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Monday, May 30, 2011

A Day in the Village with Rituals Coffee House


It’s 11:30 am Jamaican time and a good day to venture beyond the walls of my apartment. Destination:  Village Plaza in Constant Spring, Kingston. 

I arrive at the Village and pounce upon a beauty store. My once dignified eyebrows have grown out of shape and are borderline wild and if I get a price range of $250-400 Jamaican dollars then I’ll get them done. I’m buzzed in and the place is starkly quiet with a cornucopia of neatly displayed beauty products. There is one attendant at the corner to my right and she greets me. I get straight to the point.

“I need to get my eyebrows done,” I say.

“Waxing?” she asks.

I’ve always had this dreadful fear of waxing any part of my face beyond my upper lips. Too many horror tales of persons who’ve been left to walk around with their forehead peeled off or severely burnt. So, nope, I’ll pass.

“Tweezing?” she continues. 

I like that option, though I’d rather shave. “Yes.”

“You’ll have to set an appointment.”

 “No walk-ins?” I query in surprise.

She smirks and shakes her head as if I should know this. “By appointment only.”  Then she adds, “Only if you’re shaving.”

My eyes light up. “Okay, I’ll do that!” I say with enthusiasm.

“Sure, that will be seven-o-five.” I crease my brows in confusion, wondering if this is some Morse code for shaving brows. She notices my befuddlement and reiterates, “Seven hundred and five dollars.”

So the confusion has left and in comes the alarm. “How much?” I stutter. She repeats the said figure. I shake my head and lift the sunglasses from my face so she can read my eyes. Hopefully she can distinctly see my expression beyond those extensively long bangs that are sweeping her lashes. “No, thank you. That’s okay.”

She modestly says, “Okay, have a nice day.”

I’m out the door, still shocked at the price to SHAVE eyebrows. I begin to marvel that maybe the blades are made of platinum and they’re hard to come by or maybe after my brows are shaved I receive this miraculous facelift all for the meagre price of Seven-O-Five. I shake my head, trying to boggle my mind around that and naturally begin to second-guess my private ranting. Instantly, I begin comparing prices to the threading and waxing salons in New York that charge from seven to eight dollars. It works out, more or less, to be the same, but threading is a whole different ball game. I've usually seen this done by South Asian women and they thread your brows like nobody’s business. You walk out with a face lift and a pair of full and sexy brows, even if your brows aren't naturally thick.

There’s this thing where certain people are just good at what they do. For example Jamaicans are excellent at making rice and peas and chicken or ackee and salt-fish; the Chinese at doing nails, acrylic, and owning restaurants. Well, these Indian and Pakistani women are masters at threading brows. Believe me!

So while I get over my shock, I deduce that perhaps this particular beauty salon easily appeals to Jamaica’s upper class. Still, times are too economically strenuous to throw away seven-o-five on a pair of eyebrows.

I’m sidetracked and finally head to my original destination—Rituals Coffee House. I enter and already sense the calm, and Miss Seven-O-Five already forgotten. There are three persons, to my immediate left upon entering, lounging in the plush earth tone sofas skimming through magazines; and I see two other persons occupying two of the light brown tables.  Art pieces adorn the walls; mellow music hums softly from the speakers; and the main delight, which is the food display, is very attractive. I’m talking about chocolate cheesecake, tarts, muffins, cookies, and the works.


I’m greeted the moment I approach and kindly explain that I’m just looking, because I have no idea what I want. I mean I do, I’m just afraid the lingo Americans use is not the same for Jamaicans.

So during my order I end up saying something like this:  “I don’t know how you do it or if you have it…but do you have those cold drinks in those cups with whip cream on top that has caffeine in it?”

Naturally, the woman taking my order laughs and nods, while directing me to the section of the board titled “Chillers.”  I’m going to boldly say that I did not feel stupid. 
My cold drink in the cup that has whip cream and caffeine 
I find a section to the wall and pull out my gadgets, hoping they can all fit on the table and still leave enough space for my order of a caramel latte chiller with dark chocolate syrup and ham and cheese panini sandwich. With my net book, notepad, cell phone, and sunglasses nicely bundled up on the table I wonder, nervously, how I will graceful manoeuvre the plate of food and latte when it arrives. But lo and behold I manage, while making a crumby mess of course. 

Needless to say I enjoy the latte. The sandwich not so much, since the crust of the Panini bread is so crisp it irritates my gums. I also struggle with the latte as the hole of the straw is too small to truly enjoy it.

Outside of that the service is commendable. The staff casually engages you in conversation, but not with your average “how are things going today, enjoying your meal?” or “Do you need anything else?” Oh, no. Expect to hear things like: “Hi pretty girl, enjoying your sandwich?” added with a meaningful smile. This surprisingly comes from a woman. Though I would expect “pretty girl” wouldn’t apply to everyone, especially if you are er…a male. 

Seconds later a gentleman walks by and asks, “Leaving my share?”  He’s referring to the untouched half of my Panini sandwich. I simply return his smile and shake my head no.

However, let’s get to the d├ęcor. Rituals Coffee House understands the importance of “tranquillity” with its subtle brown and earth tone interior, accentuated with white roofs and golden strips, giving it a high-end appeal. The colour coding continues with the furniture with the tables and chairs having a similar earth tone feel; and, oh, the two potted plants situated at the entrance give it the perfect touch of green.

Here’s a great surprise! I take a chance and leave all my belongings out in the open, i.e., my purse; laptop; phone; and sunglasses, to use the restroom. 

Looking back I never really had a choice. I was alone and didn’t want to lug my things. 


So, when I return from the ladies' room, everything is there waiting for me unscathed and in the said position I'd left them. Granted, the place is practically empty and the manager is seated one table behind me, so it would have been most unfortunate if something went missing under her watch. However, I don’t advice you to do what I did.

So, is there anything I would change about Rituals Coffee House? Absolutely no—well, maybe the uniforms. The sombre black could use a touch of colour; and it would be nice for the smoothies and shakes to be accompanied with jumbo straws, instead of the skinny frail ones,
for the intake of flavoured slushy ice.    

ham and cheese flatini
On another note, I find that Jamaica is slowly transcending toward a freer, less pocket angst marketplace, where consumers are not treated as potential thieves or nuisances, but as customers. So, to visit a place like Rituals Coffee House and know that I don’t have to be in a first world country to enjoy the same luxury of being left alone to chill in a comfy spot to use the WI-FI, do my work or reading or whatever it is I feel like doing that day, is always an added bonus.
A small lounge next to the entrance
Naturally, purchasing whatever delights they offer is a nice start. Nonetheless, a simple cookie gives you the rights of passage to spend the entire day at one of those small tables or in one of those snug couches and just…chill. 

I went back a few days later, ordered the same latte, but this time with a ham and cheese flatini, and found that I preferred that sandwich more. The crust was soft, so no gum irritation; but I still fought with the latte and the inadequate straw. And I noticed, this time, I received my meal in a plate with a chipped edge. This is a no-no! But notwithstanding that blunder, this coffee house puts the ‘W’ in Welcome and the ‘N’ in niceness. If you haven’t been there yet, I humbly suggest you check it out. Who knows, you might even run into me there!

For those unfortunates, not in the wonderful island of Jamaica—though I understand there is a branch in Trinidad and Tobago—when you do visit and are in Kingston or Montego Bay, look up the Rituals Coffee House. Based on my great experience, you are bound to have the same. And one important thing, the price tag isn’t so bad either. My total order came up to $1000 Jamaican dollars; a tad over the price of shaving eyebrows!  

HAD YOUR RITUALS COFFEE HOUSE EXPERIENCE? What are your likes and dislikes? And what treats do you suggest I should try? Please comment away!


Disclaimer: I do apologize for the image quality. The photos were taken with phone cameras.