How do you order a latte in ASL?


I've been staring at drawings like this for a few weeks now, walking by a cafe space under development at the bottom of the Fini condos on Greenwood Avenue, next to Picnic. Words like "madeleines" and "grand marnier souffle" bamboozled me into thinking it would be a francophilic dessert cafe.

Turns out it will be much more interesting. Based on a model you'll recognize from booky hangouts like Bauhaus, the new coffee shop (whose name is still being finalized) will be a hybrid for-profit/non-profit space. While the retail section will function as a regular coffee stop (bean source TBD), the walls will make up the Mildred M. Johnson Memorial Library.

Good ol' Millie was a hearing person born to deaf parents; she was a pioneering advocate of the deaf here in Washington (which, I'm just learning, has quite the active deaf community). The collection will revolve around hard-of-hearing culture.

In an effort to serve the community and raise awareness about deafness, all baristas will be fluent in American Sign Language, or ASL. Some of them will only use ASL, so bring your cheat sheet, or accept the fact that you might make an ass of yourself ordering a latte.

The cafe will indeed have desserts ("an experience for the senses," said the owner), but nothing will be made in-house. She told me they'll source all coffee and pastries from Seattle's "best purveyors."

The concept begs two initial questions, in my mind:

1. Will it be a quiet place to work?

2. Will the lattes be perfect, if the baristas can't on rely the pitch of the steam wand going south as the milk glides toward ultimate foaminess?

The cafe aims to open at 6807 Greenwood Avenue N. in August or September, operating from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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