Thursday, August 09, 2007


It's not going to kill you, but it is under attack all the same. The thinking man's drug of choice--there is even, it seems, a Facebook group devoted to Jacob Levy's caffeine consumption--is universally consumed but not universally accepted.

Coffee shops--free of alcohol, tobacco, and--thanks to the iPod and the lack of alcohol--conversation, are the new thing, if new means not all that new at this point. But I'm not ancient, and I remember a time when New York didn't have Starbucksim, when Barnes and Noble was just another bookstore. When you could go to your corner diner and drink a cup of Sanka served by a gruff and world-beaten waitress who deep-down cares about your problems, or at least your milk and sugar.

Since all other vices have modern medicine working against them, someone was bound to turn on the one vice I cannot (would rather not?) live without. The anti-latte crusade--multiple articles asserting that lattes are destroying our ability to save money--is an example of the extreme Jane Brodification of our society. If something is enjoyable, it must be bad. If it isn't bad for you, it must be bad for the workers. Wait, there's a version of the product that's produced ethically? Then the only thing left is that the product in question costs money. As most products do. Each time you buy a fancy coffee drink, you're losing what could (assuming you get one every day, versus never, ever getting one, since those are of course the two options) save enough to buy everything that really matters in life--say, a townhouse in the West Village? If you consider the accused lattes to be a replacement for the three martinis our generation is not having at lunch, and the two packs of cigarettes our generation is not having throughout the day, it looks a bit different.

And yes, you can make your own coffee. (Making your own diet Coke would be a bit more complicated.) I do make my own coffee. And buy my own coffee. Sometimes I am outside and $2-plus seems more worth it than a trip home and back. Sometimes I have an exam coming up and am a bit, uh, argh. The blogging will stop, or at the very least become nonsensical, at least until Project Overcaffeinated Flashcards comes to an end.


Rachel said...

I think the real argument against starbucks is the incredible amount of trash it creates. They should start charging for cups (they already do, 10 cents) but they should increase that, certainly it is not hard to bring your own mug. I don't go to starbucks in order to afford keeping my feet in Guccis all year long, which is as silly as paying 3.75 for a small frapaccino. But you must admit that a starbucks habit is similar to a cigarette habit.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Many habits--and all non-habitual purchases--cost money. But depending on their impact on lifespan of the consumer, and on the lives of the workers producing the products consumed, there are moral differences.

For what it's worth, I am made happier by the occasional mocha than I would be by the designer outfit I could save up for if I didn't get it, but I'm a grad student so saving in any large-scale sense is irrelevant.

harley said...

I love coffee and I can't fathom ever having to defend that love (it's like defending any other purchase that I make that's central to my health and happiness, such as oranges, a home, and shoes), but the next time someone harangues you about your coffee habit, point out to them that coffee has several medically proven benefits:

Or the next time someone bullies you over coffee, you just send them my way and I'll take care of them for you!