Zumi’s is another soulful place in our lives. I hope there’s a place, much different but with the same deep impact on yourself and your community, somewhere close to you (if you’re not living on the North Shore). Otherwise, check out Zumi’s (their Facebook page shares a good sense of their culture).
Zumi’s offers almost everything I need in life. Fair trade coffee and tea. Chess and card games. Live music in the afternoons. Revolving community and individual art shows. Ice cream. Baked scones, muffins and croissants from A.J. King bakery in Salem. Its owners – Umesh and Zillie, from whom the shop derives its name — come from two different continents and cultures. They found and married each other, started a family here on the North Shore near Zillie’s roots, and together believe in social justice and humanitarian causes. They brew those values into every cup and relationship they build.
Do I sound sentimental? Misty-eyed? Idealistic? Probably. But I love Zumi’s.
- Well, there’s the yummy soy chai latte I love to drink. I’m very predictable, almost never vary in my order, except on a really hot day, when I might request raspberry iced tea / lemonade mix. If you’re an espresso or coffee afficianado, you’ll probably be pleased by their menu, too.
- Plus I love the people who make Zumi’s what it is. It hums like a small town center, where owners Zillie and Umesh, his brother Bobesh and Ohm plus everyone else on the team, try to connect people with each other, to create new and thriving friendships or working relationships. To support good causes. To change the world through daily choices and actions.
- Virtually everyone I know and care about pops by there for a drink and a chat. So I can check off half my to-do list just by stopping in.
My kids virtually grew up there, once it was established. It’s a hangout place for toddlers, grownups and teens alike. It’s a refuge. An office away from your office, a livingroom away from your home. It’s so public, you can’t keep any secrets there, or conduct too much business, because you’ll see a lot of friends and spend time saying hello, chatting and catching up.
Later in the day, you’ll receive one of the following:
a) A member of your family reports back to tell you what you drank and did earlier in the day, because they heard it over the counter from a Zumi’s staffer who served them a beverage, too.
b) Or you will be the one who receives an update on your family member while you stop to place an order. Either Umesh, Ohm or Bobesh (Lord help me, I hope I spelled these correctly … perhaps only phonetically correct) or someone else on staff has memorized your loved one’s favorite drink plus their weekly calendar … “Hey, I saw Chris earlier. 6:45am. It’s a Rotary day, right? He was going to the breakfast meeting.” Or, “Sarah was in an hour ago. She came with her friends and ordered the caramel cloud latte. She was with her friend, the exchange student from Italy.”
Like I said, no secrets. Everything is honest and open. What you see is what you get.
The walls are covered with maps. And sometimes with educational materials. For instance the graphic centerpiece in the bathroom is a map from National Geographic, I think, that shows continents and countries where minefields need to be cleared, to prevent children from being sent into the farming fields to check for undetonated mines. In the main café, you can peruse photos from the top of Mt. Everest. Umesh and his family worked as sherpas on the slopes of that mountain before they came to America from Nepal. And there’s material about fair trade coffee farming. And issues surrounding social justice in coffee-growing nations and other countries. As well as info about causes right here at home, like the local preschool or our community-supported agriculture (CSAs) farms or the future of free-flowing safe water in the Ipswich River.
Or I can just extol the virtues of caffeine. Zumi’s usually helps support local charitable events and causes by donating coffee when they can. Our cyclists and volunteers appreciate the hot coffee from Zumi’s every year!
And can I tell you how many memories I have? Playing chess or cards at one of the round café tables with Sarah and Jessie, or sitting in the window with my husband Chris, or hanging out with girlfriends, solving the problems of the world, having a work session between sips, and maybe postponing a return to “real life” (whatever that means)? Savoring my foamy latte?
Goodness in a cup. In the hands that made it. In the hands that receive it. In the connection between the two, and the hearts that believe that every dollar we spend, every decision we make, every word we speak, and every action we take can change the world. You can do it from the slopes of a mountain or over the counter of a coffee shop.
So in it’s very busy, real, imperfect but oh-so-tasty way? Zumi’s is a spiritual experience, in the same sense that visiting a farm or a roadside might also be sacred.
What you bring to such a place, and what you take away? That’s what makes it sacred.