Breviewing Up Cafes for Studying


Photo courtesy of Alex Lau

Studying in Cafe 1 of a Kind

Elizabeth Chow

Sometimes quiet is too quiet. Solitude, though peaceful, does not always lead to productivity. White noise, or what the Merriam-Webster Dictionary calls meaningless commotion, is sometimes helpful when you need to focus. An article published by the National Library of Medicine suggests that noise at a moderate level can facilitate greater cognitive performance. Though it sounds counterintuitive, background music and minimal noise enhance productivity and willingness to do difficult tasks. Semi-busy areas like coffee shops and cafes provide a perfect semi-distracting environment for studying and other productive activities. 

The consistent hums of the coffee machine combined with the calm chatter of causal conversations create the background noise needed for studying. Since studying is a well-known factor of our school, Great Neck has a plethora of cafes that provide both caffeine and tables for the essays and projects that we students need to complete. Though most cafes, with the exception of some, embrace this environment, not all cafes are ideal for studying. This review will assess local cafes based on the overall “studybility” of the shops. 


1. Cafe 1 of a Kind [May 7, 2023] 

Around noon on a Sunday, the cafe was half filled with early brunchers and relaxed workers. I arrived with my notebook in hand and hours of AP studying to do. After grabbing a menu from the bar, I selected my study feast (a small coffee with avocado toast). As I began working, the chatter from the adjacent table grew linearly as the people took as long as possible to consume their small pieces of toast with fruit. The food was nothing special, mostly bite-sized dainty cafe cuisine items that some might call a meal, but really were just a small snack in preparation for a larger lunch. The drinks, however, were sweetly caffeinated lattes and a variety of non-coffee beverages like teas and smoothies that were served in different colored mason jars and cylindrical instagramable glass cups. Their choice of glassware reminded me of when my grandma just made a warm cup of cocoa and chicken noodle soup on a cold, snowy day. 

The cozy feel covered the entire place from the wooden panels and bricks on the wall to the varied seating arrangements. As the lofi and calm pop music played, the deeper I grew into my studies. In between tiny nibbles of my miniature toast, I consumed my work faster than I could finish that toast. 

By two p.m. the quiet chatter had grown into a roaring conversation, but I remained unfazed, muting my loud neighbors. The combination of music and laughter served as perfect white noise. Nothing extraordinary, but highly conducive to a productive study session. 


2. Starbucks [May 8, 2023] 

On a busy weekday afternoon, when working adults required their midday pick-me-ups and students just getting out of school wanted a treat after seven hours of schoolwork, The Starbucks on Northern Boulevard was working hastily to meet the rush. Caffeine-induced customers and loud businessmen covered the couches and the majority of clean tables. 

Instead of listening to conversations on finance, I chose to sit next to the quiet man with a newspaper in hand. As I started on my homework, caffeine entered my body slowly, but I could barely focus. My fingers slowly typed my long-dreaded essay while my eyes engaged in an uncomfortable staring contest with the cashier directly in front of me. 

Loud blaring music coupled with screaming orders does not create a good work environment, let alone an area for concentration. Maybe some with a caffeine high can work through this noise, but personally, I found it impossible to focus here. I know I mentioned that some noise is helpful to maintain productivity, but the level of loudness at four p.m. on a Monday was a shade of noise far from white. Don’t get me wrong, though: Starbucks is a well-established cafe chain making delicious drinks, but definitely not a place to write your essay or study for a test. 


3. Bean & Bean [May 20, 2023] 

A glass arena and a spacious interior filled with its minimalistic aesthetic and muted gray countertops that could have been on the Pottery Barn’s summer catalog or on display at a fancy hotel entrance resides on a corner in the middle of Northern Boulevard. Bean & Bean Coffee Shop remains an Eden for high schoolers and working adults alike to enjoy a lengthy drink menu and plenty of available seating. 

Some customers claimed their usual tables and others took a seat at any available table not directly in the line of the sun. The place was filled with the silent studyers and friends meeting up after months of not seeing each other. The sound of clicking keyboards and swirling ice combined with the casual conversation made for the target atmosphere for studying. 

Though seven dollars is the norm for an iced latte, it’s the price you pay for fast Wi-fi and top-notch interior design countertops. The caffeinated drinks are definitely worth it, but I would pass on the food. The breakfast and lunch options are a good attempt at bakery goods and vegetarian options, but I would save my money to buy more drinks.

My caffeine buzz not only made me erupt into constant chatter, but also turned what could be a boring task into an achievable one. With enough space to fit an iPad, notebook, laptop, and extra paper, my corner table could have been mistaken for the office of a hardworking CEO. As the daylight glowed on computer screens and the side profiles of those in a casual midday conversation, everyone had something to do. While the baristas were making drinks, studying individuals were clicking away on their keyboards and regulars gossiped about their lives over breakfast. Everyone was just coexisting peacefully and more importantly, productively. 


Since Regents and finals are coming up, it is necessary to find a good spot for studying. Even though cafes are not ideal for everyone to study at, they are a good change of scenery from the usual study locations like a library or at home in your room.