Coffee: Is it the taste or the story that we’re obsessed with?

I’m fascinated by coffee. I love everything about it – the taste, the smell, and of course that wonderful feeling of relaxation that a nice cup of coffee can bring.

But the more I think about, the more it dawns on me that coffee is no longer just a type of hot beverage. In other words, when we buy a coffee we’re not buying just the taste or the drink itself.

Instead what we’re buying is some feel-good. Yes, drinking good coffee is a nice experience that affords us the opportunity to step out of the madness of our lives and indulge in some relaxation!

So to me, coffee has become a really important part of our culture: it’s a symbol (or should that be a panacea?) for modern day living and the way we live our lives.

Is coffee about taste, feeling or the power of branding?

Though we joke about coffee being an important part of our day, the fact is that for our generation it actually is. Genuinely.

But why, that’s the burning question?!

Could it be that we have a physiological need for it on the basis that it helps us escape or unwind? Is it some sort of association with socialising and relaxing? Is it that, taste aside, it simply makes us feel good about ourselves? I mean let’s face it, the brand name on that little disposable coffee cup says a lot about who we are and what motivates us, right?

Clearly, all of these questions suggest that there’s no one definitive right answer when it comes to looking for the reasons why coffee shops appear to be sprouting on every street corner. I reckon there are a multitude of reasons, including the following:

Perceived status

I do believe that much like having those famous white apple earphones in your ears as you walk to work, drinking a coffee from a disposable cup emblazoned with a chic and sophisticated coffee logo makes us all feel good about ourselves – and help us to project an air of sophistication.

(Yes, of course people buy coffee because they like the taste but if it’s purely down to taste alone then why don’t we all just make our own and drink it from a thermal cup on the go?)

The power of branding

Linked to the point about perceived status above, more and more coffee brands (global and local) are cropping up, with each one seeking to become slicker, more hip, and more desirable to the ever-growing coffee audience, than the next. And though you might not even realise it, the coffee brand that’s emblazoned on your cup as you walk along in your own little world says a lot about you and your social status.

Our need to always fit in

Powerful branding is all about making the consumer feel that they simply can’t afford not to miss out. And when it comes to coffee, I have no doubt that the herd mentality is a big factor in the growth of coffee drinking: if everyone is drinking coffee from the latest hip coffee brand then I need to go there and be seen to be on trend!

Cultural evolution

Whereas a decade ago the word ‘coffee’ invariably meant instant granules and instant, the modern consumer is much more discerning, much better travelled, and much more knowledgeable when it comes to tastes, flavours, brands, and all things retail. In other words, times have changed: we have all evolved as consumers and both the way in which we drink coffee, as well as our appreciation for the many different coffee options, means that it is simply a part of modern culture.

It’s now a beverage for all ages – not just older people

Whereas coffee was once a drink exclusively ‘for adults’, now children as young as 3 or 4 will ask for a ‘baby-cino’ or something similar. In other words, coffee shops now offer coffee options for kids – and when kids grow up with anything, it becomes second nature to them and remains with them as they progress to adulthood.

So, next time you’re walking to work during the morning rush hour, or simply watching people gathered in groups, check out how many of them are sipping from a branded coffee cup. Honestly, you’ll be amazed!