Almost two years ago, I was delighted to report that I had made it through college without having become addicted to coffee. It was a point of pride for me that I didn’t partake in that human ritual of ingesting caffeine in order to make it through the day.
And now, I’m sitting in a coffee shop enjoying a delicious* iced coffee (incidentally, the cheapest item on the menu). What happened there?
*I don’t actually think it’s “delicious” but I’ll happily drink it and often welcome the extra pick-me-up… the bitter flavor reminds me a bit of strong tea, which I will probably always prefer.
I think part of it was necessity. In Germany, I didn’t always get the full night of satisfying sleep I would wish for, due in part to the church bells that rang outside my window every morning at 7 AM and in part to the early summer sunrises up there on the 51st latitude. Sometimes I needed a little something to jolt me awake before attending a 90-minute lecture given in my second language. So I would stop at a bakery first for a cup of frothy, caffeinated milk. (Lattes, latte macchiatos, or cappuccinos are my drinks of choice because I’m still a beginner.)
Atmosphere also contributed. I never considered myself a coffee-shop studier in college, as I always preferred to get my work done at the library. (At UT, I did have my pick of some of the world’s most beautiful libraries, between the festive Architecture Library and the majestic Life Sciences Library, not to mention the utilitarian-if-not-pretty PCL.) So, I never ventured into the hipster-y world of coffee shops that many of my friends loved. But Germany is home to the best bakeries in the world, so especially in the gray days of winter I loved going to a cozy Bäckerei to study, and ordering a pastry and a cup of coffee (okay, a latte macchiato) to tide me over. It felt very studious and comfy, which is a good combination for an independent researcher, it turns out.
But it was the ritual that got me. Germany is known for having some pretty bad coffee, relatively, but one thing they’ve really got down is ritual. They love their breakfast, they love their “Abendbrot” (of course they never have anything warm for dinner… that I do not love), and they love their afternoon coffee and cake. On a normal day I’ll probably choose tea over coffee, but now that I have stacks on stacks of reading to get done (and 0° windchill coming in the winter), the appeal of a hot, caffeinated beverage at a certain point of the day is very inviting.
For now, I’m still sticking to an iced form of caffeine, but I am loving the cozy coffee shop vibe as I do my first round of grad school readings and start researching potential thesis topics! [Does anyone know anything about water leasing or water rights cooperation between agriculture and industry? Holler at me.] I suppose I have my year in Germany to thank for making me into an occasional coffee drinker… but when it comes to my nightly beverage of choice, I’ll still take a tea!