Coffee Culture by Gabrielle Kassel

I have a confession: I am failing. The severity of 30 degree temperatures reminds me that February is landing, only five days away. And I am failing devastatingly; one of my New Years Resolutions brutally and blatantly lags behind the others: to cut out coffee and reduce my caffeine consumption. I admit it, I am absolutely a coffee-diva, a coffee-devotee.
Coffee drinking has become a ritual that is intimately and intricately engrained into my routine. My college roommate and I exercised a daily routine of coffee brewing before our dreaded biology class. She would power up the Keriug and I would ratio artificial creamer and packets of splenda into over-sized travel-mugs. When I moved out of the dorms, my routine more bougie; each morning I leave my apartment 30 minutes before my first class to grab a ‘venti iced coffee with caramel and vanilla soy milk, no room’ (yes, even in the winter). Each morning paying $3.15 for a mug of brand name brown-bitterness. In the summer, my co-workers develop a reciprocal relationship, alternating who brings in coffee for the group each morning Coffee has become the basis and common-denominator for human interaction, it has become sacred. Yet, this is more than just a daily habit, but a totem of ostentatious, conspicuous, obsessive consumption.
The religion of coffee is one that takes practice: pronouncing the languages, reading the showy cursive chalkboard-menu, learning the ingredients. Now that I’ve learned the lexicon of ‘the hip coffee drinker’ and become integrated into the Northampton coffee scene (admittedly, I have a ‘regular’ at each coffee-joint), my New Years Resolution feels like an impossible feat. How can I leave behind this realm of knowledge? This community who is brought together by devotion and routine?
A mug of brown liquid brings together ideas, community, and people; it allows for a pause in our society which values otherwise. Coffee aficionados like myself don’t drink the steaming bitter-sweet beverage solely for its energizing effect, but also for its ceremonious culture. Coffee shops are the trendiest spots for working, chatting, or just taking a pause. The perfect place for a first date. The perfect ‘morning after’ stop for blueberry scones or quinoa muffin. The perfect study place for group projects, interviews, and hang-out spots with friends. We have been methodically taught to socialize over coffee, to look for a boost in productivity in this drink.
We’re identified by the brand we drink, the temperature, calorie-count, and process by which the beans are grown and harvested. Words such as ‘light’ or ‘organic’ or ‘free-trade’ are tossed around; specialty coffee is slow-roasted and sexy.
The new trend is clear: stay clear of large chain coffee shops in favor of smaller, independent spots where the barista knows your name, your coffee order, and your dogs age. Go to the hole in the wall places where the barista knows the names of the farm your coffee comes from and the birthday of the person who roasted them. These spots are devoted to giving consumers a high-quality coffee ~experience~. As we continue into the ‘me’ generation, it is not surprising that this attention and intimacy is one that dictates our morning and afternoon timeline.
I was bred into an obsessive coffee culture that profits off my morning routine. These joints sell what is available for a much lower price at home. My resolution to cut this expense is driven by my year motto of ‘everything in moderation’; I no longer only drink coffee socially, now I drink it as part of my morning energizing process. As I attempt to cut this extravagant expense (about $30.00 a week) out of my budget, I find that what I miss just as much as the caffeine is the space.
What we are actually purchasing when we buy a coffee, is the ambiance: a clutter-free space away from home, which can provide a place of productive work. The coffee shop serves as a third space, somewhere between the boundaries of home and work.
In cutting down on my coffee drinking, I have recreated a space in my own apartment that feels removed from both work and home. Decorating my desk with fairie lights, an empty corkboard, a vanilla-scented candle, and a stack of my favorite books. I have declared this space a workstation and thus transformed it into a place of focus, for free. I urge others who find their coffee routine beginning to own them, reclaim their routine, by realizing whether or not they are going to this spots because they want to, or because you need to. Do not let your routine own you, instead, focus on moderation. Be intentional about your routine, break-free of the addiction, reclaim your own time.

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