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The Coffee Culture in the USA
It wasn’t until I moved to the US that I started drinking coffee regularly and became what they call in the Netherlands a ‘koffieleut’, which literally translates to ‘coffee socialite.’ Although most Europeans drink more coffee per year than most Americans, the cultural importance and effect on most Europeans appears to be smaller than that of the average American. After all, coffee is a cultural phenomenon in the United States.
Chains with many branches like Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks dominate the daily life of the US. Especially in the morning (90% of coffee consumed in the US is in the morning), millions of white foam cups with bold pink and orange logos are planted on the streets during the morning rush hour and on the train. The coffee drive is the saving grace of the on-the-run army of helmeted and tattooed workers. During lunch breaks, men and women in business suits go to coffee shops.
Students relax from noon to evening on comfortable couches in coffee lounges around the campus. Police officers hold cups of coffee while patrolling a road construction site on the main road. In short, coffee drinkers in the United States can be found almost everywhere you go.
This crazy tradition makes Americans associate with Europe above all with cars that are strangely without cups (for Americans this is like selling a car without tires), or with the small cups of coffee that Europe serves, so young that my mother-in-law had to order two cups of coffee every time. It is my strong belief that the complex and obsessive nature of the ‘New Englander’ can be blamed on the large cups of coffee they drink. There is no reason why the word ‘coffee’ comes from the Arabic ‘qahwa’ which means ‘that which prevents sleep.’ Arabs boiled coffee beans in hot water from the 9th century and drank the energy as a substitute for the forbidden Muslim alcohol.
Today coffee is second only to oil as the most expensive (legally) traded commodity in the world with a trade value of $70 billion. Interestingly, only 6 billion reaches the countries that produce coffee. The remaining $64 billion is generated as surplus value in consumer countries. Smallholder farmers grow 70% of the world’s coffee. They mainly grow two types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. About 20 million people in the world depend directly on coffee production for their livelihood.
Group 1: production in 2002/3
country % 70% Arabica
Brazil 42.03% Arab / Rob
Colombia 8.88% Arabica
Vietnam 8.35% Robusta
Indonesia 4.89% Rob/Arab
India 3.74% Arab/Rob
Mexico 3.54% Arabica
Guatemala 3.1% Arab/Rob
Uganda 2.53% Rob/Arab
Ethiopia 2.44% Arab
Peru 2.24% Arabica
Table 2: consumption in 2001/2world consumption % kg per capita (2001)
USA 30.82% Finland 11.01
Germany 15.07% Sweden 8.55
Japan 11.47% Denmark 9.71
France 8.89% Norway 9.46
Italy 8.59% Austria 7.79
Spain 4.90% Germany 6.90
Great Britain 3.63% Switzerland 6.80
Netherlands 2.69% Netherlands 6.48
Although per capita coffee consumption in the world is decreasing (in the US alone it fell from 0.711 liters in 1960 to 0.237 liters currently), global coffee consumption continues to grow due to population growth. Considering that coffee contains 1% (Arabica), 2% (Robusta) or 4.5%-5.1% (instant coffee) coffee, most Americans consume at least 200 to 300mg (the recommended daily amount) of caffeine per day. drinking coffee alone.
My favorite place to down a cup of coffee is Starbucks in Stamford, Connecticut. The entrance can be found at the corner of Broad Street and Summer Street, on the left to the great public library with its graceful and diminutive Ionic columns. The location near the library is compatible with Starbuck’s marketing plan. At the entrance of the coffee shop is a large glass window that turns to the left, giving a clear view of the pedestrians on the sidewalk. Upon entering, you enter a living room with shelves stacked against the back wall. Velvet chairs face each other with small coffee tables in the middle, creating an intimate seating area. The velvet chairs by the window are the best seats, which people are not lucky enough to find in wooden chairs. Behind the long rectangular room is a coffee shop and a Starbuck’s gift shop. There is a dark wooden table with electronic equipment suitable for spreading laptops and spreadsheets, dividing the lounge and coffee.
Since I’ve been in a bit of a stupor for a few weeks I’m hesitant to order a plain black coffee. It’s easy to get your favorite food or drink in the US thanks to the huge portions served. The smallest cup of coffee is the ‘tall’ (12oz.=0.35l.), after which one can choose between the ‘grande’ (16oz.=0.5l.) and the ‘venti’ (20oz.=0.6l. ) . Half a liter of coffee seems a bit high, and sounds ridiculous to my European mind. Finally I choose a ‘solo’ espresso.
Sitting on one of the wooden chairs against the back wall, unable to find a high chair, I tried to read my book while listening to the conversation around me. Three middle-aged men are sitting on three gray ash chairs and talking loudly. A lively conversation begins, alternating with half-roaring, screaming, laughing. They make fun of their friend in their absence and then touch their faces with emotion while talking about the teeth of the people’s daughter. Two African-American women sit at a small table opposite the counter, one of them wearing a yellow headscarf with black African prints. Near the door, in the seating area with lively conversation, a traveler is playing solitaire. One by one they place the cards made with their spines on top of each other, as if they are trying to connect them. They gave a few dollars in exchange for a small coffee to feel, the warmth of the front room, the desire to sit comfortably in the living room and remember the love of having your home.
It’s a bright, sunny day, in early autumn, in the New England Indian summer. The sun shines through the tilting, twinkling leaves, casting a silhouetted shadow across Starbuck’s window. Autumn’s hand turns its beautiful kaleidoscopic lens. The green ash tree next to the road resembles, with its polychrome colors, a bronze-like statue: its trunk of sulfur bronze, its occasional green leaves of copper and ferric-nitrate of gold. On the other side of the cross walk above the red oak tree is red. Here are some of the best views of autumn leaves that Connecticut is ‘world famous’ in the US.
In the world of commerce and business, Starbucks is a success story. It is one of those ‘how to’ stories that are taught as a subject in business school. Founded in 1971, it really began its phenomenal growth under Howard Schultz in 1985, and now has 6,294 coffee shops. But what does his success consist of? A large cup of coffee at Starbucks is more expensive than at Dunkin’ Donuts: $2.69 compared to $3.40 for Starbucks’ ‘venti’. But while Dunkin’ Donuts only offers a few flavors like mocha, hazelnut, vanilla, caramel and cinnamon, you’ll find the best beans at Starbucks like Bella Vista FW Tres Rios Costa Rica, Brazil Ipanema Bourbon Mellow, Colombia Nariño Supremo, Organic Shade Grown Mexico, Panama La Florentina, Arabian Mocha Java, Caffè Verona, Guatemala Antigua Elegant, New Guinea Peaberry, Zimbabwe, Aged Sumatra, Special Reserve Estate 2003 – Sumatra Lintong Lake Tawar, Italian Roast, Kenya, Ethiopia Harrar, Ethiopia Sidamo, Ethiopia Yergacheffe and French Roast. So Starbucks offers high-quality coffees and high-quality coffee shops, which almost remind me of the beautiful coffee houses I visited in Vienna.
From time to time, I laugh shyly and think back to my dilemma of not being able to choose between the only two types of coffee available in most Dutch shops: red and gold. Even to this day I don’t know what the difference is between the two, except for the color of the wrapping: red or gold. It is not surprising that Starbucks attracts people of the laptop type: consultants, students, intellectuals, the middle class, and Starbucks coffee is white collar coffee, while Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is blue coffee. At Dunkin’ Donuts you will meet Joe the Plumber, Bob the Barber, and Mac the Truck Driver. But what exactly is it that entices US workers to fall back into those purple velvet chairs?
I imagine their workdays full of repetitive actions and decisions within the scope of precisely defined responsibilities. How many of the players in these arenas pass the day with his actions for no other reason than to enjoy their 30 minutes of daily life-escape in the friendship of Starbucks where, for a short time in the afternoon, you also find the illusion of human love and the strange associations of resisting the economic cold much?
For 15 minutes you sink into the deep, soft cushion of the velvet chair and randomly, and how precious is that random moment, pull a book from the shelves. When, in the background, the comforting voice is heard of the world, with its awareness of the great suffering of people, the burning of people and the original connection with nature and traditions, or the merengue that revives the curious memories of travel and love, you stare at the window and meditate that simple, restless meditation in minutes, strengthened by the effects of the body of half a liter of water, the coffee starts to kick and is satisfied to chew your muffin, bagel, cake, brownie, croissant or donut.
It is, above all, the physical pleasure that comes from the combination of caffeine, sugar and Pavlov’s influence. You remember the singer struggling behind the counter taking your order, the young poet as you pay for his coffee and hand over a dollar bill, feeling your escape from reality. You look with the strong beat of the first coffee at the advertisements and poems on the notice board, and without fear you think: they are right, they are right! and what do I care? Why should I care?
But then you look at your watch and realize you have to run again. ‘Great, I’ve got to go!’, or people will start gossiping about being away from your desk. And as you open the door, the autumn wind blows in your face, the last blues solo dies away as the Hammond organ whispers: ‘I throw my problems at the door, I don’t need them anymore’.
Coffee in the US is a subculture that floats a lot in the consumer sphere. Starbucks is more than coffee, it is more than another brand in the market, it is a political expression, a way of knowing how you want to live, in other words it is a culture. Starbucks is an alternative to Coca-Cola and much more than coffee: chocolate, ice cream, frappuccino, travel mugs with unusual prints, mugs and live music, CDs, discounts at shows and even support volunteer work.
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