The Coffee Culture

By Colleen Humfreville

The deep, rich and complex aroma almost stings your nostrils as you get a whiff of the raw, natural coffee — the source of alertness, lack of sleep and of course, plenty flavorful taste. In the wintertime, or for that matter any season, there’s nothing better than your favorite hot latte, savoring the smell as you bring the cup up to your mouth while the translucent steams of vapor escape slowly from the top of the lid.

We all have at least one of those memories in which coffee has played a part. Remember that time you studied with your friends during finals week, everyone with a cup of coffee in their hand so that no one fell asleep? I sure do. Coffee, for me, has become something to meet with friends over, to have deep, intellectual conversations over, and, of course, to stay awake for that 8 a.m. class with.

When I first came to college, coffee was an occasional treat. At most, I’d maybe have it once every other week or so, or, whenever a friend wanted me to study with them. However, it was never that big of a deal. But whenever I did have it — wow! The amount of caffeine in one cup alone ensured that I’d be up for hours on end.

Alas, that time, and place, is no more. During the course of my first year, I came down with an addiction: Starbucks. It was a hub of social activity, with everyone spending quality time with their friends, and T.A.’s holding office hours before and after class. It seemed like everyone went there. There were several times that I would go in, and the line would be going all the way around to the pick-up counter. It seems crazy, right?

What is it about coffee that brings everyone together? What about it seems so comforting? Is it the warmth of it, the heat that you can feel through the cup as you’re holding it? Or, is it something else entirely?

It’s a way to get to know people, to help someone loosen up a little, and to have a great time with friends. It seems like every time I go into a cafe, there are a couple big groups of friends, laughing about stories and good memories over steaming, or icy, cups of Joe. And, especially as a journalism major, one of the ways that I try and comfortable is by offering them coffee;, I’ve gotten several successful interviews that way.

Although I’d like to think of myself as a coffee connoisseur, in reality I stick to the three or four drinks that are my favorites With hundreds of flavors to choose from, choosing one becomes almost a search for part of your own personality. Do you like something sweeter, without too much of a coffee taste? Or do you like it black, no need for sugar or milk? In fact, one’s choice somehow seems to represent how you’re feeling at the moment. I know that, I usually only get a frappuccino when I feel like treating myself, or when I’m upset and craving something sweet.

Maybe I’m looking into this too much, maybe it’s really as simple as pointing to something that you want and getting it. However, everyone’s been at a coffee shop when someone with an enormously long order steps up saying, “Could I please have a decaf double-soy mocha latte? But hold the whip, and add some hazelnut syrup, please.” It seems clear that some people take it more seriously than others.

Evidently, I’m really rather fond of coffee. The downside of that, though, is that my caffeine tolerance has gone through the roof. Although my taste buds are quite happy, my wallet is feeling a little light these days.

Regardless of whether someone is a big fan of this liquid gold or not, I think that there’s something to be said for the fact that so many seem to congregate at cafes. There’s something intimate about the whole experience, with the lights dimmed a bit, soothing music playing in the background, and the comforting aroma of the freshly brewed pots of coffee behind the counter.

So, next time someone asks you to meet for coffee, why not think it over a little more before you say no? Maybe you’ll meet your next life-long friend, or, at the very least, have a great memory to add to your repertoire of youthful meanderings.