Lola Coffee is such a wonderfully local coffeehouse that it is located at the intersection of local and local. Nestled into the corner of 3rd Avenue and Roosevelt, this coffeehouse is located within a stones throw of high density residences, historic neighborhoods, the Japanese Friendship Garden, the Irish Cultural Center, the Great Arizona Puppet Theater, the central branch of the Phoenix Library, commerce, medium-density business buildings, parks, churches, restaurants, more homes, vacant lots and an inner-city freeway. A quick glance at this area from Google Maps and you’d think you were watching someone play a game of Sim City. This is the local coffeehouse for brew on the way to work, a cup o’ joe after walking your dog in the morning, a Matador when you go downtown to attend the theater, to discuss business or catch up with friends over latte, or maybe just to step in for a bag or two of locally roasted beans. However, it is not necessarily positioned to host a book club or to cultivate community building. There is a bulletin board which is small and does not appear to be managed necessarily; there is also a low window sill with literature and flyers that seems more like an easement than a part of the coffeehouse.
The coffeehouse is comprised of a single room with two narrow bars along the west and south walls, four block tables, a comfy, worn leather couch with two matching chairs, a mix of matching chairs and vintage matching stools, two small tables in the hallway and a single table for six on the sidewalk outside (total capacity is about 40). The indie music is loud; perhaps too loud for so little conversation. On this occasion, I do not observe any younger, college-aged patrons but mostly a mix of professionals and young professionals. People drift in in groups of 2-3 and do not stay particularly long. There is more socializing than individuals working or reading alone.
In this large, single-room coffeehouse, with intentionally worn and unrefined décor, amid the concrete floors and industrial and loft-like details, there is a window to the kitchen — occupying almost the central point of the establishment: it is the coffee roaster, as dazzling as a steam punk contraption from the Land of Oz. Where other coffeehouses package community or delicacies or ambiance, Lola Coffee proudly presents the craft of coffee.
I spoke with the barista, the lone employee on duty during this sleepy, late Saturday afternoon about Lola Coffee and the community it serves. The clientele is upwards of 80% local and return business is also close to 75%. The pulse of the community is “very local first,” favoring local and quality over fad. They are a loyal clientele who desires what is good — food, coffee, staff, appearance — to not change, to be reliable. The owners strive to deliver a “consistent product.” Lola Coffee baristas participate in regular barista competitions and coffee education events and have even hosted them. While community groups don’t seem to meet here, this comfortably compact space fills during local art walks, marathons, street festivals and on weekend mornings when the “regulars” turn out for omelets, a word-of-mouth attraction. We discuss the current artwork on display and I learn that a single, local artist is featured every three months. I look at the inspired menu board suspended above and it occurs to me that the menu board must be to the coffeehouse what the signature is to a person.
Analysis of User-Generated Tips
Since I observed that there were significant Lola Coffee tips associated with coffee over the other topics, I chose to see what correlations might be observable if I filtered for user-generated tips that used intensifiers; i.e., exclamation points, ellipses, and using “I,” “my,” or emoticons. In the first chart we observe the percentage of tips that used intensifiers or were otherwise “enthusiastic.” This is like saying “okay teams, show us your spirit!” Some patrons are more enthusiastic than others (see the gold bars) and we see that patrons of the Lux are most enthusiastic with 67% of their tips being intensified in one way or another. Next, we ask ourselves, what are they cheering about? In this chart the blue bars represent the percentage of enthusiastic tips that are coffee-related. Consequently, the majority of the enthusiasm that Lola Coffee patrons express is about their coffee as opposed to other qualities, such as food, ambiance or service. If we look at which group of enthusiastic tips about coffee get rewarded (or affirmed) with “Likes” we see that both Lola Coffee and Lux Central are most affirmed and by a significant margin.
If we want to delve deeper into these tips then we will look at tips for both Lux Central (21 tips) and Lola Coffee (18) and in the third chart they are distributed according to other elements that appear in the data set of tips; specifically, directive elements (i.e., try this, get that, go today), declarative elements (i.e., I love this, this is the best, this is awesome), and elements of localness (i.e., this is a cool space, they roast their own beans, a neighborhood favorite). It initially appears that this subset of Foursquare users are more often pairing declarative elements with their enthusiastic tips about coffee, more so than directive elements or elements of localness. However, if we tease apart the sub-elements of “declaring” goodness/favoritism we see they are nearly evenly distributed. Thus, it can be said that for those who post enthusiastic tips about the coffee at either Lux Central or Lola Coffee are doing so in an evenly distributed way, emphasizing any of these four elements: that they should consume it, that it is enjoyable and superb, and that it affirms local culture and commerce. The following are a few examples of user-generated tips that emphasize different elements:
- Best to go with coffee, as their $4 lemonade tastes like crystal light.  [Emphasizing the directive element]
- The iced chai tea with almond milk is so good! Depending on who makes it  [Emphasizing declarative element]
- Yes! You must try the matador. It has the perfect blend of sweetness and cinnamon.  [Emphasizing both directive and declarative elements]
- Smooth espresso…not bitter and overroasted like most  [Emphasizing the element of localness]
- My favorite coffee place in the valley. I’d recommend their iced americanos. Even in winter. For the sweet tooth, get a muffin or scone. All baked by the lovely Sarah!  [Emphasizing all three elements]
• Lola Coffee Latte Art Throwdown: December 11 | arizonacoffee.com
• Lola Coffee on Facebook
• Lola Coffee on Foursquare
• Lola Coffee on Yelp!
• Lola Coffee | PHX Rail Food blog
• Lola Coffee | official website
• Lola Coffee on Tumblr
• Lola Coffee Bar blog (defunct)
• Lola Coffee at Gold Spot | arizonacoffee.com (embedded below)