Coffee shop culture leads students to analyze spending habits

Anna Kinasewitz | Staff Writer

The buzz around coffee shops isn’t just from the caffeine.

With 500 billion cups of coffee consumed worldwide each year, it is no wonder that the ‘coffee shop’ has become a cultural phenomenon, especially with teenagers. Junior Kara Flynn said she considers herself as a coffee-shop addict and believes that they go beyond just the bean. 

“Coffee shops are so popular because they always have a good atmosphere,” Flynn said. “I think it’s really inviting for good conversation. If you’re going to get coffee with a friend, it’s a lot easier to have a good conversation over coffee than food. It’s so much different than somebody’s house.”

Flynn said she began regularly going to coffee shops her freshman year, after being introduced to the habit by seniors, and has since built up her expertise. She believes she is a prime example of the success coffee shops have in reaching the customer and growing the addiction of doing things, ‘over coffee.’

“I think everything about it is attractive to the customer,” Flynn said. “People who don’t even drink coffee will go to coffee shops because shops offer things that aren’t coffee like frappuccinos. A lot of the coffee shops that I go to have really amazing food too. The whole, ‘[something] over coffee’ shows how useful coffee shops are in that aspect of bringing people together. It’s like a part of culture.”

Flynn said that the hobby has certainly left a dent in her wallet, but she chooses to go even just for the atmosphere itself.

“I go to a shop roughly five days a week,” Flynn said. “So I spend about 20 bucks each week on coffee. But sometimes, I’ll just go and do homework and not get a coffee because I can always get the work done since and the environment is so nice.” 

With the high-price of purchasing coffee at a shop multiple times a week, the dollars can add up quickly for high school students. Senior Megan Karl said she finds it hard to justify spending so much on something that can easily be made at home, especially when the environment at a shop is distracting. 

“Spending so much on coffee unnecessarily drains wallets,” Karl said. “Little do most people know, you can actually buy the exact same syrups and milks that local coffee shops use to make your favorite drinks at home for cheaper. It’s an excuse to drink an overpriced treat, but I usually just regret it after I look at my expenses. ”

Karl also said she believes that coffee shops have capitalized on the attraction to showing off a logo or name brand products. 

“Coffee fanatics simply enjoy carrying around a cup because it has a logo,” Karl said. “Coffee companies use this to their advantage to hype up their actual products, especially during the holidays.”

Kidd Coffee employee Colleen Gorski has noticed the pattern of students coming in right after school and has seen the impact the environment has on them trying to get work done. 

“I personally would not go to a coffee shop to study because a lot of the people that I see come in to work just end up talking,” Gorski said. “I’ll be out cleaning the tables, and they’ll both have their Chromebooks open, but I can really just hear them gossiping.

The patterns with high school students don’t stop there. Gorski says the reason coffee is generally at such a high price for teens is because of what they tend to order. 

“A lot of teenagers usually get the same things, like lattes, where older people usually get things like black coffee,” Gorski said. “We’ll have people come in and it’ll take me 20 seconds to say their order back because they’ll ask for something like, ‘sugar free with almond milk to this temperature with whipped cream on top.’ [Teenagers] don’t really seem surprised when I tell them how much it costs.”

Flynn can be lumped with the latte crowd, but sees that as a big reason for choosing to get coffee out.

“I salute the people who can, but I cannot drink black coffee,” Flynn said. “I always drink lattes, that’s my go to thing. My family just got an espresso machine but we have no idea how to work it. So I still find myself always going somewhere where they know what they’re doing and they know how to make it well. I don’t want to spend the money on the stuff to make it if it’s not going to taste good.”

With talks of this environment being brought into Mason High School, Flynn said she believes that coffee shops have done for her having that same positive impact on this campus as they have on her.

“The success of a school coffee shop would depend on the quality of the coffee,” Flynn said. “I think if we reasonably priced it, it could totally feed into students’ addiction because it’d be so convenient.  I think having a space like that could take some of the stress away from school. Everything good about coffee shops would be brought into our halls. ”

Photos by Mia Sweitzer, design by Riley Johansen.