It’s not the caffeine that keeps you coming back…
How has a beverage of such an acquired taste become a landmark symbol for early mornings, inspiration and productivity? Can anyone truly vouch for the frothy goodness, to the extent that the taste is one that is appealing around the world? Don’t get me wrong, I love an Oat Flat White — ‘Oatly’, brand milk only of course. In fact, I’ve become quite the coffee snob. However, I’m not one to deny that it isn’t the absolute most pleasant of flavours. Perhaps it’s the attached societal attitudes behind the perfect cup of roasted beans that keeps me tapping my contactless daily?
Personally, it’s not the coffee that I crave. It’s not the hot cup warming my hands in the middle of a rainy London winter that keeps bringing me back, day in, day out. It’s the moment. The communal sense of belonging to a sub-culture. It’s only human — don’t be ashamed. A collective 9am coffee-run by three colleagues to fetch the office’s favourite java. The chitter-chatter of early risers complaining about their tiresome work week ahead. The gentle ‘café vibes’ playlist, filling the space with a romanticised ambience. An addiction to a feeling. A communal spirit. Stability. No matter what life throws at you, you can rest assured that your favourite Barista will be in the same place at the same time tomorrow morning. A place to be before the never-ending monotony of employment takes your day over. Perhaps the last decision of the day that is solely…yours. Poetic isn’t it?
According to the British Coffee Association; ‘Coffee is the most popular drink worldwide, with around two billion cups consumed every day’. Whilst in the U.S, The NCA, found that 64% of Americans drink coffee. Quite astounding statistics when you consider the particular taste of the potent drink. It’s not comparable to the bland taste of potatoes or rice per se which unsurprisingly are globally eaten and have been adapted by different cultures. The ever-changing form makes it understandable as to how it can translate into a staple household item in many countries. How has a cup of coffee managed to break the same cultural and societal barriers worldwide?
The Swedes even have a national word for a coffee break; ‘Fika’. At many workplaces, these mini 10–30 minute breaks are a part of a regular daily schedule. This usually starts with a morning Fika at 10am and one in the afternoon around 3pm. In Anna Brones book; ‘Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break’, she explains it as a terminology.
“Functioning as both a verb and a noun, the concept of fika is simple. It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee… (it) reflects the Swedish ideal of slowing down to appreciate life’s small joys”.
The word encaptures an idea, with the stimulus being a caffeinated beverage. We allude to the fact that coffee is the answer to productivity and gratitude, justifying a moment to pause. Enabling a mind to be stagnant. It’s a journey that starts with a brew and ends with satisfaction. Look around, how many people have made a café their office for the day?
Over the last decade, café’s have become flexible workspaces for freelancers worldwide. It is not then a coincidence that being a freelancer is also totally on-brand as the 21st centuries ultimate career to aspire for. The ‘free’ in freelance relating to freedom to work according to your own preferences — “duh”. An entire industry has managed to profit off of a fad that’s become an international sub-culture, pioneering a new way of working. What’s an Insta post of a fashion mogul dressed in head-to-toe Chanel and oversized mosquito sunglasses without a coffee cup? Not fashionable enough is the answer. There isn’t an industry that can escape!
Perhaps it was the French that started the romanticism of it all. What didn’t that nation romanticize? Their quaint and cute Parisian cafés paving the way for hip and trendy, modern Brooklyn coffee houses across the pond. The world has finally agreed on something; coffee is for mornings — and isn’t that a beautiful thing!
‘Let’s go for coffee!’. The beverage that’s cool enough to initiate romantic involvement but mask it with daily necessity. It can get away with anything!
Although coffee is, (by a land-slide) most popular in Scandinavia — refer to stats below. The Coffee Culture is most associated with prominent metropolitan-workaholic hubs such as London and New York. Any fast-paced city falls prey — and for good reason. The morning rush, the caffeinated stench of millennials chasing their tails in an endless race to success and productivity. It’s a habit and a standard to uphold. Even when I’m back down under and it’s a scorching Aussie summers’ day. Beachgoers sprawled out all over the sand, what is it they’re holding? Hot coffees. And I understand this because I am one of them. I just can’t take a cold brew seriously. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m gagging for a sip of that chilled liquid refreshment.
According to stats from, The International Coffee Organization (ICO):
5 Biggest Coffee Exporters
1. Brazil — 5.7bn pounds
2. Vietnam — 3.6bn
3. Colombia — 1.8bn
4. Indonesia — 1.5bn
5. Ethiopia — 847m
5 Biggest Coffee Drinkers
1. Finland — 12kg per capita per year
2. Norway — 9.9kg
3. Iceland — 9kg
4. Denmark — 8.7kg
5. Netherlands — 8.4kg
Why have Westerners become so much more drawn to this little bean than the countries that supply it? Perhaps the lucrative facade around it is something only we have created. However, don’t underestimate the popularity of coffee in the third world. Travelling to Vietnam last year, there was no shortage of the ‘egg coffee’, being pushed towards both locals and tourists on every street corner. It seems as though coffee has an unstoppable nature to adapt anywhere.
“I don’t like coffee”, is met with disbelief — hell, even I look at those people differently. “Sorry! Silly me, I haven’t had my a coffee yet!”. It even offers itself as an excuse. A generous chameleon of meanings. It’s got us queueing and begging for our local barista to call our names. Perhaps it’s a sense of subconscious loneliness and recognition in the hustle and bustle of our metropolitan havens? “Take half of my hourly salary for a microscopic recyclable cup of strange tasting brown milk, I beg of you!”. Maybe we’re simply chasing the temporary high of an energy kick. One that comes in pretty much the only legal form that is socially acceptable to digest in broad daylight. The precise route and time of my mornings are shaped by this repetitive errand. A sure way of any pending murderer to have a clear indication of my whereabouts for the initial few hours of each day.
Puppuccino, for your pooch. Babyccino, for your bub — All very much in existence. Who else do we need a caffeinated version of milk to be created for? Have we talked ourselves into pretending to like this beverage? And thus revealing a great deal about the psychology behind our current millennial, workaholic culture. Or is it like a bar of dark chocolate, growing on us with age? Maybe, it’s being used as a distraction from a larger scale government agenda. A ploy to prevent us from seeing our overworked and capitalist society?— A coping mechanism for when our manager asks us to work overtime. “Let’s grab a matcha”— just doesn’t have the same ring does it?
— I’ll stick to my coffee, thanks.