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Posted by on Jun 20, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

College students vicitimized by coffeehouses, Post says

Cross posted at The Smoking Room

The Washington Post ran a rather silly evergreen (meaning it can run anytime) about the debt college students get from…buying coffee drinks everyday. What might have been entertaining as a 500-word fluffy column on curious college priorities is instead a 1,200 word, Nation-esque scold more suited to Joe Camel. OxBlog’s David Adesnik has a thorough mocking of the article for its attempt to portray college students as victims of the coffee cabal (or more precisely, cafes and especially Starbucks). (Via Instapundit.)

The article has some problems. First of all, it’s wrongheaded to compare spending on coffee to pizza, cigarettes, booze or nearly anything else you swallow or inhale. Coffee was a driving force behind the Enlightenment, and caffeine is better linked with mental and physical health than illness. It’s also quite easy to study while drinking coffee, unlike beer or junk food, and many cafes (sadly, not Starbucks) also offer free Wi-Fi with purchase, adding to a student’s (potential) productivity. Compared to studying in a boring library – that likely restricts food and drink in the building – studying in a cafe is tolerable, if not a treat.

That said, I don’t think much of any Seattle college student who regularly patronizes Starbucks when much better cafes are in the neighborhood. On Capitol Hill, where this student attends Seattle University, she could enjoy Bauhaus, Victrola, Online Coffee, and probably a half-dozen others I didn’t get around to visiting in my six years in Seattle. They all have free Wi-Fi with purchase, unlike Starbucks. (B&O Espresso is also great, although I’m not sure about Wi-Fi.) And they’ll take more care with your drink than Starbucks, which (as a national chain) has very strict rules for how to make drinks, leaving little room for barista creativity and responsiveness. Considering all the businessmen who frequent Starbucks, it’s also likely your drink will be rushed, lowering the quality. One thing’s for sure: You’ll never get a pretty flower design made from staggering the final pour from the tumbler on your latte, which always puts a smile on my face. Not surprisingly, it’s been a long time since I smiled at a coffeehouse since moving to DC.

My gripes about Seattle’s most famous business aside, I can’t blame them for college students’ choices. They know how to market, and deploy store decoration and music to perfection. Starbucks is definitely a great meeting spot if you’re under 21, or if you lack money and want a quiet meeting spot for your social group. Compared to all the crap college students spend money on – overpriced textbooks and second-rate cafeteria food (mandatory for underclassmen at some universities, like my alma mater) are prime offenders – coffee is a great purchase.

I suspect the WaPo writer is a health-shake nut irritated by coffee’s dominant position in standalone consumer drinks.

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