Have Another Cup

Is coffee losing its cache?

| Web Specials Archives

So you're into this coffee thing big time, huh? Not only do you lap latte with the best baristas, you're a cybercafista, surfin' the Net at the newest cybercafes. Even if your burg lacks these coffee bars cum coin-operated computers or (quell horror!) an espresso bar, you still cruise for a vicarious buzz at places like Over the Coffee to keep up with the latest coffee arcana (including a database of songs mentioning coffee!), or download the latest biscotti recipe posted in alt.coffee.


'It's starting to become a pass? habit,' sniffs beverage consultant Tom Pirko in Forbes (May 22, 1995). Some portents include: Espresso cart sitings are way down in Seattle; Starbucks insiders are selling stock; health-conscious consumers getting hip to the fact that the coffee bar's prime profit maker, the latte, gets you lots of calories, little buzz, and no calcium (it's absorbed by the coffee molecules). FORBES' business tips for would be proprietors? Forget it, or add some gimmick like Seattle's Caracolito, where espresso comes con tapas. Coffee snobbery, concludes another consultant, is 'horse pucky, and it's not going to be around much longer.'

If the slipping hipness factor isn't enough to keep you from sipping, try on some of the ethical quandaries. If you now Starbuck (that's with a 'b'), you may go there because the uberchain regained some political correctness after they bowed to activists' boycott pressure and upped payments to their coffee-picking Guatemalan campesinos (now they get MORE than two cents a pound picking what you'll buy for $9). But despite Starbucks' high ranking as a socially responsible business (premier worker-benefits package, big donor to global relief agency CARE), some say Starbucks' unrepentant aggression in dominating the market is, well, uncool. Wonders Peter Carlin in Business & Society Review (Spring 1995): 'Does the pressure of the marketplace inevitably erode your soul?'

Finally, let's face facts -- the stuff's a drug. 'Coffee and caffeine probably should be sold with some responsible label warnings,' grouses HerbalGram (Summer 1995), in a blast against feds who want to regulate ma huang, a natural stimulant and sniffle-buster. Babbles one java junkie (he downs a cup an hour) on alt.drugs.caffeine, 'I got a lot of work to do, and I want to know how to get along with less sleep.'

Which reminds me...I have a lot of work to do myself. Think I'll go plug in the percolator.

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