October 2, 2003

The A Spot

Print More

Coffee somehow seems to be the beverage of choice for hipsters, overworked professionals, and college students alike. The hipsters want theirs black, and they grimace from sip to swallow. The professionals want their espressos and double shot lattes. They want skim milk and maybe some chocolate powder to sprinkle on top, if they’ve got the time to spare between meetings. The college students however, want caramel mochaccinos with mint syrup. When it’s hot they want a chai freeze with whipped cream and when it’s late they want the biggest cup they can buy. Obviously, these coffee-drinker categories are not set in stone; there’s plenty of variation within each.

Going hand in hand with this over simplified categorization is, of course, the institution of coffee drinking as a kind of status symbol. How did coffee become so stylish? For example, why in the case of the “artist” ethic is the amount of caffeine one consumes directly proportional to one’s supposed potential creativity or diligence? Is the need for exhaustion remedy supposed to signify that the tired person has worn himself out through intellectual or artistic pursuits? In other words, when we drag a big cup of coffee to class with us in the mornings, of course we’re doing so because we’d like to stay awake through the lecture, but how much of our reason is also derived from the little desire to let everyone else know how tired (and therefore how interesting) we are, too? This is not to say that the only reason people drink coffee is for its energizing properties, but I’d wager that for every true coffee-phile and flavor connoisseur, there’s another person who chokes the stuff down to finish her take home midterm or business proposal.

It always seems like back in the day coffee came with much more limited opportunity for the exercising of free will: Regular or decaf? Cream and sugar? Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see 16 year olds sucking down lattes as they fly by on skateboards or your parents debating about which espresso machine will make the best foam and at the same time best match the counter tiling in the kitchen.

Ithaca’s got its share of each kind of coffee consumer, stereotypical or not, and probably the best places to settle down with a book and begin your game of spot-the-style are either of the Gimme Coffee shops. Even staunch hill dwellers will recognize the logo: red background with a white exclamation point, or vice versa. The next time you’re in section for an English or Philosophy class, check out your TA’s coffee cup. That’s Gimme. Again, it seems to be a status thing. If you live downtown, you better not be seen with anything thing that might associate you with the undergrads, like a coffee from Olin Caf