I can’t speak Starbucks. As much as I’d like to float up to the counter and request a hot-tall-skinny-upside-down-with-whip-caramel-macchiato, or a triple-grande-140-degree-no-foam-cinnamon-dolce-latte-with-caramel-on-the-whip, I’ll never be that well versed. Or that hyperactive.
A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at the Beckley Travel Plaza to visit the famous coffee shop, and for 35 minutes (yes, I know…how stupid), I waited – and watched – the world go by. There was an endless flow of vanilla, white mocha, cap and frap…and teenagers. I was shocked by the number of kids standing in line, waiting for 23 ounces of cold caffeine topped with enough sugar and fat to cause juvenile diabetes to surge. Parents shelled out $4 and change for glorified milkshakes (at 9:15 a.m.), and handed their children straws to stab into layer after layer of empty calories. Yet when my order was announced – a tall cappuccino – all eyes shifted to Plain Jane who just needed a little something for the road. Boring.
Forgive me for sounding old, but when I was growing up, coffee was an adult beverage. Pouring that first cup was a rite of passage; a toast to becoming a young lady! Coffee was a drink that men and women of mature age consumed in the morning while reading the newspaper, and after dinner while watching 60 Minutes. There was a saucer under that cup, too. Today, a paper cup comes with a cardboard sleeve.
In a recent study, researchers found that 40% of the 18-to 24-year-olds who responded to the National Coffee Association’s National Coffee Drinking Trends 2011 survey said they are drinking coffee daily, compared with 31% in 2010. Why? They have more money to spend on caffeine. But the younger kids who don’t have jobs? They’re just wasting their health and accelerating life, some doctors say.
Studies also show that caffeine severely impacts the amount of sleep kids get on a daily basis, a major problem because rest is critical for girls and boys whose minds and bodies are still developing. Coffee has the same effects on the body as energy shots and drinks, a type of legal, liquid speed.
I took my first sip of coffee when I was a senior in college. I needed something hot to thaw out a frozen body that walked across campus on a winter morning. Black, strong and bitter, I couldn’t believe how horrible it tasted, or how people consumed cup after cup day after day. I experimented with sugar packets and powdered creamer, whole milk and half ‘n half, artificial sweeteners and flavored syrups. Finally, I found my drink of choice: dark roast coffee with a generous splash of 2% milk and one Sweet ‘n Lo. That chemical reaction took years to come together.
Now, a Keurig coffee maker is my appliance of choice – my one stop, one cup, one buzz of the day. I love playing barista in my own kitchen – walking up to the counter, dropping in a K-Cup and waiting 30 seconds for Café au lait. But you can bet your last Star Buck that I won’t be pouring a cup for my daughters any time soon. We’ll be sticking with the seasonal small-hot-cocoa-with-mini-marshmallows.
Because childhood is good to the last drop.
Need Starbucks 101? Here’s step-by-step help for ordering a complicated cup of Joe: