Round, clear, plastic, sweating through the cup as the ice melts. On a very warm summer day I gaze at my to go cup from the coffee shop down the street. It seems simple enough yet why am I drawn into a staring contest with an inanimate object? Power from the boxes pulls me in and I cannot look away. Simple in it’s form, yet changes human interactions everyday. Decaf, shots, syrup, milk, custom, drink all tiny boxes designed into the cup. The goal to streamline from the order to the barista to ensure the correct beverage is made. I begin to wonder if perhaps that has gone too far. Some modifications are necessary like you are allergic to milk so you need soy instead or cannot have extra sugar so that is omitted from the beverage. That I understand and do myself. Yet these boxes have changed the way people think about beverages. We live in a fast paced world full of individuals who want options! Choice is a great and powerful thing. But somehow we have become the experts in fields where we already have knowledgeable people. So we stifle the gifts of one to satisfy our own “expert” opinion. I know very little about cars, I would never tell the mechanic how to fix my car. Let those chosen for certain fields thrive in their own environment and I will enjoy the spoils.
The original beverage is customized beyond recognition. Coffee has become a vessel for cream and sugar. Tea is a vessel for sugar or lemonade. Even water needs flavoring. I see all kinds of drink orders during my shifts. Sometimes drinks are modified so much that it is no longer the drink that was ordered. For example, what is the difference between an extra wet cappuccino and an extra foamy latte?
I think back to my own beverage history. Bold coffee with cream and sugar. Green iced tea no sugar extra lemonade. I fell into the same pattern. Customize until the drink is something else entirely. The boxes gave me the ability to change each beverage but should I? Did I really enjoy the beverage in it’s original state if I modified it so much? I made changes to the drinks to make them sweeter and cover up the original beverage. I did not like that kind of coffee. More was out there that I had yet to discover.
Now for a personal confession….I sometimes find comfort in routine. I like eating at the same restaurants and ordering drinks that I know taste good. Yet…..that is no life of adventure. Now I see a world full of new and interesting things. I came to love trying new things because I allowed the experts in their field share their knowledge. Black coffee was something I did not enjoy so I thought. The turning point for me was a trip to coffeecon. Yes coffee conventions! Such an amazing adventure into the world of coffee. Surrounded by experts in their field,I let them guide me through this endeavor. I drank the best coffees in southern California. I tried an espresso that tastes like blackberries! I had coffee that tasted like apricots, one that smelled like nuts. The list goes on and on. I offered thanks and encouragement at each booth we stopped. The coffee community is not one of competition but of exploration and creativity. There is always room for a new and innovative method. A variety of tastes, beans, methods, and beverages brings us together.
When going out to restaurants, coffee shops or various shopping trips I cannot count the amount of times I hear this phrase, “What do you recommend?” Yet I rarely hear that while I am working. Each and everyone of us have a gift, a speciality that needs encouragement and development. An entirely different coffee shop experience can and will happen! One of enjoyment over a shared experience, conversations with new people, and discoveries of new tastes await. I challenge you to ask for a recommendation and see what wonderful things you can experience. Try before you modify. I would love to hear what you discover!