April 29, 2004 - Coffee Shop Noise
Like, it would be totally weird to go up to the barista at Starbucks and order a Caramel Marchiato double shot venti …fortissimo, or freaky to order a Toffee nut triple Frappachino with cinnamon, grande … pianissimo. For those of you who are neither Italian nor musically inclined, fortissimo means very loud and pianissimo means very quiet. As far as the other words are concerned, you would have to consult your local Starbuckologist.
While you can order the size, milk-type, and flavoring of your coffee, you can’t order the noise level in which you will consume it. But this is a choice, one you make when you decide which coffee shop to go to. And, as the dedicated staff of edhat.com found out yesterday, there is a big difference in noise levels among shops in town. We found this out because we took our new noise meter on a little early morning Tour d’ Café of coffee shops in Santa Barbara.
Starting out at Coffee Cat, we found a zillion people waiting in the line and bustling about to add milk, sugar, and chocolate to their drinks. At 8 AM, the Coffee Cat is one of those places where groggy people go not only for coffee, but also for reassurance that there are other people up-and-about like themselves. It was loud with people, and the dedicated staff thought that we had hit the loudest spot on our first try.
At our next stop we found that getting a little pianissimo with your order is not cheap. Northstar, who has the most expensive cup of Joe in town, was not empty. But, it was strikingly quiet.
This trend continued our little shop hop around town. The number of people and the amount of bustle was not cause-and-effect of a loud establishment. It was mostly a matter of acoustics. Places like Java Station, Santa Barbara Roasting, Daily Grind, and Muddy Waters get their funk from the fact that they set up shop in old buildings. But, perhaps these places were the loudest because these buildings were not necessarily built for noise control.
At Borders, which is a remodeled bank, all the tables were filled, but from a noise point of view, it resembled a library.
Without any bias toward loud or quiet, we present the results from our survey. All numbers are decibels (dB):
Daily Grind - 76.4
Café Siena - 76.3
SB Roasting - 74.7
Muddy Waters - 74.6
Coffee Cat - 74.5
Pierre La Fond - 73.8
Starbucks Downtown- 72.4
Vices & Spices - 72.1
Reds - 71.2
Hot Spots - 71.0
Good Cup - 70.7
Java Station - 68.7
Coffee Bean Downtown- 67.8
Peet’s - 67.4
Borders - 63.4
Northstar - 63.2
In yesterday’s contest, many subscribers selected either Borders or Vices & Spices as the quietest, and Starbucks as the loudest. In the opinion of the dedicated staff, Starbucks only seems loud because it is kind of cramped. Vices & Spices? Well, maybe in the afternoon it is a sleepy place off-the-beaten-trail, but in the morning is quite busy. And, too bad our noise meter wasn’t on when we walked in. The sound of the door spring-loaded door slamming behind us would have pushed our meter over 100!
We had a record number of entries in the contest yesterday, but an old-time winner. EdBoo wins choice of movie tickets or edhat T-shirt. And to all the people reading this online at Borders or Northstar - “BOO!”
Want to get instant fame and cool prizes? ... enter today’s contest
We want to hear from you ... tell us what you think of this tidbit