The Working Woman's Relationship With Coffee
I thought this article was going to be easy. I popped over to my favorite coffee shop, ordered my beloved lavender latte and set up camp in the corner, ready to write about the joy coffee has brought to my life and dig into some studies that said the same. Boy, was I naive.
Like so many of our relationships, the dynamic between women and their coffee is a complicated subject. I expected to find research detailing how coffee was great for me. Or maybe they’d all say coffee was terrible for me, and I should switch to alternatives like matcha or yerba mate. But I didn’t expect to find both.
Some doctors recommended nixing the bitter bean juice entirely, some hailed moderation, and yet still others claimed the drink as the key to their own success and health. There was research showing it would make me live longer and could improve my sex life, and other studies warning me of the addictive nature of the drink and even linking it to cancer. Everywhere I looked, authors were dictating how much to drink, when to drink it, how to order it. So, once again, I found myself with a drink (of coffee) in hand, being told what to do by strangers; that relying on coffee could impact my career—or even my ability to have children.
And suddenly I realized: I, too, was part of the problem. Here I was, writing what was meant to be a well-meaning and light article, that now was just another piece of literature telling people what to do with their bodies
Well. F*ck that. Here are the facts.
How we drink it
Last year, Americans reported drinking even more coffee than ever before (and before, we drank a lot of coffee). According to the National Coffee Association, more Americans reported enjoying a daily cup of coffee—in fact, we average 2.7 cups of coffee per day.
And, despite the plethora of Instagram photos to the contrary, 79 percent of people still say they brew their coffee at home. In fact, coffee from outside sources—such as coffee shops or in the office—dropped from 40 percent in 2017 to only 36 percent in 2018. But one thing Instagram didn’t lie to you about: we do love our artisan coffee. (Especially our generation, with nearly half of millennials reporting they’d had “gourmet or artisan” coffee the day before.)
Why we drink it
Let’s start with the obvious: We don’t drink coffee for the flavor. (Unless, of course, you’re counting the lavender syrup and nonfat milk in my latte right now.) As humans, we’ve evolved to reject bitter tasting food, which includes coffee. Sure, it smells wonderful, but it’s not the taste that makes us spend an average of $1,100 a year. So, if we’re not drinking for it for the taste—or the health benefits, which are still being debated—why are we reaching for that cup of coffee?
A lot of our attraction to coffee comes down to the ritual of it. In fact, in Ethiopia—the birthplace of coffee—the drink was consumed in traditional ceremonies. Hell, in San Francisco there’s even a coffee company called Ritual centered around this very premise. By nature, we are creatures of habit, and coffee plays right into that.
Perhaps the most common answer: we’re doing it for the caffeine. The jolt, the boost, the high. We reach for that daily dose of confidence because we want to feel empowered. Sure, the caffeine can lead to poor sleeping habits, and even encourage irritability and anxiety, but when I swing by the coffee shop on the way into work I feel like freakin’ Wonder Woman. Like everything else around coffee, take even this with a grain of salt; one study examined the impact caffeine has on the way we think, finding that while coffee can be fantastic when we want to focus on a task, if we want to be creative, this laser focus can prevent our mind from exploring new and divergent thinking.
Then, there’s the other kind of buzz: the social media buzz. Last year, there were 36 million social mentions of coffee in the United States alone. Not too surprising, since we’ve all seen the people standing on chairs to get the perfect flat-lay of the perfect latte art, or the list of Instagrammable cafes to visit in new cities.
At the end of the day, coffee is a highly divisive topic, and this is all only the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t even go into the arguments around fair trade and organic, or the labor practices involved in coffee production. Confused? Yeah, me too. But I’m not about to tell you what to do. Moderation is good. Coffee is good. But, you know what else is? Listening to your own damn body. At the end of the day, you do you; keep kicking ass, with or without a cup of coffee in-hand.
Mandy spends her days working in public relations, specializing in sustainability and corporate responsibility - a job which not only fuels her soul but also pays her San Francisco rent. She spends her (virtually nonexistent) free time exploring the Bay Area craft beer scene, working on her rock collection and wishing her cat would be the big spoon sometimes. For additional sass and details of her life held together by caffeine and dry shampoo, follow her on twitter at @WayToRepresent.