Nomad Coffee-House: An Example of Craftsmanship

The moisture of the Paris sky sits on us like the mister squats on lettuce at the grocery store.

We're standing on the curb of Rue de Caumartin in front of a Nike store and the third consecutive Uber driver has cancelled our ride.

Tension starts to build because now because we're late for our flight to Barcelona. There isn't really anything on the line, but missing a flight is something like waking up to a street sweeping ticket on the windshield of your car - incredibly annoying.

"Let's try one more time. Order another Uber. If it cancels we'll bite the bullet and take a Taxi," I tell Charlie.

"Okay," she says. But I can tell she's a little hopeless.

A charcoal Audi A4 pulls up, flashes it's emergency lights and the driver appears to be looking for his passengers.

He pops open the trunk and attempts to round the vehicle to help us with our possessions. We're packed light though. Our 46 liter Osprey Porter backpacks don't need additional hands to stow them.

We hop into the back seat and he stretches his neck to look into the rear view mirror and then says something in French looking me straight into the eye.

I grin, and then shrug.

He then says, "Ory Airport?"


He didn't speak for the rest of the trip.

It's not like we were good company anyways. There were only two of us in the backseat, but Charlie and I both knew there was a third party. 

Worry had joined us.

Running through the Ory airport to make  a flight with three minutes to spare makes for a good story, but I don't recommend it.

Nonetheless, we boarded our plane to Barcelona. I don't know if I'm still wrestling jetlag or if I'm just fatigued from the sensory overload, but I use the 90 minutes to retire my eyes until we touchdown in Barcelona.

Our silver bird sets on the land of tapas, then we flag a taxi. 

The Taxi driver whips around corner, cuts in front of a civilian on a motor bike, and pulls up to the Yurbaan.

We grab our packs, and walk in.

There's a faint musk lingering in the lobby. Shades of green are graffitied throughout the place accompanied by wood accents and camel colored finishings.

The gal at the front desk is young and enthusiastic. Her bangs rest on her eyebrows, but her eyes peak through and her smile makes us feel welcomed.

Her first words, "Hello, I'm glad to see you here," felt genuine. We both silently appreciated the fact that she spoke English.

The place is tastefully appointed. The back wall of the elevator invites you in with a beautiful shot of a cortado with an overlay quote that reads, "How do you like your coffee?" When your eyes scroll downward you'll find, "With you."

Ten kilos on your back gets vexatious after a while, so we dump them in the room and head out. Our first order to business anytime we visit a new city is to try their coffee.

Trip advisor points us to Nomad Coffee.

After walking no more than 50 meters on Carrer de Trafalgar we take a sharp right onto Passage Sert and we are immediately swallowed up by the concrete jungle.

The buildings are so high that it looks like they touch the top of the sky. It feels magical walking through this elegant barrio. Maybe even a little secretive. Heck, even the sun has a hard time peaking through since only about 12 feet separate these superstructures.

Street art decorate the roll up doors on each side and it truly feels like an expression rather than defacement. Bed sheets, towels and t-shirts are hung from nearly every balcony. Patrons of all sorts are walking their k-9 companions with no leash.

We approach Nomad Coffee. At first glance from a distance, it lacks any fancy. A simple wooden sign that you can't ignore if you're bean juice fan pulls you in:

Nomad Coffee: #Bloodygoodcoffee

My first step into this place proves that it's an astonishing treat for the senses. With only six bar stools and two benches supported by cinder blocks, this little gem can only hold about eight to 10 people. Even yet, there's a cocktail of languages swirling through the room.

A man, probably in his late forties, wearing a neon green construction jacket unlocks his bike on the far side of the coffee shop, pulls it up next to the bar and says, "Manana amigos," slaps a high five and finishes it with a fist bump with one of the barista's.

This is his coffee shop.

I take a seat to the far right and Charlie takes the stool to my left. The barista's notice us, but it takes a minute for them to take our order. Causal, but attentive.

My eyes find the menu. There are only eight items to choose from.


It's refreshing to not have to look over a seven page laundry list of choices.

The white paint on the walls is crisp - like freshly fallen snow. The exposed copper pipes are hard to miss, but they are not offensive. On the back wall facing the entrance, four unfinished plywood shelves house coffee beans they've packaged up for sale.

Then I notice that this place only does coffee. Nothing else.

A man walks in. He's fitted in all black with a buzz-cut and an English accent. His posture is confident, but polite. He throws in his order causally suggesting he's been here before and the guys making his cupped lightening know how he likes his drink.

He takes a seat behind me on the cinder blocked bench, crosses his legs and then proceeds to roll his own cigarette.

I don't smoke, but witnessing that almost changed my mind.

My attention swerves back to the Barista's.

One of them is calculated in fashion. His black, straight framed set of specs fit him well. His beard is matured, but trimmed. The high fade finished with a combover with what I assume is some matte, low-shine pomade suggests he values personal presentation. He's wearing an Adidas track jacket that calms his professional aura.

The other barista is quite different in style. He's wearing a basic white t-shirt. But he makes it look dapper. His long hair is weaved with strands of gray that is tucked behind a backwards cap. His facial hair is patchy and not kept. He's wearing some vintage winged tipped shoes with some black chino's that are rolled up at the bottom. He's sockless.

Even though they are wildly different in style, they both have one common aim: To make the best coffee in town.

Each drink prepared was precise. Calculated. Measured. You can taste the craftsmanship in each sip.

As I savor my last sip of El Limon espresso and crack open a bottle of cold brew, Charlie steps out to navigate directions for our dinner later that evening. The man who rolled his own cigarette strikes a conversation with her.

After a few minutes, they both come in.

"Sounds like you're on a trip of a lifetime. I'm Rory."

The mystery man who seemed like he was out of a movie humanized himself as he shook my hand.

As a chuckled, I reply, "Yea, it really has been great. This coffee makes it even better. I'm Brian."

Rory went onto explain his entrepreneurial adventures and how he ended up in Barcelona. He mentioned, "I came here to visit for 30 days. That was 12 years ago."

He's in love with Barcelona.

Rory no longer wakes up to an alarm clock. He gets to go to the gym everyday. He doesn't own a car, instead he rides his bike everywhere. His days oscillate between work and meals with friends. But his tenderness towards Nomad Coffee was discernable.

"Back home in England, I never felt like I fit in. Sitting at the pub drinking beer was never my thing. But coming to a specialty coffee house everyday? This is my thing. These guys make the best coffee in Barcelona."

Those words found a soft spot in my heart.

And it pointed me back the concept of Nomad Coffee. They do one thing: Coffee.

Nothing else.

The lack of excess doesn't restrict them. Instead, it offers depth - to which all of the customers that walk in can appreciate.

I could be wrong, but watching the barista's in action also suggested that these dudes are proud that they are masters of their craft. The removal of any distraction in their work has allowed them to focus on serving the best coffee in town.

There were three Starbucks and a handful of other coffee shops in our area. But we choose to go to Nomad five out of the six days during our stay in Barcelona.


Because they did one thing and they did it better than anyone else.

I think this concept transcends coffee. From our own personal pursuits to our economic behavior as a group, I think the  demand for craftsmanship is going to increase as the years float by.

The big box stores and global services like WalMart, Starbucks and Verizon Wireless will always be around. I just think more and more people, including myself, want to be artisans in some fashion while also investing in goods and services that are made, ran and owned by craftsmen.

Essentialism allows for this.

On a personal level, narrowing our focus and not minding the trivial inches us closer to being artisans in our work.

From an economic behavior standpoint, look for business or craftsmen who specialize. Maybe it's an indie author who writes sci-fi novels. Perhaps it's a veterinarian who works only with boxers. Or, it could be a coffee-house that forgoes the mediocre pastries, and sub-par teas in order to make the best coffee in town.

Technology has allowed for us to have access to almost anything. This also means a lot of low-quality things are being made quickly and a lot of moderate services are being offered.

I sense that a lot of us are calling the bluff on these economical options. More of us want higher quality even if it means it's more expensive and it can't be downloaded with a click of a button.

We're getting more aware on what adds value to our lives. The sterodic message of more that mainstream media pounds into us is growing tired.

We're starting to choose to swim upstream when it comes to goods and services. Small-batched, hand-crafted and high quality is what we're looking for.

Nomad Coffee is a great example of this. They're always busy. People will pass by several other coffee shops and travel further distances to drink their coffee. 

Because they choose to do less, they have more.

Rory, threw on his leather black jacket, suggested a local hole in the wall spot for dinner to us, grabbed his bike at the rear of the coffee shop and then said, "See you tomorrow guys," slaps a high-five and finishes it with a fist bump to one of the barista's. 

This is his coffee shop.