The Classic American Coffee House
Coffee is a fairly popular drink in the United States of America. From fairly humble beginnings it has become a celebrated beverage with its own culture that goes along with it. This essay seeks to explore the various elements that make up that culture from its history to its likely future.
Perhaps from right after the Boston Tea Party, it became understood that tea was a British beverage, something to be associated with the colonial powers that were no longer in charge of the new country that would become America. As a result, the search for an iconic beverage was needed. With its bitterness and high caffeine content, coffee was perfect. It had more of a masculine air to it than foppish ‘tea’ and its popularity spread like wildfire.
In more modern times the coffee house evolved as the American answer to the European cafe. Part of its uniqueness came from its menu. With no need to obey traditional dictates on coffee, new flavors emerged. The mocha choca lattes and frappaccinos were only the beginning and eventually seasonal favorites like pumpkin pie joined the mix. Most of these would be unrecognizable in the birth place of espresso.
Music has become integrated in coffee house culture as well. Lone singers armed with guitars have been known to set up shop and play to patrons for tips. Even a few famous musicians have gotten their start in the industry in this manner and gone on to make millions of dollars off of the talents they gained in such humble settings. While these singers were once predominantly folk musicians, there has been more diversity in the musical styles of late.
In what can be seen as an odd twist of fate, the coffee house has begun to receive some criticism from the same public that once adored it. The specialty drinks that were once purchased and consumed with pride now seem to be an unnecessary expense in the aftermath of a major economic downturn and the subsequent loss of confidence in the economy. Added to this, many of the additives used to create the new coffee mixtures are high in calories which is less appealing to a more health conscious public. Some have even begun to serve tea to give patrons an alternative so that the whole thing comes full circle.
As much as the times have changed and people along with it, the American coffee house remains iconic. It will adapt with the times as it always has.