These owls in a Tokyo cafe are named after musician and band names 🦉

James Mollison of TOPIC ventured into one of Tokyo’s animal cafes where you can sip your coffee with your animal of choice (cats, dogs, and rabbits). But this coffee shop was a little different.

Tokyo’s Pakuchi Bar is apparently one of eight owl cafes in the big city. The owner, Tomo Nanaka, owns 30 of them which she allows in public on the weekends and on special holidays. Even more, she’s named them after musicians and bands.

Below are a some of my favorite.

From left to right: Kurt Cobain, The Chemical Brothers, Beck, and The Cure.

There’s a video too.

(All images via James Mollison)

The race to save coffee

“Coffee is the common man’s gold…”

— Sheik Abd-al-Kabir ‘In praise of coffee’ (1587)

We take coffee for granted.

Judging by the ubiquity of Starbucks stores, you’d think that coffee was abundant. But the coffee we like to drink, the fruity-tasting coffee arabica, is projected to decline given the dual pressures of climate change which reduces suitable land to grow coffee and the ever-growing human demand for a “cup of joe.”

'Coffee is the common man's gold...' — Sheik Abd-al-Kabir Click To Tweet

So how do we grow more coffee?

We breed new varieties. Right now, there are over 3,000 distinct varieties of watermelon and only 36 breeds of coffee. Organizations like World Coffee Research have begun a version of plant sex (i.e., swapping pollen) to bloom a new type of arabica coffee that can resist drought and high temperatures. Through a process called molecular breeding (non-GMO), the team will spend a decade screening baby plants trying to nail down the right formula of seeds it can distribute to the world’s farmers.

London’s first coffee ad (1652) ☕️

In 1652, London’s St. Michael’s Alley became the first cafe in London to sell coffee.

As author Tom Standage points out in his book Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years, coffee houses were the original social networks and MOOCS where people mingled, studied, and exchanged ideas.

Learn more at Open Culture.

Design creates function

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First, we design, then we deduce.

Starbucks built cafes with the intent to recreate the romance of Italian coffee shops to convince you to buy a mediocre cup of coffee. Apple makes computers to empower its users to create stuff, whether it’s movie animations, apps, or spreadsheets.

Design creates function. As Austrian architect, Hermann Czech writes, “The ‘function’ does not precede the design, but is always only mediated in the design.” We don’t need to spin our own narrative into knowing why a design works, just that it does, “as music must be perceivable by the ears.” It’s undeniably felt.

In other words, a good piece of work needs no further explanation. Trying to make sense of it compounds the inherent nature in which it exists.

Moleskine opens up a coffee shop in Milan


Moleskine opened up its first official store in Milan, Italy. I’m looking forward to the day it comes stateside. Ever since Barnes and Noble downsized and closed a bunch of stores, Starbucks and Peet’s have been the only consistent go-to coffee houses for getting work done. 

While coffee shops were the original social networks, Tom Standage points out, coffee shops today represent a ‘third place,’ between work and home. They provide just the right frequency of sound to inspire creativity and focus without having to the extremes– the bar for socializing or the library to work in silence. 

America needs more cafes. And not the trendy ones that prohibit wifi and computer outlets. People want think and get shit done, even if it’s a mindless activity like checking email. 

No Wifi in the Coffee Shop 📵

There’s a coffee shop downtown that disconnects the Internet on weekends. They want people to talk to each other face to face with no distractions. After all, coffee shops were the original social networks.

With notebooks and vinyl on the comeback, it’s fashionable to be deliberately analog. But in eliminating technology, the coffee shop is really limiting the discussion.

The mobile phone is more than just a second brain and can be more complimentary than an additional person.

Having the ability to add more context to your stories by showing someone pictures or videos from a trip adds value to what could be a dull exchange.

As long as the phone use is intentional and not-time wasting, having extra content on the table helps facilitate conversation at the coffee shop.

Wifi should be served like water: always optional and mostly free.

7 articles to read this weekend

Ground Zero

You won’t read a better 9/11 tribute than this piece by Rex Sorgatz. It sheds light on the contradictions of rebuilding the “Freedom” Tower in the age of extreme surveillance and commercialization. Everything is back to normal at Ground Zero, but not really.

Get Sinicized

You can say whatever you want on the Internet in China as long as you don’t act on it nor organize protest in the real world. Again, China reminds us that ‘controlled democracy’ is a paradox

+ Hypebeast: The Chinese are allowed to use Instagram but not Facebook nor Twitter. Aren’t pictures more powerful than words?

Polemical Tweets

As Nick Bilton discovers you’ll never win an argument on social media. It’s too fast and too accessible of a medium. Once everyone has their own microphone, the room becomes overly noisy.

+ New York Times: Like anything else used in moderation, there’s a time and a place for technology use. Even Steve Jobs limited how his kids used Apple devices. But what happens when we’re always on?

Internal Reflection

How can a yellow dot on a canvass mean anything? Abstract art confuses people it’s seemingly boring and unsophisticated, to the mind’s eye. But what is represents is more visceral. Abstract art reflects inner mood.

+ Business Week: Apparently it doesn’t pay to be weird but weirdos are the exact people companies should hire for their outlandish ideas and maniacal control. Would anyone hire Steve Jobs based on his personality alone? Speaking of Steve, here’s Apple’s CEO Tim Cook talking about Steve’s untouched Apple office: “His office is still left as it was.”

Last Works

As Roger Grenier explains, artists have always struggled with death. Should they create one last work and call it quits while they’re still alive or should they keep creating to the very last moment. What happens when they unexpectedly die mid-way through a project? Who knows what’s going to happen. Just hope it all ends with some work and successes to show for it.

Coffee Naps

It’s too bad we can’t take “coffee naps” until the weekend. Research shows that if we drink coffee and then take a 20 minute nap we’ll have double the boost.

+ YouTube: here’s your brain on coffee

Meditation Dribble

You can laugh now but meditation is going to become a daily habit just like brushing your teeth, predicts Dan Harris in the video below. It’s almost impossible to be bored and get a peace of mind in today’s distraction digital economy. Keep in mind that meditation doesn’t require a fancy chant or weird posture. You just need to sit there and do nothing. The brain will wander and worry which is natural. Just bring it back to being aware.

Here’s a good app for guided meditation: Calm app

How Coffee Fueled the Civil War

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Coffee did not win the war – Union material resources and manpower played a much, much bigger role than the quality of its Java – but it might say something about the victors. From one perspective, coffee was emblematic of the new Northern order of fast-paced wage labor, a hurried, business-minded, industrializing nation of strivers.

America’s Civil War didn’t just lead to the philosophy of pragmatism. It also resulted in an obsession with coffee.

Read How Coffee Fueled the Civil War

Coffee breaks

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Image via the Met

A coffee break is the only decisive way to get away from the desk. You can go for a walk or browse the Internet, but nothing can recreate the third place that is the coffee shop.

Coffee shops were the original social networks, where people congregated to share the news and kick around ideas.

Coffee presents the perfect pause in your day, a conscious form of meditation where you can kick back, converse, and reflect. In many ways, the bar is the night time version of the coffee shop. Both coffee and beer are hangout drinks.

Coffee is a way of life, both a work and social outlet, a quick getaway without the stress of packing up.

Tips for starting a business overseas from entrepreneur Vinay Raval

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Vinay Raval is an entrepreneur and world traveler currently based out of Cusco, Peru. He’s also a close friend, my former basketball coach, and simply one of the happiest and honest people I know.

Let’s flip it over to Vinay…

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Vinay Raval. I lead authentic cultural experiences for travelers in Cusco, Peru.

What are you currently working on?

I run a company called Faces of Cusco that specializes in offering a local experience to tourists. Our primary focus is on reinventing the experience of visiting the San Pedro Market. This market specializes in Andean products and features diverse produce, art, and services from Peru. The goal is to educate travelers and to foster genuine interaction with local vendors. I’m also setting up a small store to sell hot chocolate from locally grown cacao in Cusco’s main plaza. Localism begins with good food and good people.

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Where do you like to work?

I do my best work in coffee shops where I can connect with my team to establish the day’s top three priorities as well as brainstorm new business ideas. No one is allowed to use technology during our meetings. This allows us to more easily focus on the vision. Coffee houses are the original social networks, anyway, so we’re doing all the communicating we need to do face to face.

I also like to work on the go. I enjoy walking meetings where we search the town for inspiration. On a recent retreat to Lima, we often walked along the Pacific Ocean to kick the brain into gear, to relieve stress, and to encourage spontaneity. We’ll often stumble upon locals on our walk and bring them into the conversation.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself in Peru thus far?

I’ve learned to embrace uniqueness. They call me “El Indu” here as I’m one of a handful of Indians in the town. Everybody here remembers my face and I’ll attract attention whether I invite it or not. For a business, this is incredible.

“Embrace whatever makes you unique.”

What motivates you?

Waking up and having no idea what I’m about to get in to. Most folks back in the USA place huge pressure on themselves to plan out their day because things are already established. In Peru, there’s opportunity wherever you look because there’s huge demand for everything but no supply for it. It’s my job to fill that void for both the locals and the tourists coming in. Also, our new concept of genuine and local experiences opens minds and helps local vendors better connect with travelers.

What was your earliest ambition?

A basketball player but I wasn’t committed enough. I’ve always enjoyed creating new ideas and finding original solutions. I took the Myers-Briggs test once and it outlined my future: ENTP or inventor. This was spot-on and really helped me pursue my passion.

What’s one work hack you use that others may find helpful?

Involve people from outside your team. Crowdsource from the locals. You get your best info from people on the ground, the street vendors for instance, because they’re the ones in the loop. They catch patterns that the rest of us don’t see, are the first to know about new competition, and really understand how to sell.

“No one is more informed than someone working in the streets all day; they know the ins and outs.”

Best word of advice for other entrepreneurs?

Create and keep moving, so you don’t get bored of people and places. Stagnancy is the worst enemy for all inventors.


You can learn more about Vinay and his team on the company blog. Keep in touch with Faces of Cusco on Twitter and Instagram.

Rachel Rosenfelt’s Spiritual Recovery

“I don’t feel like a real person unless I’ve taken a shower. And made my bed. It’s kind of a pain, but it’s amazing how much it affects your outlook. It’s the difference between feeling like you’re just a sloppy piece of shit and feeling put together.”

Concur.