Coffee Shop AU

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Trope · Genre
Synonyms: Barista AU
Related: Bakery AU, Alternate Universe, College AU
See Also: Food in Fanworks
Tropes · Slash Tropes · Tropes by Fandom
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The Coffee Shop AU is a fanfiction trope that became popular in LiveJournal fandoms, but has migrated with fans to other platforms.

The trope was originally known as Barista AU and is closely-related to the Bakery AU.

In most cases, one half of the main pairing is the barista and the other is or becomes their favorite customer; in some stories the whole cast works at a coffee shop.

This trope is especially popular in fandoms where one character is very attached to coffee, either in canon or in fanon, or is frequently stressed.

Nick Lowe's 1980s article The Black Wine of Thentis, which unfortunately does not appear to be on line, suggests that many appearances of coffee in fiction are inspired by writer's block - the author is trying to come up with an idea, takes a coffee break, then proceeds to write coffee or something like it into the story in some form - see e.g. the Uncoffee article on TV Tropes for many examples. This may possibly be an explanation for part of the appeal of the coffee-shop AU.

Other explanations[1] for the popularity include:

  • "almost unrivaled opportunities for schmoop: cinnamon scents, coffee bean metaphers, yenta or intended lover regulars, small enough that an OTP running it could work"
  • "write what you know; the 16-year-old anime fans write high school AU, the 20+ media fans write coffee shop AU"
  • "for the same reason every second hipster wants to open a cool little latte place and serve organic cupcakes, they think that working in a coffee shop is as much fun as being served in one (thus, reading about it, is like emotional chai tea or something...)"
  • "a perception that these occupations are more fun or lighthearted than many others, or more satisfying [...] or simply that they might be less intense (allowing the BSOs to focus most of their emotional energy on each other, as in pairing stories they should, instead of on office politics, promotions, or the size of holiday bonuses) in terms of time spent at work or the energy given to it."

The earliest example may be a popslash story, Café de l'Amour, by NSyncGrrl, written no later than 2001. In the author's note, she speculates that the story started a trend in popslash.[2]

Stargate Atlantis also saw an explosion of Barista AUs, due to fans interpreting Rodney McKay's canonical love of coffee as caffeine addiction. Wank ensued around a story in which Ronon Dex was a barista, while the rest of the cast had positions of higher status;[3] this coincided with a general discussion of the roles Ronon and Teyla often had in SGA AUs. [4]

The trope spread out and had become very popular by 2008 (?).[citation needed] In 2011, thefourthvine stated "I think we can all agree that the barista AU is a fine and honorable tradition in fandom."[5] In the header of her own Suits barista AU, friskaz said "Every fandom needs a barista au."[6]

Barista AUs are especially popular in Bandom, in part because Jon Walker of Panic! at the Disco had actually worked as a barista prior to joining the band. He and other characters are often depicted as working in coffeeshops in College AUs.[7] Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance also has a well-documented love of/addiction to coffee, causing him to be frequently cast as a coffeeshop customer.



Ace Attorney:


Dresden Files:

Fire Emblem:

Harry Potter:




One Direction:



Stargate Atlantis:

Stargate SG-1:



External Links


  1. From "Explain to me like I'm five - fandom edition" thread at Fail-Fandomanon (Accessed 6 Dec 2011)
  2. See Fanlore's entry for her fansite Forever.
  3. George Bush hates...baristas in Atlantis?; webcite (Accessed Oct. 29, 2011); The more you know...; webcite
  4. see String Theory, A Concerto for Violin in D Minor, Atlantis meta: time to stop and think about things, Race and Fandom
  5. 25.10.2011, The One That Left Me Twitching with a Need for the Recipes, Damn It, the RECIPES. from 221: Wish I Could Be Part of Your World by thefourthvine, accessed 29.10.2011
  6. 17.10.2011, Grande Soy Triple Dirty Chai by friskaz, accessed 29.10.2011
  7. Many bandom fics use the barista trope without specifically being about the coffeeshop. See, for example, airgiodslv's Tell Me to Stop, an s/D kink fic in which Jon's coffeeshop is only a secondary location. 15 January 2008. (Accessed 2 April 2012.) Another variation is the bookstore AU; see foxxcub's Jon's Bookstore (A Few of My Favorite Things), in which the various employees of the bookstore convince Jon to open a coffeeshop inside the store. 23 December 2007. (Accessed 2 April 2012.)