What Ever Happened to the Good Old-Fashioned Coffee Date?

Julia Bainbridge
Food Editor
February 10, 2014

Photo credit: All, Lianna Tarantin

Here’s a question: What ever happened to just inviting a friend over for a cup of coffee and having a good gossip? Not going out to get brunch. Not inviting a friend over for a three-course meal.”

Huh. What ever did happen to that?

The question was posed by cool-girl lifestyle website Sous Style's Pippa Lord, who calls herself an accidental entertainer. “For years I didn't have anyone come over,” she said, which she now realizes was silly. “Having people over is more about comfort and accepting the beautiful flaws of every day. It's like my own form of therapy, opening my home up. It puts you in this wonderful place, especially when all you're doing is offering coffee.”

And it’s really okay to just serve coffee? “I remember once I put together this elaborate brunch; I was so stressed out and I spent so much money,” said Lord. “But people just wanted to have a mimosa! I could have just seriously just served bagels, cream cheese, lox, and mimosas and that would have been fine. It doesn’t have to be this elaborate thing.”

Here are Lord’s tips for a cozy coffee date, also known as How to Entertain in Slippers.

Relax, and remember what entertaining is all about: “People watch way too many cooking reality TV shows,” says Lord. “Cooking has become this keep up with Joneses thing; everybody’s trying to be Gordon Ramsay. But the main point is to connect with one another.”

The invite should feel personal: “I’m a big believer in calling someone first,” says Lord. “We all hide behind texts all the time, but when you call someone up [that intimacy] carries all the way through from the conversation to the meetup. I force myself to do it. There’s nothing nicer than a phone call.”

There is an ideal time: “4 p.m., because people aren’t staying for dinner and they’re not staying for lunch. You don’t feel guilty because you’re not providing something. You’re just like, ‘Yeah, it’s coffee time!’”

Keep the food simple but special: “First, it’s about having awesome coffee. Then I’ll run out and buy something sweet that I wouldn’t normally buy. I don’t eat muffins every day; it’s something special I can share with someone I love.” Or if it’s just toast and jam, it will be beautiful bread and top-notch jam.

Tea is okay, too: So your friend’s not a coffee drinker. “That’s the best,” says Lord. “That’s when you can get a little pretentious and offer heaps of tea. I love having some tea from Australia or Sri Lanka; it’s that talking-point tea you collect along the way.”

Have some fun with the setup: “I like to focus on making the simple look really good and the presentation beautiful, as opposed to going the extra mile to reinvent the wheel.” Lord collects tea cups and saucers, among other things. Here are some other favorite items: Rondo gold cutlery, a little glass bud vase, stoneware mugs, a cotton tea cozy, Tina Frey’s resin dishes, patterned napkins, and a circular wood cutting board.

Lord is still learning how to be breezy about entertaining, but she’s on her way: “My idea of the perfect home is the house with an open door. That’s when you’re completely okay with letting people you love into your home at whatever state it is—it could be messy or it could be perfect.”