I’m writing this article while comfortably lounging on a gorgeous work bench, sipping a picture-perfect cappuccino in a lovely light-filled space known as Coffee Wagera in Badar Commercial Area. There’s a sense of familiarity here, although this is only my first (of many, many) visits. There’s great music playing (love the new Sam Smith song!), the ambience is light and airy, the service is phenomenal, and it would be all too easy to dismiss Coffee Wagera as another new entry in the endless list of restaurants opening in Karachi.
That is not the case, here. There is something quite special about Coffee Wagera, and it would be a travesty indeed if you thought of it as just another café. In fact, in my opinion, Coffee Wagera is what cafes in Pakistan SHOULD be, not what they currently are.
Established in April 2018, Coffee Wagera isn’t here just for coffee (although they serve a fantastic cappuccino). Their aim is to be a place where anyone and everyone can meet up with friends and while the hours away, while also being the perfect space for people to come and catch up on work, finish assignments, and not worry about lousy wifi. They want to be, and I quote here: “A hybrid of a social and commercial enterprise which will be a force of good”. It’s the social aspect of that statement which really interests me. So off I wander to Coffee Wagera, so I can spill the coffee beans, as it were, on what social activity and community building is happening.
Upon entering, I get a cheery welcome from the barista, which is lovely! I drop all my stuff on the workbench and wander over to get a nice cappuccino. While perusing the ready-made snacks available, I discover that all of them have been made by women entrepreneurs who want to set up their own catering or food delivery businesses. The management wants to support them in their endeavours which is why their food is stocked here, and once a month there is a brunch (called Brunch Wagera) where 10 chefs are selected to come and sell their food items. The best part? Its totally free for the chefs! No profit sharing, nothing!
So, getting back to the snack! I choose a delicious slice of banana bread (no sugar, honey only) to go along with my cappuccino. The menu categorically states that for the minimum order of Rs 240 (the average coffee there) you can use the wifi, get free drinking water, power sockets for your devices, plus use their toilet.
Now, you may look at this and scoff, thinking what’s so great about this. I’ll tell you what’s great. The average freelancer/work-from-home person (e.g. yours truly) anyone who wants to have a quiet cup of coffee while perusing their emails, catching up on their reading etc, is sick unto death of sitting at random cafes, while getting shady looks from the servers as to why they are sitting all alone, with only their laptop/phone/random book for company. Personally, I’m also tired of ordering expensive snacks to justify sitting at said locations, and I am definitely tired of lousy wifi. Throw in a dirty toilet and there you go, a freelancer’s worst nightmare (or anyone else’s, for that matter). Plus, this place isn’t just for the solitary worker. You can even hold meetings here as well and use the screen and projector!
So, quite promising yes? It only gets better from here. Mush Panjwani, the owner, also holds coffee afternoons, where anyone can walk in and get a free demonstration on how to make coffee, and we aren’t talking about instant stuff here, either. He also conducts training programs for people looking for jobs in cafes to help them gain some hands-on skills.
One thing which I thought was awesome, was a recent meet up for the deaf community at Coffee Wagera, where the servers were able to converse with the customers using sign language, as they had received training in it beforehand by the organiser. Then followed a session on coffee making, and since then many of the attendees at that get together come to the café on a daily basis with new and old friends. There are open mic nights (with karaoke, stand-up comedy and games), games nights (bingo and charades!!!!), story-telling afternoons for kids on the weekend, ladies’ afternoons (special deals and discounts for ladies), and trainings on happiness and positivity, conducted by Mush himself! All of these, for a cover charge ranging from Rs 240, up to Rs 500 only!! These cover charges are only there for the requisite ordering of a beverage and/or snack, depending on the event.
This is what cafes should be in Karachi, not a place which is designated for a certain type or class of people, but a place which is warm and welcoming to all. All too often, certain places cater to a certain stratum, or level of society alone, and that’s not what café culture is about. Its about providing a service, a friendly service to all, not just a chosen few.
I get the feeling that if anything, this could be like those old school tea houses in Lahore, 50 odd years ago, a place where people can come and mingle, or not, where a freelancer can get a decent snack and work on their newest articles (hello!), where prices are kept low so that anyone can come and avail the benefits, without making it into a social/class conscious scene.
It’s a peaceful, mellow afternoon. Sitting comfortably, I’m looking over my articles and researching new topics. The melodic strains of Roxette’s “it must’ve been love” fills the air around us. There are many such writers/artists sitting around, doing their own thing, catching up on work, or getting organised for the next big project. In a very real way, being here makes me feel a part of a community, of something bigger and better than myself alone.
Coffee Wagera is an oasis of calm and serenity, and I will be here pretty much every day going forward. And I’m so stealing their weekly playlist. Sorrynotsorry.