Two people reaching for cups of coffee with a table of cookies in the center

I’m in a coffee shop in Helsinki, Finland.

It’s my birthday, and my husband—who flew to meet me a week after my takeoff—has just arrived. His right hand rests on the narrow table between us and the other wraps around the mug he’s bringing to his lips. It’s a scene I have lived through a thousand mornings.

After impatiently waiting for my coffee to cool (my taste buds are in constant burn recovery), I take a swig and the warmth of the liquid moves to my midsection in perfect timing with the emotional warmth I feel from being in a craft coffee shop—a place of familiarity.

I’m sitting at a community table, and I can’t comprehend the Finnish conversation taking place next to me until “Enneagram” and “Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’” are said in my native tongue. I’m surprised and delighted. These women are having a conversation like one I’d share with my friends in Nashville.

A feeling settles in me. Home

A feeling settles in me. Home

I’m in an empty coffee house in Tallinn, Estonia.

After seeing a tagged Instagram photo of the menu board listing the Phoenix V70 (a pour over tool my husband and I use but have never seen in a coffee shop), I’m excited to talk to the barista, but when I locate the menu board, the V70 listing is nowhere to be seen. 

I question the barista about its disappearance. His answer is simple: someone lost the V70. Expecting a more measured response that spoke to a distaste for the quality of coffee produced by the V70, I laugh in surprise. The barista joins me.

The conversation shifts to our favorite bean origins, and he hands me a small container of Kenyan grounds so I can breathe in the fresh scent. Eventually, I mention my own origin—Nashville, TN—and he tells me about his friend, Rachel, who works as a barista in my city. He describes her appearance, and I realize she regularly serves me pour overs at the best quality shop in town.

The feeling is returning. Home.

I’m in a café in London.

Instead of darting directly to the busy checkout counter to take my place behind the line of corporate suits, my husband and I make our way to the retail shelves. Coffee beans and local pottery cover the wall, and I’m searching, searching, searching for my favorite tasting notes. A man from behind the bar approaches.

“How do you usually make your coffee?” he asks. I name the methods we use, somewhat sheepish over how long it takes me to list our pretentious amount of coffee tools. James introduces himself and offers suggestions for our taste. 

We order, and he asks how we heard about his shop. I share my affinity for coffee shop research and the number of months I’ve followed his Instagram account. He shares his heart behind the opening and humbly accepts praise for the way he’s transforming coffee service in the UK. 

After brewing our coffee, James shows us a binder filled with flattened coffee bags of roasters he’s featured in his shop. We recognize a few names, and we smile as we think back on slow mornings spent sipping our favorite roasts around our farmhouse table in Nashville.

There’s something familiar here. Home.

There’s something familiar here. Home.

I’m huddling in a hole in the wall in Paris.

My husband’s 6-foot-6 wingspan allows him to touch both sides of the cafe at once as we notice unfinished walls, exposed wires and a handwritten name markered onto the window of the shop door: “Dreamin’ Man.”

We turn back to the barista behind the bar. Clearly the owner. Clearly the dreamer. Glancing back over the room, it’s now covered in romance as we realize we’re watching this man live out his dreams right before our eyes. We feel like characters in his story, some of the first customers to support his business. We’ve felt this way before. The writers’ rounds and house shows of young dreamers in Nashville.

Our hearts beat faster. Home.

I’m looking at coffee-themed art on shelves in Amsterdam.

I’m waiting for my Colombian-grown, Australian-roasted, Iranian-made coffee to be ready. As the barista recognizes our American descent, he makes a request of us. Do we mind explaining the difference in speciality and specialty coffee?

My husband and I share that we had the exact same conversation with one another the day before. We venture a guess that they mean the same thing and the difference is merely cosmetic. I tuck this exchange into the back of my mind, knowing I’ve found another person in another coffee house who finds wonder in the same things as me.

I’ve found another person in another coffee house who finds wonder in the same things as me.

I look back over the coffee-inspired art on the shelf. A rough sketch of a chemex catches my eye. I think back on my last few weeks abroad and the familiar saying scrawled above the art transforms from trite phrasing into deep truth in my heart: Home is where the coffee is

I’m sitting in the corner of my favorite coffee shop in Nashville. 

Across the room, I see a friend finishing up a video call. I know that once she hangs up, she’ll pack up her things and join me at the corner table. As I wait for her company, my gaze moves to my Yirgacheffe pour over, a medium roast in a dark, ceramic mug.

I bring the coffee to my lips and before I can take a sip, the warm steam sends me back. 

Back to an empty café in Estonia, a buzzing shop in London, a community table in Finland, a dreamy hideaway in Paris, a shared moment in Amsterdam.


Where do you feel the most at home? Would you consider home to be more of a place or a feeling?

Image via Tony Li


  1. I truly loved reading this piece. I am a magazine journalism student in college right now, and I love stories that take you on a journey—those are the stories I enjoy writing the most and that I enjoy reading the most. I felt like I was in the coffee shop in London, Estonia, Paris, Amsterdam, and Nashville with Cristy. She did a fantastic job describing her feeling of home by showing and not telling.

    Long story short, I loved the piece! Great work Cristy ?

  2. what a beautiful journey you took me on through this writing. I rarely see Tallinn mentioned anywhere and it’s my hometown! I’ve also traveled extensively and find comfort in coffee and tea shops; they definitely bring out a feeling of home.

    1. Thank you for kind comment Hannah! We Love this post to and how the feeling of home can be found anywhere.

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