Since about 1992, thus for 20 years, I have used a travel coffee mug for the majority of my take-out (tar med) coffees. Originally, I did it to reduce the amount of waste paper and plastic cups; my small contribution to the environmental movement at the time. Then as more and more coffee shops (Starbucks opened in Vancouver in the same year I believe) started to give you 10 cents off a cup of coffee, I started to do it also to save money. But throughout university, throughout many years of low income, I always allowed myself this treat.
Stockholm has not embraced the travel mug, and as far as I know, there are no discounts for using the mug instead of the take out paper cups. I do see more and more people using them on public transit, and I often want to raise my mug in a salute to the shared experience. I did it once, and I got a very strange look, and then a smile of recognition.
If I have a trademark, it might just be me and my travel coffee mug (s). I have made lots of friends in coffee shops around the world. Many of my favourite people have been baristas, servers, students, artists who greet me warmly in the morning and know what I want before I have to open my mouth to utter the words. Such was my experience in Stockholm when I started going to Cafe Parlan. I met a lovely couple who ran the place, and over time I would say we became morning buddies. Slowly we learned about each other during the 2 or 3 minutes I would be in the store waiting for my cup of warmth and safety. We discovered a mutual love of animals, of a highly tuned work ethic, a love of food and of helping others. On occasion I was given a warm vanilla bulle compliments of the house, and other times I would buy them in bulk for the morning fika at work. I donated some money on a monthly basis to the animal rescue charities she supported (and she was actively involved with). I gave her a birthday present, she gave me flowers. It was a friendship built on common interests and milk. When her sister also started working there (only 18!) the lovely (and stunningly beautiful) sisters shone brightly for me every morning.
And then, sadly, they sold the cafe. I understand completely. Early mornings, tedious routines of making macka (sandwiches) and then being stressed at lunch trying to fill the orders quickly. But oh! how I miss my morning friends and our little chats, where we encouraged each other in our daily struggles to make sense of a senseless world.
The new owner has not reopened yet. They are painting and changing the inside. The photos of my friend’s dogs are gone, and I doubt that any more vanilla bulle will be made. The new owner does not like animals, and does not speak English (I don’t mind speaking Swedish, but not loving animals is a deal breaker!). My alternate coffee place does not open before 8 am during the summer, so I have resorted to drinking the coffee at work. I am saving money, yes, but my reward for getting up and going to work (tolerating the insane life of office work) was to treat myself to a double cafe latte, presented to me in my trusty travel mug.
Many mugs have been lost and broken over the years, just like me, and many friends have been made and lost in the coffee shops around the world. Thanks to social media sites, I can keep in touch with my friends from Cafe Parlan, but the reality is that I won’t see them everyday, and a new routine must be found.