Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coffee Worship

I remember a time in my youth when the coffee industry was suffering such hard times that they ran advertisements telling young people to "Be a part of the coffee generation!" I even remember they used an upbeat Electric Light Orchestra song called "Hold On Tight" that you hear on Honda commercials now.

coffee_loveWow does marketing work! Coffee was dying. Young people saw coffee as that bitter tasting brown crap that their parents drank. It wasn't cool to drink coffee, that was for old people.

Then the mighty LATTE was born. Or at least it suddenly became popular. Chocolate milk with some coffee flavor to it to get the kids used to it. Shots of caffeine added to make it more addictive. Suddenly everyone you saw on television was carrying a cup with a plastic lid on it and a cardboard wrapper around it so they wouldn't burn their hands.

Especially targeted are young adults that are too young to drink. Go hang out in a coffee shop, you can be just like the cool kids from "Friends!" Maybe there will be some beatniks there! Woo! Get them started early. You can't have alcohol yet (in public, at least) but you can have this other drug. Help yourself!

I sit close to a community coffee pot, so I listen to coffee conversation all day at work. Those that drink the brown stuff that comes from those machines are the degenerates. They need the drug, and they don't care what form it comes in. More often the others bring in the cardboard sleeve variety from outside. You can hear them suck air through the tiny plastic hole in the top. Outside coffee is MUCH cooler than that brown muck from a 20-year-old disgusting pot.

And they love to talk about it. "Have you tried the hazelnut?" "I had to have an extra shot today, or I'd never make it!" "I can't believe you don't drink coffee, how do you make it through the day?" "I think I'd die if it weren't for my morning coffee."

No, in fact you won't. You just won't be a fucking addict. You'll have headaches for a few days. You'll feel like you have low energy. But it's not real. You have plenty of energy. Your body just wants its fix, and it's trying to fool you into giving in.

Everyone has vices, and I don't begrudge anyone for doing whatever they want to their bodies to make them feel however they want. Just stop trying to convince me that your fat filled, whipped cream topped, overpriced caffeine addiction is "cool." Coffee is not cool. No matter what the marketing says.


swag said...

Coffee is anything but cool. But you missed the point of coffee marketing back in the 1980s. Coffee was a dying industry -- spurred on by big coffee corporations that commoditized it to death, making it as cheap and generic as possible.

The industry freaked because it noticed that only old people were drinking the stuff anymore and they needed new blood to survive. But it wasn't media marketing and slogans that was the change. It was the formulation.

Thus came the flavored coffees of the 1980s and 1990s. The French mocha vanilla banana crud. Basically, product marketing said that if kids like flavored sodas and colas, we gotta make coffee like that stuff.

It was mostly a failure, however. But what became the industry's savior was milk. Milk became that special flavor. And combined with the growing likes of Starbucks, who actually dared suggest that coffee could be more than colored sawdust suspended in hot water, a realization that quality coffee was possible and resulted in a different-tasting beverage was born.

Like cheeses, wines, etc., coffee has evolved with consumer tastes for more specific things. Still, most consumers live off the generics. The standards are much better at the high end, but most people still drink swill.

BrainMc said...

Drink more Ovaltine!

Astin said...

Coffee's not cool, but it's awesome.

I was once addicted to the shittiest coffee in university. Every day was a large mug full of the stuff, with plenty of sugar.

Then it started disagreeing with me. So I stopped.

Now, I actually enjoy coffee as opposed to NEEDING coffee. I have it occasionally, and I home roast, grind and brew my own. It's a far cry from that crap in the yellow and green cup.