Voice of the Notre Dame Prep Saints

The Seraphim

The buzz on today’s caffeine culture

Madison+Currier%27s+senior+picture+with+her+favorite+drink%2C+a+latte.+Photo%3A+Terah+Lake+Photography
Madison Currier's senior picture with her favorite drink, a latte. Photo: Terah Lake Photography

Madison Currier's senior picture with her favorite drink, a latte. Photo: Terah Lake Photography

Madison Currier's senior picture with her favorite drink, a latte. Photo: Terah Lake Photography

Sam Hertle, Staff Writer

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Senior Madison Currier would rather not eat than “go without my Dutch Bro’s.”

She is familiar with the people and drinks at the coffee establishment, which is only the beginning of her devotion to Dutch Brother’s coffee and tea. A self-professed caffeine addict, she recently took some of her official senior pictures holding a “French Toast Breve” in its holiday cup.

“I go three times every day,” said Madison as she pointed to the opposite side of the room, “and the one I go to is not even by my house. It’s so out of the way, all the way over there.”

The truth behind the caffeine culture takeover at NDP and around the country is undeniable. On the corner of many desks, a ring marks the spot of the caffeinated drink that was left there the period before.

The most popular meeting spots for study sessions and casual interactions, there are 55,246 coffee shops in the United States as of 2016. Daily consumption of espresso-based beverages has nearly tripled since 2008, according to data from a 2016 FDA study.

Between 2008 and 2016, consumption of coffee beverages soared from 13 to 36 percent among 18 to 24-year-olds. For espresso-based beverages alone, the jump became 9 to 22 percent.

Caffeine culture is defined as the conventional use of caffeinated beverages as a major movement factor in the social and economic realms of society. These growing statistics show the major impact that is to follow. Believe it or not, NDP demonstrates caffeine culture at its finest, through the insight of staff members and students alike.

Campus Chaplain Father John Parks reflected on using caffeinated “libations” in his homilies, saying, “They are part of people’s daily lives.”

Based on a Seraphim poll, NDP student’s three favorite locations for a caffeinated drink are Starbucks, Dutch Brother’s (Bro’s), and AJ’s, respectively.

To put it in simpler terms, caffeine, although it may seem like an everyday beverage or commodity, is an important factor for social and economic growth around the world, and especially at NDP.

The caffeine culture can be defined and analyzed by its history, effects, marketing and lasting impact.

Culture and History

The use of caffeine is a major part of cultural identity around the world, its history tracing back to 2700 BC with the first utilization of tealeaves for energy. Throughout history, caffeinated drinks evolved from a trading good to one of the largest industries worldwide, Coca-Cola ranking number 23 out of all corporations in market value.

But, caffeine culture today is much different than it used to be.

These sugary energy drinks hold a unique spot in our culture. Coffeehouses have proven their popularity among Americans, with 11,100 Starbucks in the United States alone. This corporation turned a common commodity into an overpriced indulgence. Other companies are following in its footsteps. The willingness of buyers to pay the price of their drinks proves their need to sustain this culture.

On the topic of chain coffee shops like Starbucks, NDP network administrator Martin Aber-Song said he values the history and tradition in smaller coffee shops: “If you take the time to look,” there are many smaller shops who take the time and energy to make actual quality coffee.

Something that has not changed about caffeine culture is its ability to bring people together. According to the article “Caffeine Culture,” it “describes a social atmosphere or series of associated social behaviors that depends heavily upon coffee, particularly as a social lubricant.”

Interestingly, in another survey about the caffeine culture at NDP, 20 percent of students responded that they often purchase caffeinated drinks for social purposes.

This does not necessarily mean that 20 percent of students feel negative peer pressure to buy a caffeinated drink. Often, Kairos groups will meet up at Dutch Bro’s to enjoy each other’s company. Study groups meet at the Starbucks only minutes from campus. Friends will meet at AJ’s on a late start day to sit outside and enjoy a tea. The truth is that these caffeinated drinks are difficult to escape on a social level for students.

Not including the current year, at least one of the holy trinity of caffeine stops–Dutch Bros, Starbucks, AJ’s–has made an appearance in the pop culture page in the NDP yearbook for the past six years. In making these caffeine hubs popular spots for social interaction, we are making our own history.

Positive and negative health effects

With such a fast growing trend, it is important for students to remain mindful of the effects of caffeine culture, especially as a consumption commodity.

The U.S. population consumed 353 servings a year of caffeine each, according to the FDA. As far as NDP goes, 80 percent of students purchase at least one caffeinated beverage per week, according to the student poll.

Source: GoodHouseKeeping.com. Infographic:  Sam Hertle

AP biology teacher, Mr. Chris Johnson added that, based on the idea that it has been consumed by humans throughout history, caffeine, unless in unreasonable amounts, does not necessarily have many negative implications on the society that embraces its culture, but the supplemental sugar and substances can.

The most commonly purchased drink at Starbucks in Arizona is an Iced Caramel Macchiato, which has 34 grams of sugar and 190 calories, the same as three Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.

Mr. Aber-Song agreed that the caffeine in these drinks is not the scary part; the taste-enhancing additions that make coffee better tasting can be attributed to the growth of chain-coffee shops, but they also add an unnecessary 20 grams of sugar or 300 calories. 

But, even with the health concerns from additional sugar and additives, Dutch Bro’s lover Madison Currier seemed not to be fazed: “There are no health benefits to what I order. It is very unhealthy.” 

On the topic of the caffeine, social studies teacher David Lamb explained that he drinks milk to combat the dehydration he faces from the four to five cups of coffee he drinks per day, another common issue that students should be mindful of.

As far as caffeine’s effects, in student language, for all that have done the Licorice Half-Life lab with chemistry teachers  Charlies Nguyen or Melissa Riordan, caffeine has a very short digestive half-life. This means that it does not take the body long to recognize and utilize the substance. Therefore, caffeinated drinks consumed early enough will not necessarily mess with sleep schedules, good news for those who rely on their eight hours of sleep.

Lastly, to bust a commonly misunderstood myth, caffeine does not and will not have any effect on height, according to a New York Times article. This old wives’ tale is said to have begun because of some sort of study that was related to osteoporosis that blamed caffeine, but coffee was wrongly accused, a relief to the short coffee drinkers of the world.

Marketing and financial impact

The psychological marketing behind the caffeine culture “identity” is a common theme among psychoanalysts, Mr. Johnson said.

Goods and products that are marketed for consumption can be categorized based on the needs of the consumers who purchase them. Mr. Johnson’s resource, HBR.org, explains consumerism based on the idea that all products and services “address the four kinds of needs: functional, emotional, life changing and social impact.”

The goods and products that are included in the caffeine culture fall under social impact, giving the sense of identity to those who take part in the culture. This explains why these coffee shop chains are so popular, even with prices that can be as much as $5 per cup.

Between 2001 and 2006, market growth of energy drinks exceeded 50 percent annually, based on a study done by the FDA. Among students at NDP, energy drinks are a popular source of energy based on The Seraphim survey. At $2 each on average, these are not necessarily cheap either.

Senior Chris Cranston poses with a Monster Energy drink. Photo: Sam Hertle.

At NDP alone, based upon a survey of 57 randomly selected students, 80 percent said that they visit a store to buy a caffeinated drink at least one or more times per week. Out of this number, 25 percent visit one more than once per day.

The culture that chooses to embrace the caffeine identity will also choose to pay for it. Eighty percent stated that they spend $5 or more per week on caffeinated beverages alone.

The average cup of tea nowadays costs $2.81, and the average latte $3.78. The average NDP student may need a drink Monday to get the party started, Wednesday to refuel halfway through, and Friday as an award for making it through the week. Regardless of the cause for buying the drink, 40 percent of students said that they spend more than $10 per week.

Johnson he can’t bring himself to pay $3 for a brand name cup of coffee because his family didn’t have the money to spend on extravagances when growing up.  But, speaking about the implications of this culture at NDP, he explained that it is one of the more common micro-societal standards within this school.

Fad or here to stay

When trends like the caffeine culture take off and become so widely popular, sociologists often wonder if it is a lasting part of the everyday lives of humans.

Mr. Johnson pointed out how Father Parks works coffee references into his homilies during Mass to interest the majority of students. Most commonly, he found that he mentions Dutch Bro’s or AJ’s as a because they are an important part of students’ lives.

Theology teacher Thomas Coast does not belong in coffee mainstream; he only drinks coffee “when he’s desperate.” He pointed at his so-called “circus coffee”–one with more cream than coffee–saying it is not an everyday drink for him. Besides the fact that he does not like the taste, he calls himself a morning person who would not benefit from caffeine, therefore, does not need to consume it in the morning.

But, history teacher Mr. Lamb is only one of the many teachers who depend on the drink to get through their day.

Explaining his habitual coffee need, Mr. Lamb said that he “has four to five cups every day.” For energy and taste, he started drinking coffee in college and can no longer escape the drink. Habitual and dependent coffee drinkers often do not necessarily associate with the growing trend of coffee that is mostly “not coffee.”

Sugary whip cream double chocolate lattes often bring a look of horror to the faces of the black-coffee drinkers of the Silent Generation. Caffeine culture today is often believed to be a fad that millennials and centennials will one day be grouped with cigarette smoking and soda pop.

Meghan Pipitone holds her daily AJ’s iced tea. Photo: Sam Hertle.

Mr. Aber-Song is rather doubtful of the longevity of the caffeine culture today. With fast-food chain-like coffee shops such as Starbucks and Dutch Bro’s, he stated, “They forget about caffeine all together.” Culture-wise, he said they are calling things coffee that are not coffee.

At NDP, Mr. Aber-Song noticed that students generally “believe that it is cool to have a brand-name cup.” Nevertheless, it does taste good because it is “probably only 10 percent coffee,” he said. But, it is a social necessity and much less harmful than other fads from past years.

But, coffee beverages are the most important sources of caffeine, accounting for more than 50 percent of caffeine intake for the adult U.S. population. In alignment with the rich history of coffee drinking, this may prove that the drink is the base of the culture, and the sugary additives are a fad in themselves.

The argument for the authenticity of the caffeine culture basically is backed by the rich history of coffee, tea and caffeinated drinks as a common household item.

As one who drinks about “50 ounces” of green tea in one day, equivalent to two large AJ’s iced teas, Father Parks spoke on behalf of the tea drinkers of the world, saying that he benefits from the antioxidants in tea. These health reasons come to show some of the history in tea, its uses 3,000 years ago similar to today’s.

For students who also are slowly gaining a dependency on the drink, the future on NDP campus may be looking up. The coffee culture is only putting its roots in campus now, and it is sure to be around a little while longer.

As to coffee being sold on campus, dean of students Carl Hess said, “It might happen. I don’t know. I would consider it, even though there may be a downside that I’m not thinking of. But, I’m not opposed to talking.”

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The buzz on today’s caffeine culture