From the truck stop burners to the gourmet air pots of the local coffee shop to the drive through of the Starbucks on the way to work, coffee dispensing has become more American than preemptive strikes.
Coffee has been around. It is nothing new, really. It is not even a product of American culture. In fact, coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, second only to oil, and it is America’s largest food import. There is a change happening, though, and it has been percolating for about two decades.
I have been a coffee drinker for about 15 years, but coffee has been around our family as long as I can remember. The after dinner sounds of the family gatherings at Grandma’s house were always accompanied by the popping and coughing of the pump in the cheap coffee brewer and the aromas of fresh brewed discount coffee that still brings back those memories when I am in their house.
The coffee industry in the US is its own breed. We have managed, yet again, to make our product about quantity and to forsake the idea that quality and experience might have something to offer, even with a cup of coffee. The general public still considers the coffee shop a phenomena of the yuppie; the turtleneck sweater wearing, mid-sized SUV driving, self-serving urbanite. Everyone else likes Folger’s and stays home for their coffee.
This attitude is probably founded in misunderstanding rather than reality. Having worked in a coffee shop, I can tell you that the fore-mentioned yuppie is certainly one of our customers. But there are people out there who have discovered the experience of finding a place, away from home and work, where they know some faces, some names, and have a place to sit. Maybe for a few minutes before work or on that quick mid morning break. The seeds of community are planted in these places, and the church is no longer the place where the social interactions of the everyday activities are taking place. Our culture is seeking out a front porch, a town hall, a fellowship room where they can feel like there is common ground. This is the coffee shop experience. It is larger than a select group of big spenders.
There are expensive drinks at coffee shops, for sure, but your basic house coffee is not much more there than at your local Denny’s restaurant. There is a coffee shop for every personality, and there is a coffee drink for every taste. I will be talking more about how to navigate this new industry of place and experience in the next couple of posts, because I feel there is a lot to say and a lot of people who might benefit from the appreciation for this new found American pastime.
There are a couple of places in our home town where you can get this experience, but I think there is only one locally owned coffee house. You should try it, you would like the people-watching experience, and you might even find a drink that suits you.