Modern life exposes us to constant visual stimulations, background noises, unwanted emails, group chats spamming your days with lame jokes, monthly subscriptions, and 9,10, 11…any time o’clock conference call.
It’s no wonder that one of the most technologically advanced country has finally stopped to think about what humans who work and inhabit a busy city need in their lives to truly unwind, recharge their batteries, dedicate some time to their spirits away from any futile annoyance.
We have talked about the origins of cafes around the world and in different historical times: from becoming the pivot of cultural movements or the place where some of the most famous intellectuals have sipped and thought and made cultural grandeur, cafés have been most recently taken the role of hub for students seeking to un-focus from their 5000-word essays, whilst pretending to get something done. Or the Starbucks in New York where Carrie Bradshaw would find a wifi connection after a fight over sharing spaces with Aidan.
So what is the difference between any Starbucks in any main city around the world and these new so-called healing cafes?
If going to a cafè involves part-taking in some social interaction, even for the mere fact clients are generally surrounded by people, from other clients to waiters, healing cafès are conceived for one to find their inner peace, away from all that chattering. And that is exactly why they are going to be the next big thing after nap pods.
I am based in Milan and no matter how much I try to avoid binging on espressos, the infinite number of ‘bar’ (that’s how they are called here even if they don’t stay open till 3 am and mostly serve coffee and snacks and spirits) Milaneses have to past from their tube exit to the office door is ridiculous. But they are no healing spaces: I find myself grinding my teeth at the sound of the barista shovelling cups out of the dishwasher and piling plates with the delicacy of a delivery driver unloading his truck. Then there’s the stink of burnt cheese, the loud lady who didn’t pick up if it was ‘macchiato’ or ‘lungo’ and then still gets it wrong anyway. I most likely end up drinking the coffee I didn’t order and in one big gulp, so that I can escape back to where I was before.
It seems though my daily struggles with stressful cafès are about to end, or that at least, the world has realised efforts should go in that direction.
In South Korea a lounge chain provides customers with the ultimate relaxing sensorial experience: at Mr. Healing city goers can pop an eye mask on and forget about the world exists in one of their massage chairs whilst calming essences are spread in the room.
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Healing cafés in Korea are not destined to be a short-lived fashion: The First Class cafè chain is in fact developing into a format: in their mind, people would find comfort and relaxation in entering a cafè that looks like a luxury airplane cabin. (airplane) First class full package is what shoppers are welcomed with, including complimentary drinks.
Even the fashion industry is turning to relaxation and aims at incorporating it in their aesthetic: during 2018 London Fashion Week in September visitors could in fact rest from posing for streetstyle snaps on the ‘World’s largest bean bag’. Called Chubby Cloud, the installation was set up under the stunning ceiling of Rubens: here bedtime stories were told to transport fashion addicts to a planet un-frantic.
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Healing cafes are also imagined as inclusive places where people can enter an entire community of experts and resources aimed at creating a healing space that is more a whole healing experience. From workshops, classes and seminars, HealHaus in Brooklyn has developed into practical and physical brick and mortar terms what it really means to look after the inner self. Amongst daily classes, those who wish to be healed can find Tribal Flow, Kemetic Meditation and Vinyasa.
(I have my eyes on the Breathwork for Anger class. Until then, it’s plenty more wrong coffees to wash down daily stress and loud cafeterias transporting me far from the buzz of the city, sigh.)