You may have read this title and thought, WTF is she banging on about now. Fair enough. However, this probably means that you haven’t suffered social anxiety or agoraphobia before (I envy you so bad); that’s cool, this post might still give you some ideas in regards to getting your next caffeine fix. I bloody love Birmingham, and I feel like it’s cafe culture is growing in strength every week. There are so many places to grab a quality coffee, that doesn’t taste of sad dishwater, and some delicious food. The independent coffee scene is thriving, and on the whole, I’m thoroughly enjoying each venue, and any excuse to get a boost (work deadlines, meeting a friend, Mars is at its closest to Earth since 2003 etc).
Sometimes though, my brain says nope. It tells me that I can’t handle the public, loud noises, or the risk of bumping into someone. This can happen while I’m still in the comfort of my apartment, but, sometimes; it happens when I’ve made it out of the door. These are the times where I need to find a sanctuary, a corner, or a calming retreat, away from the glare of all those people that aren’t even looking at me. So, if my anxiety is kicking me, my heart rate is elevated, and my breathing is becoming a challenge to control; there are a few spots in Brum, where I know I can go and order a (often caffeine-free) beverage, in a restful space. These venues aren’t always the quietest, they’re pretty popular and often busy, but there are corners, booths, and outdoor spaces for when you need to breathe and stop your hands from shaking. The customer service is also always incredible; super friendly, without being overbearing. I feel calmer just writing that. Right, longest intro/disclaimer ever, apologies, here we go…
There are a few of Yorks Cafes in Brum, one near New Street (on Stephenson St), one near Snowhill (on Colmore Row), and the other is my fave; Yorks at the IKON Gallery (on Oozells St). Whether it’s busy or quiet, it’s dreamy. There are an array of tables inside, with booths that are perfect if you need a quick retreat, and somewhere to feel safe and snug. High ceilings, industrial interiors, and gallery vibes are my idea of heaven; these factors, along with the smell of coffee, calm me down in an instant. There is also plenty of outdoor seating, which has provided somewhere I can sit down quickly, and gather my thoughts, before ordering anything. I’ve never had bad service here, and sometimes a friendly welcome is just what you need when you’re feeling vulnerable and you’re beginning to panic. I adore the old building and the adjoining gallery space too, there is an awesome gift shop in the IKON, and overall; I feel like it’s an environment where you can quieten your mind, in the middle of a busy city.
Now, I wouldn’t retreat anywhere unless they served quality consumables. Yorks do coffee so well, and there are plenty of drink alternatives for non coffee-drinkers. I often go with the turmeric and matcha latte when I’m there; it’s a slower release caffeine, and the colour green makes me feel pretty serene (I know, but, I’m a super visually-led person). The breakfast, brunch, and lunch menu doesn’t disappoint either; there are an array of dishes for every appetite. I’m never stuck for something to order, as they cater well for veggies. I’d recommend the Greek Eggs; this is a dish I’ve ordered more than once, and it always fills me up. I’m also pretty keen on their falafel flatbread (but, I couldn’t find a pic, sorry). There’s plenty of thought and flavour in their food, making it the ideal pitstop to breathe, regain your composure, and feel like you’ve had a mini escape from everything that’s triggered your anxiety.
Shots Espresso Bar
If you haven’t already read about my love for Saint Kitchen on St Paul’s Square (why ever not?!) you totally should, take a look here. When I found out that they were opening an espresso bar even closer to my front door, I nearly collapsed from happy. So much happy. When one of your life’s pleasure is great coffee, it’s a real treat to find skilled baristas who can provide you with an oat milk latte on the daily, resulting in a smile and momentarily curing my resting bitch face. Shots is a little room of loveliness, and the scent of coffee will hug you as you enter. Mostly, I will grab a takeaway (or, my husband will grab one for me, which is another reason I married him). However, they have some little tables and chairs perched just outside, which are ideal to pop yourself down upon.
Tucked down Water Street, the outside of Shots is somewhere that traps the morning and midday sun, you can hear the sounds of the city but, they seem distant, and I’ve often heard birds from the rooftop gardens above. It feels snug and cosy, calming, and a charming sweet spot, away from anxiety-inducing cityness (I know that’s not a word, but, all words weren’t words at one point). You can grab a cake, salad, or sandwich if you plan to stay a little longer. But, I encourage you to order a coffee from one of the lovely guys that welcome you from behind the counter; it will be a joy to drink, I promise. Ask to have it outside, sit down, and relax. Watch deliveries happen, people in suits head in and out of offices, and study the city skyline for a bit. If you need a little mindfulness, or you’re heart is racing and you’re feeling anxious tears starting to flow; grab your next (decaf) latte from Shots.
Now, I’ve written a post on Wayland’s Yard here, check it out for a glowing review on both the coffee and the food. I’ve been back many times since, alone, with my dog, with friends and family, to eat and drink, to eat and drink and work…you get the idea. The food and great coffee will often pop up on my Instagram, showing that I keep going back. Aside from the deliciousness they serve, Wayland’s Yard is just super chill. Don’t get me wrong, the service is quick and I’ve never had to queue long to order anything, but, it’s just full of happy and relaxed vibes. My favourite thing to do there, when I’m having an anxious day, is to tuck myself into a window seat. I can sit and people watch, scroll through my phone, or type away my worries on my iPad. The team there are so friendly and kind. Your order is delivered with a smile, and empty cups and plates are taken away in the same manner, as soon as you’ve finished.
There’s a squishy sofa if you’re craving some softness, and you can hide yourself behind the square shelving if you’re feeling anxious and exposed. It’s just calm. You can breathe, there’s no pressure, the staff are lovely, and there’s the bonus of quality food and drinks to enjoy while you piece yourself back together. I have actually been on the verge of a full blown panic before heading into Wayland’s, and it was only about 5 mins before I managed to settle myself and regulate my breathing. Anyone who has suffered with anxiety, will understand what a challenge this can be, so it’s a testament to their environment. I shall also mention their selection of teas, as they come in the most therapeutic teapot ever. I shall pop a video below.
There’s one more I want to discuss, but, as I’m heading to BMAG soon; I’ll get some better and more recent photos to use, and give it its own post.
I hope that’s helped you out a little in regards to finding a retreat in the city.
Peace, love, and breathing, Fay x