How do you take your coffee? Milk, sugar, or do you just take it black? Coffee culture is a big part of our lives, and the coffee shop has worked its way into being one of the most important places you can visit in the day.
Instead of ordering your usual, barista simulator Coffee Talk puts you behind the counter and gives you the chance to make drinks and talk to customers. With its recent inclusion on Game Pass, now is the perfect time to sit back with this chill experience.
A damn fine cup of coffee
Seattle is a city known for rain and coffee. This is where developer Toge Productions decided to set Coffee Talk. The pixelated skyline highlighted by the space needle sits on the screen as you enter your coffee shop. In Coffee Talk, you are the owner and sole employee.
Over the course of two weeks, days pass in vignettes. Customers come and go, and it is your job to provide them with a steady stream of beverages. Mechanically this means sitting in front of a beautiful industrial espresso machine and mixing ingredients to provide the desired result.
Each drink has three components, starting with the base ingredient which is a variation of tea, coffee, or milk. After this, you can play with the ingredients at your disposal to produce new drinks. Not all of them will be good.
I love coffee. I make it every day. Even on days when my anxiety is so high that adding caffeine to the mix will just send me into overdrive, I make a latte for my partner. It has become part of my morning routine. Smelling the freshly ground beans and blooming them in my moka pot before putting it on the stove. I sit there in my pajamas with sleep still in my eyes and I watch the brown liquid ooze out. It feels good. Coffee Talk leans into the feeling of a good routine, the joy of making a cup of coffee and satisfying a customer.
Beyond just remembering recipes Coffee Talk lets the player take their time and genuinely enjoy what you are making. Certain drinks like lattes give you the chance to create latte art. While this mechanic can feel a bit janky and is hard to perfect (though people have used it to create amazing art) there is no judgment on your creation. If the drink itself is what the customer asked for, you can play with the latte art as much as you want. But this is only half of the game’s charm.
Where everybody knows your name
Becoming a regular gives you a sense of belonging. Be it a bar or a coffee shop, it's nice to have a familiar place where people know you. A werewolf, elf, cat girl, and pixie are some of the customers that visit every day in Coffee Talk. The small cast constantly stops in to take a break and have a nice cup of something warm in between the other moments of their hectic lives.
Making coffee is the most active part of Coffee Talk, but it occurs in between talking to your customers. There is a joke that bartenders are also therapists, as they are an unbiased party that people can confide in. The same goes for a local coffee shop. People trust baristas with a lot, least of all their drink orders.
Sometimes they will give you little puzzles to figure out. The werewolf has heard of a drink that will calm their nerves and keep them from transforming. But he can’t quite remember the recipe. This sends you down a trial-and-error rabbit hole of attempting to stumble your way into the right combination. All the while he will give you kind feedback about how you messed it up this time.
Each customer has issues that they confide in you with. While these sections play out as a visual novel and it doesn’t offer you the chance to make decisions, you sense that just listening is enough. As the barista you are stuck behind the counter, you don’t cross that barrier into your customers' life. You can chat a bit and offer little opinions but at the end of the day, they just need a person to vent to. All you can do is lend an ear and make them the best cup of coffee, a warm drink that seeps into them and gives them a little bit of hope.
Coffee Talk is available on Xbox Game Pass, as well as PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.