This is the first in a series of features by your h2g2 Roving Reporter. Each week I will profile one of the many delightful meeting places that thrive in our community, from pubs and cafés, to churches and parks.
On occasion, I will present a series of Quick Picks, pointing out some of the little gems and unique out-of-the-way locations.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for the Roving Reporter, leave them here.
The Aroma Café
A regular on the 5 Busiest Forums is The Aroma Café,
listed there as 'The Aroma Café (Not Yet Open)1',
but don't let that deter you from visiting Irving Washington's
wonderful coffee, tea, and conversation shop
-- it's always open.
Entering the Café
You immediately understand that this is not one of those corporate chain coffee shops. There's a window with 'Aroma Café' hand painted by an artist, plants on the ledge inside, and sometimes a sleepy cat. An 'OPEN' sign hangs permanently in place (they don't even own a 'CLOSED' sign). You may hear the welcoming 'jing-a-ling' of little bells above the entrance which seem to operate more on their own whim than any consistent contact with the door.
It's a deceptively spacious café, with tables and comfortable chairs plus a sofa or two, and a high open ceiling with visible wooden rafters and support beams. Hanging from the supports, a couple of long-bladed ceiling fans spin lazily.
The first thing you notice is the heady aroma of fresh coffees, teas, and sweet pastries.
At the counter you see a stack of newspapers from around the world, many with the crosswords already completed. There's a wide assortment of donuts, provided by Joanna's Donut Stall, and sometimes other delights -- like the apple mbougatses baked by Asteroid Lil. There's also a strange-looking device called the IIEM (more on that later) and a small basket for postcards. On the wall by the counter hangs a set of shelves displaying personal mugs owned by some of the regulars.
As you look around the place, you notice an entrance to the kitchen, a set of stairs leading to the basement, a closet which holds the cleaning bot, and an opening that connects to the swimming pool at the h2g2 Waterworks. On one wall is a shelf unit with a variety of books, a scrabble game, and tiddlywinks. Along another wall is an upright piano/player piano with rolls of Chopin, Gould, and others.
If you head toward the back door you'll find a delightful porch, with additional seating, an internet terminal, and a living statue of Venus in Cornflowers2 gazing out over the Majic Forrest behind the café (although not everyone can see the statue).
Around the café, patrons are involved in discussions, reading, playing chess, and sometimes just dozing off. While it is a peaceful setting, the café is also a very active place -- parties are a fairly regular occurrence.
The Evolution of a Café
I started the Aroma Café to fill a void at h2g2: there were pubs and bars, but no coffee houses, and I don't drink alcohol!
- Irving Washington
The café began about 36 weeks ago and was originally envisioned as one small room, but it has grown considerably since then. At one point, the café even had a space needle, but it was dismantled -- an experiment which never worked.
Down in the basement is some storage space and a dilapidated Ladies and Gents. These were closed when the Public Toilets opened in the town square, but the original Ladies and Gents were never completely boarded up, so there is still some activity, although you might not want to let small children go down there unattended. A tunnel stretches from the basement of the café, going under the forest to Crater Labs, Inc.
At one point, some genetically altered acorns were dropped behind the café and the Majic Forrest quickly grew. According to Mr. Washington (whom I caught up with long distance),
The forrest grows "majic aroma beans" which make a magical brew
of coffee that has low acidity and high caffeine. It also stays at
exactly the temperature the consumer desires -- it never gets to that nasty
Although a recent fire destroyed a small portion of the Forrest, it did not affect the majic bean production, and with the help of the acorns, the damaged area has re-grown, now with the addition of pine, redwood, and sequoia trees.
The café has always been involved in the community at h2g2. They even entered their own float in the h2g2 parade with many of the regulars aboard! A few other community locations have actually spun off from the café. The Irving Washington Book Nook, which started as a book discussion thread at the café, is named after the proprietor, but actually run by others. The Chess Club also got its start at the café, and throughout its history, the café has hosted special discussion threads on poetry, film, and other topics. In addition, the café has been the starting point for a few quests and adventures.
The beautiful art work and sign painting comes from Asteroid Lil, also a regular, who has been serving as chief Summer Caretaker recently while Irving is on vacation.
One of the most unusual and useful devices this reporter has seen is the café's IIEM, or Infinite Improbability Espresso Machine. This device can produce just about any non-alcoholic drink you can name. Irv was able to obtain the machine to help create some of the more unusual drinks served at the café, as well as handling drink needs for patrons when the staff members are not available. He's a bit tight-lipped as to the technical secrets of the device, but I can attest to the fact that it works amazingly well. It created some coffee drinks for me that I've been unable to get elsewhere.
The IIEM has its own babel fish, which allows it to understand your requests (for example, simply say 'IIEM, Earl Grey tea, please' and it appears). One of the interesting creations of the IIEM is a soporific drink called anti-coffee, which appears to have not just a lack of caffeine, but rather negative caffeine.
The IIEM has been involved in a few bizarre events, most notably during one period of time when it was malfunctioning. Café regular Vladimir ordered a specific blend of coffee ('IIEM, Blue Sumatran, please') and instead, a blue Sumatran orangutan appeared. The orangutan's name is Ook, and he is now a resident staff member at the café, helping to clear tables and spending time with the patrons. He is exceedingly intelligent, although the only word he can say is 'Ook'. He loves to play scrabble and is rarely beaten, and when nobody is around for a scrabble game, he plays tiddlywinks, works on crosswords, or romps out back in the Majic Forrest. He likes to sleep up in the rafters of the café where he can keep an eye on the place.
Who's a Regular?
The Aroma Cafe has been a popular spot for an amazing number of researchers. At times, it reaches the point where a new thread must be started almost daily. It is a comfortable place for newcomers to get to know people and to familiarize themselves with forums at h2g2. As a result, there are a number of new patrons every week. For many veterans, it's a welcome stop each day as they stroll through town, while others will frequent the café regularly for awhile and then disappear for weeks. The community of the café is constantly changing. So it's impossible to say for sure who all the regulars are -- the current regulars, the old regulars who still drop by, and the ones that just discovered it but already feel right at home.
IIEM, coffee, please
Here's to the Aroma Café!
doesn't matter to me much, because if it's on the most active forums list,
it's obviously open.'2
*Venus pops her head round the door. It has been a while, but she has not
forgotten sweet Irving. The cafe appears to be empty. Venus enters quietly,
and stops at each table, placing a few of her home-grown cornflowers in the
empty vases. As she looks around her, she sighs, as memories flood back.*
*As she moves towards the door to leave, noises come from the kitchen.
Swiftly, Venus strikes an artistic pose, so as to be inconspicuous.*
and she remained that way ever since3.3The last post by Venus.