Coffee shops over here are not like back home. They serve real coffee. The ones back home serve sugary coffee-flavored drinks with high fructose corn syrup and extra whip cream. Suburbanites in sloppy clothes indulging in a 'brand experience'.
The coffee shops here are descendants of European cafes. Cappuccino is served as it has been for over a century- shot of espresso with steamed milk. Iced coffee is just that- chilled coffee over ice. Other drinks stick to the same elegant simplicity, decorated with complementing flavors. Sugar is used as sweetener, not a base, and you can actually taste the coffee. Frozen drinks follow the same guidelines in a blender with ice. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The decor is often European in style, usually French or Italian. Jazz plays over the sound system; Errol Garner and Miles Davis are staples and Kenny G is thankfully absent. Unlike the 'brand' chains back home (unfortunately proliferating here as well) there is a smoking section. Good coffee goes hand in hand with a good smoke. This is where I sit, cigarillo in one hand and pen in the other.
Outside the window is a bustling metropolis. Endless restaurants, bars and shops crammed into every nook and cranny, buildings 5-10 stories high. Beyond are the skyscrapers of the business district. The streets are alive; business men in black suits and white shirts with pale pink ties, college kids in reggae threads and rectangle glasses, slender women in colorful dresses and heels with their hair and makeup done perfectly. During these rare moments my cranky homesickness is gone and I dig being an ex-pat.