Setting Thesaurus Entry: Coffee House


High counters, chrome espresso/frothing machines, blenders, metal thermometers, jugs of fresh foam, jugs of milk, coffee grinders sacks of coffee beans, coffee pots, mugs, paper cups, stir sticks, shakers of cinnamon & cocoa, chocolate shavings, bottles of coffee…


coffee in a grinder, employees calling out orders, the murmur of voices, laughter, dishes clattering, spoons clinking against the side of a mug, the thick whirr of a frothing machine, the scrape of metal on metal, the ding of a cash register, the jerking sound of the till tape…


Fresh brewed coffee and ground beans, the acrid scent of espresso or burnt coffee, sweet warm caramel and chocolate, the tingle of spice (cinnamon, chai teas, mulled ciders), fresh-baked cookies and muffins and quiches, strong tea or fruity tea, mingling perfume…


Sweet/bitter/rich/hearty/scalding/acrid/smooth/flavorful/chicory coffee, thick & sweet cafe au laits, melted chocolate, soft & warm cookies, hearty sandwiches with the zing of mustard or mayo, spicy soups, cold water, blended pulpy fruit and ice, tart unsweetened…


A warm mug in the hands, scalding coffee or tea, warmth cascading down the throat, a gritty sweet cookie, licking crumbs or foam from the lips, gritty or sticky counters from spilled food and coffee, a sticky or slippery floor, steam misting the face and glasses…

Helpful hints:

–The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1: Swapping all my heavy store bags to one hand, I plodded up to the door and pulled. The rich, stimulating rush of brewing coffee drew me in, brushing off the stress of a mall swarming with Christmas shoppers…

–Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile) After my seventh espresso, my hands jittered on the table like an unbalanced washing machine…

Think beyond what a character sees, and provide a sensory feast for readers

Logo-OneStop-For-Writers-25-smallSetting is much more than just a backdrop, which is why choosing the right one and describing it well is so important. To help with this, we have expanded and integrated this thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers. Each entry has been enhanced to include possible sources of conflict, people commonly found in these locales, and setting-specific notes and tips, and the collection itself has been augmented to include a whopping 230 entries—all of which have been cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. So if you’re interested in seeing a free sample of this powerful Setting Thesaurus, head on over and register at One Stop.

The Setting Thesaurus DuoOn the other hand, if you prefer your references in book form, we’ve got you covered, too, because both books are now available for purchase in digital and print copies. In addition to the entries, each book contains instructional front matter to help you maximize your settings. With advice on topics like making your setting do double duty and using figurative language to bring them to life, these books offer ample information to help you maximize your settings and write them effectively.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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11 years ago

I did have a great Halloween, how about you?

You know, just writing up these Setting Thesaurus entries has really helped me think a bit wider of the possibilities of description. I don’t just jump at the first think I think of to describe, I tend to root a bit deeper now. I hope it helps you the same way!

keri mikulski :)
11 years ago

I need to do this.. I’m constantly stuck with how to say the same thing in a different way with my writing.

Hope you had a great Halloween!

11 years ago

Thanks Marian! I love coffee too. I could live in one of these places, but I’d have to take out a morgage on my house to afford to drink the specialty coffee all the time…

PJ, the irony is, out of all the Halloween candy my kids collected, there was only one measly Crunchie bar. So not fair!!

But yes I claimed it, and ate it. Muhahahaa.

C.R. Evers
11 years ago

ahhhh. . . one of my favorite places EVER! :0)


PJ Hoover
11 years ago

Hope you gals are enjoying your Halloween treats!
And love the coffee shop. Love coffee.

11 years ago

Great, now I want one of those chocolate-drizzled whipped cream mocha chocolattes or whatever they’re called.

Thanks for the post. 🙂 Lots of good sensory detail – I felt as though I was right there in the coffee shop. I dread the day you write about a crowded subway or a gynecologist’s examination room.