easy introductions into cozy conversations.

2. Find common ground(s). “People meet all the time because they either like the same weird combination drink or one is fascinated by the other’s order,” says Tony Snipes, a barista in Raleigh, NC. “You won’t get anywhere saying, ‘Wow, you like hot chocolate, too?’,” he notes. “But if you have slightly oddball tastes, you could have an in. Or, frankly, if you just like plain old black coffee, that’s odd enough these days to make the grade, too.”

3. Ask for some expert advice. “I’m always amazed at the vast array of options available at my local coffee and tea joint,” says Seattle-based Virginia Burroughs. “I couldn’t decide what to get the last time I was there, so I asked the cute guy behind me in line what he recommended. I didn’t care for his suggestion, so he offered to buy me another drink. We have our first date this weekend.”

4. Try sharing. Coffee houses get crowded, but use that to your advantage. Ask if you can share a table. It worked for Jay Baldwin of Spokane, WA, who shared with two women. “As we began drinking our coffee I commented on the Body Shop shopping bags that they both had and asked, ‘whatcha buy?’. They both started pulling out scented candles and hand lotions for me to smell and try out. The married girlfriend went home, and the other one and I had a great time shopping (a little) and going to a movie afterward.”

5. Do the java jive. What’s a coffee house without a soundtrack? “I’m always jamming to the music, and a few people have asked me who the band is or something,” says Austin-based Trina Nash. “It’s a non-threatening way to start talking, and if I like the person, there’s plenty else to talk about.

6. Make your introductions. “Behind the counter, we’re always getting to know our regulars,” says Constance Ruiz of Denver. “But they don’t often get to know each other.” If there’s someone you see at your local café on a regular basis, introduce yourself. “I see you here a lot. I’m …” is an easy,
If you both have slightly oddball coffee order, you could have a conversation opener.
straightforward way to start chatting. And even if you don’t date, this new friend could introduce you to your true match.

7. Make ‘em laugh. “I’m not the most suave guy on the block, so I have to try harder,” admits Robert Vass of Boston. “I often say something funny like, ‘Can I buy you that tea or would your rather just have the cash?’ My success rate isn’t 100 percent, but it’s actually better than I thought. Chicks dig humor.”

8. Read it and reap. “I love reading, so if I see someone with a book I’ve read, or one I’d like to, I’ll use that as an excuse to make contact,” says Cheryl Donley of Oxford, MS. Since you’re interrupting them, begin by saying something like, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’m dying to read that book – how is it?” or “Pardon me, but I think you’ll love that book—I did.”

9. Do your market research. New in town or simply looking for a new place to try? Ask the hottie in line with you to recommend other hangouts or coffee bars you might like. This is great for two reasons: 1) It’s an innocent conversation starter and 2) It’s a natural lead into getting together. “I like it here, but where else do you go for a good cup?” is a fine way to phrase it. If it goes well, the next obvious line is “Would you like to go there together?”

10. Walk on the wild side. Maybe you’re the sort who’d like to win points for being bold. If so, consider this story: “My back was facing a table of girls and guys sitting down,” recalls Alisa Davis of San Francisco. “One of the guys touched my shoulder and said, ‘We’ve reached a consensus at this table that you look great from the rear!’ I couldn’t help but laugh and ended up sitting down with the people at the table and talking to that guy for hours.”

Freelance writer Margot Carmichael Lester’s beverage of choice is chicory coffee, which is almost impossible to find outside the South. Her writing about food, beverages and entertainment has appeared on and in the Los Angeles Downtown News.
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