Cafe Inspiration: Spilt Milk and Sonder

Friday, 14 July, 2023

by Ayanda Dlamini 

I often experience moments of sonder. Especially because I’m a devoted café hopper and I commonly find myself people-watching. To set the scene for you, in this particular moment of sonder, I’m sitting at a windowsill seat, indulging in a delicious cappuccino (a blend from Morrico coffee) and a freshly baked piece of carrot cake. I begin to analyse the people on the streets through my window frame, and there and then it hits me - this overwhelming realisation that everyone around me is living a life as complex as my own, AKA ‘sonder’. 

Intense I know, but believe it or not this train of thought was induced by a secondhand furniture store across the road from where I was seated. As I swirled and sipped my coffee, appreciating the warmth it was giving me, I watched the people walking in and out of the furniture store, about to buy a piece of furniture that had lived an entirely separate life before leaving the store with its new owners. 

Perhaps it was the fact that I had had one too many coffees that day, or the idea that furniture can live multiple lifetimes. Because at that moment I fully understood what writer John Koenig once said. That the feeling of sonder acknowledges the realisation that your life, amongst many others, can feel like “a lightened window at dusk”. 

This moment happened in a cafe named Spilt Milk. Typical of the people in Johannesburg’s bohemian suburb known as Melville, it was filled with liveliness and upbeat frequencies, from the groups of people to the music, the grinders going alongside purging steam wands, and the manoeuvring of staff from table to table, serving all kinds of delicious food from their kitchen. 

The interior reminded me of a loft space with exposed brick that gives off an old industrial charm and subtle modern touches. When you walk in, you’re not only lured in by the smell of good coffee, you’re equally as captured by the beautiful chandelier in the centre of the room, and the cozy fireplace summoning you to sit right in front of it. The space is charismatic, balancing a relaxed and easygoing environment, while also being interactive and energetic.

One of my favourite things about Spilt Milk is that it closes late, allowing me to experience the sun going down and the cafe lights showing off even more than when I arrived. It was beautiful. Hours later, still seated by the windowsill, my coffee cup was empty but my heart was full. It was finally time to leave my little lightened window at dusk. 

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