Coffee Culture: A Social Downturn
In a world where the best part of waking up used to be Folgers in your cup, coffee remains an integral part of our culture, fueling anyone and everyone from corporate executives to the working-class person. As we sleep less and work more, the need to inject stronger beans and brew into our routine (and veins) increases exponentially. By simply adding 2-4 cups of coffee to our day, we super-charge ourselves for the late-night Instagram posts, social media rants, email correspondence, and text message exchanges expected of us, before turning in for the night.
I’ve never been a heavy coffee drinker and to this day, I never wake up in need of anything more than a shower, clothes, and possibly a shave. I would even go so far as to say that upon waking, I am alert enough to operate a manual transmission motor vehicle. Alertness aside, this global addiction begs the question, what are we missing? Enter Coffee Culture.
Before the days of social media and the age of distraction, coffee was a social drink--one to be sometimes sipped but always enjoyed amongst friends, while sitting along dirty sidewalks, inhaling dust with each sip. Cafés were a place to have a first date, catch up with a friend, or just communicate face to face. In more recent times, Coffee Culture has instead developed into a protocol for sharing unnecessary information, images, and social media adventures, while providing the means and physical location for distribution. At present, independent roasters are attempting to provide a taste of the social by offering drinks with awkward names, flavors, and additionally awkward flavor descriptions, hoping to cultivate the dusty sidewalk experience. I am unsure as to whether or not the flavor described as “scorched asphalt” was a hit in Northern California, but the fact that it was written on a cafe menu, stuck with me. Move over Starbuck’s, your signature flavor’s been nicked.
Perhaps the most puzzling yet fascinating element of coffee culture, is how anti-social it has become, as a whole. There are now cafés constructed with the sole purpose of providing caffeine, free wifi, and power outlets for the anti-social experience. Someone can order an amazing fair-trade cup of coffee, an organic pastry (if they are lucky), and get some work done, all while being stacked infinitely close to strangers, seemingly on the grind. There is even space and sometimes bandwidth, for those lonely souls who choose to stream their whole cinematic archives, over café wifi, in public.
The anti-social aspect of the culture can be experienced frequently and without hassle, but as with most things, there are exceptions. While there has been a big push towards Coffee Culture being less social and more work oriented, Café Culture and the people who frequent these places demand otherwise. They want the social interaction and will have it regardless of whether or not you choose to do the same, resulting in an even more awkward experience for those who just want their 2nd-4th cup of the day. I can’t say these fellas are a sign of trouble, but they are definitely a sign of the times.
With such a fervent push towards social interaction in the face of a now anti-social culture, I can’t help but question the lay of the land, in terms of the coffee and the food industry. Can we hope for a resurgence of classic but high quality café and dining environments in the near future or possibly just a designated section for Youtubers? Maybe I will have the answer, by the time I reach my 4th cup of joe. Until then, I will remain quietly content, sipping my 2nd.