The Coffee Contagion...

Written on June 28, 2015

So... I will openly admit that I have a problem; a coffee problem. Now, I want to make a clear distinction. I definitely consider this issue to be one of coffee as opposed to caffeine. You may be thinking: Libby, what's the difference? Well...


Coffee is defined as the following:
a drink made from the roasted and ground beanlike seeds of a tropical shrub, served hot or iced.

Caffeine is defined as the following:
a crystalline compound that is found esp. in tea and coffee plants and is a stimulant of the central nervous system.


I'm not much of a soda drinker; I drink it on occasion, but it's not something I consume routinely. I drink tea quite regularly, but normally as a "before bed" type of thing. With regard to coffee, I have a strange obsession—and I know for a fact that it's not due to the caffeine content. Yes, I definitely drink coffee in the morning for an extra boost of energy and as a way to keep me going throughout the day. I'll also drink it in the afternoon if I'm feeling a bit sluggish or fatigued. Obviously, it's the caffeine that generates this effect. However, I am not so hooked on its caffeine content that I get withdrawal headaches. That being said, my obsession with coffee extends deeper and wider.


I'm going to be upfront; drinking coffee has become "trendy" in today's day and age. It's the subject matter of an immense amount of Instagrams (including many of my own), coffee shops are "just so Tumblr," and Starbucks' annual revenue more than tripled in the last ten years, reaching 16.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2014 (yes, this is a valid statistic from Statista and yes, I did go to the extent of researching Starbucks' financial growth...). Even popular retailers like Brandy Melville have picked up on this trend, taglining some of their merchandise with the phrase, "Ok, But First Coffee."


So, is this whole "coffee thing" just a passing trend that will lose its prominence in a couple of years, or is it something more complex within our generation that explains why and how it's so widespread? To that, I do not have an answer. However, I can tell you why coffee is an important part of my life (as ridiculous as that may sound).


This past year, I wrote a paper in English class about my love for coffee and the way in which such beverage has represented a "coming of age" in my life. Sounds funny, right? I must admit, it was one of the most honest and heartfelt papers I've ever written. I didn't start drinking coffee habitually until I was about fifteen/sixteen. Throughout my childhood, coffee was an "adult thing" and something that my dad drank in the morning that smelled...kinda funky. Figuratively, as I began to drink coffee routinely in the morning and my love for its taste evolved, I began to undergo a personal transformation regarding my internal understanding of myself. Largely, coffee became a way for me to slow down the pace of my life. It introduced me to the coffee shop environment. It led me to explore new places. It caused me to interact with new people and friends. It prompted me to get a job (as a barista). As a whole, "it" sparked countless new adventures in my life and marked a monumental transitional phase.


I've come to notice the presence of my obsession more prominently through my travels. The first thing I do when I visit a new place is go to my Yelp app and research the best local coffee shops. I can guarantee that I annoy my traveling companion(s), as I have to visit at least one of the shops on the list (ideally #1 on the Yelp list) before leaving. In a perfect world, I would spend an entire day coffee-shop-hopping if I could. Some may find it strange, but the exploring I've done and favorite places I've discovered as a result make it far worth it.


I remember: the first thing I ever ordered at a coffee shop was a soy latte. Bizarre, I know. Why a latte? Why soy milk? I have no idea. I probably chose a latte because 1) I knew how to pronounce the word and 2) it radiated chic and sophistication. I probably went with soy for multiple reasons... 1) It made me sound as if I knew what I was talking about/doing; 2) It added somewhat of a quirky flair (or so I thought) that would further personalize my new order and 3) I may or may not have channeled Train's song "Drops of Jupiter" (fun fact: I absolutely hate the band Train). Funnily enough, a soy latte is now my go-to order. I've tried nearly every espresso drink out there (as I prefer espresso over drip coffee), and I've established that I like the ratio of milk to foam in a latte, I prefer steamed soy milk over steamed dairy milk, and a cortado (pictured above) is my second choice whenever I'm not in the mood for an entire 12 oz or 16 oz latte.

On to another matter worth addressing...


Because I often Instagram photos of my coffee, I repeatedly receive (quite judgmental) questions regarding why I post so many coffee photos. Is it to make me seem cool? Is it to show off? Is it to copy others that I follow? To an extent/below the surface: probably! However, before I post a photo of coffee, I don't cognitively think about how to seem "cool" or "Tumblr" or "au courant." In other words...the anticipated perception of others isn't my main incentive for posting a given photo. Instead, if I'm enjoying a moment and choose to capture it through a photo, I may choose to share it on social media. Undoubtedly though, on a larger scale, social media revolves around portraying an idealistic view of life and, in turn, making others jealous. So...I and everyone else using Instagram/other forms of social media are all culprits of this generational doing. What is easily forgotten and must be remembered is that: social media is a controlled way for an individual to share the best and only the best of his or her life. That being said, the realistic negative aspects of life are shoved under the rug, hidden from the public.


...and now I'm straying from the topic at hand. To be honest, I could go on and on about social media in an all-embracing sense for hours. Thus, I might have to save that for another post... 


I can safely say this has been quite the rant. If you made it this far, I want to thank you for hearing me out. I'm not sure if this post will make sense to anyone but me, nor am I sure if I've been able to articulate all of my thoughts. I wouldn't be surprised if I lost some readers after the first couple of sentences, as this topic lacks a level of alluring appeal. Nonetheless, I sure enjoyed erratically spewing my thoughts through an abundance of unorganized and wordy sentences. And again, if it wasn't already evident, I tend to get quite impassioned when it comes to coffee.