There’s been a game-changing development at the coffee station on my floor. The old multi-pot coffee device — the kind that is directly linked to the water supply so that steaming tureens of joe can be prepared to sate the thirsty appetite of java junkies — has been ignominiously unplugged and cast aside. Now we’ve got a Flavia machine instead.
Is this change a big deal, really? I’ll say! The old machine was my dependable morning friend. Every day when I got to the office my inviolate routine was to head directly to the coffee station, turn the machine on, remove the basket, insert a fresh filter, cut open a coffee packet and dump it in, press the brew button, and then listen to the hot water and coffee grounds start to cluck and burble and work their caffeinated magic. By the time I checked email and finished my first few chores of the day a fresh pot was there, black and fragrant and ready to fill my cup.
But coffee habits have changed. Now when you walk around downtown Columbus you inevitably see throngs of people carefully gripping their coffee cups, taking a scalding sip now and then as they head to their workplaces. Some of them won’t drink “office coffee” any more, so there is less need for multiple pots of coffee on the burner, and much of the coffee that is brewed goes unconsumed and ultimately gets poured down the drain.
Hence, the Flavia. Rather than making a hearty, bubbling pot of coffee, it hisses out a solo cup prepared from pre-measured foil packets that slide into a slot that snaps out of the machine. And it’s not really a full cup, either — as least not in my massive mug. No, the Flavia machine fills to about the halfway point and stops. It makes my morning coffee look a bit lost and overwhelmed and forlorn, but at least I’m not being wasteful.
Office coffee should be . . . well . . . office coffee. People shouldn’t be expecting Starbucks quality, or Starbucks flavor.
Office workers aren’t like the people in a coffee commercial, having deep, meaningful conversations over their steaming mug of cafe au lait. Instead, they just want to slug back a potable shot of caffeine at their desks to help them stay awake and alert during the work day.
So why is there this push on to foist flavored coffee on those of us who are used to the basic swill? At our office, they are always experimenting with new flavors that bring unwelcome smells to the coffee station. One day recently, for example, they were brewing some kind of cinnamon-scented blend. Cinnamon-flavored coffee? Hey, folks . . . this isn’t Morocco, nor is it the North Pole. I don’t need my cup of joe to smell like a Christmas cookie or pumpkin pie. The same goes for chocolate-flavored coffee, or any of the other spiced-up concoctions that the coffee sellers are peddling.
Office coffee is, by definition, an institutional beverage. It is, or should be, basic no-frills stuff. Can’t we just leave it that way?
Yesterday at the office I went to get a cup of coffee at about 9 a.m. and saw, to my slight surprise, that the pot I had made an hour or so earlier had remained untouched by any other person on the floor. It brought home the fact that fewer and fewer people, at our firm at least, drink coffee brewed at the coffee stations on their floors.
When I started at the firm, my office was on a floor of serious coffee junkies. The rule was that you brewed a pot if you were the first person in to the office in the morning, and woe betide the individual who left a mostly empty pot on the burner so that the remnants would turn first to thick sludge and then to a rock hard coating on the bottom of the pot. Our three-burner coffee station was kept working from morning to night and people guzzled coffee throughout the workday. The office coffee matrons sprinted from floor to floor to stay up with the overwhelming demand. Even at 6 or 7 p.m. there was a fresh pot ready to be consumed by the lawyer cranking out a brief or putting finishing touches on a deal.
No more. Now, pots of coffee get brewed and then barely get touched, and fewer and fewer pots get brewed in the first place. I still drink the “firm coffee,” and I feel like an endangered species. I’m not sure that there is anyone else on the floor who drinks more than a half cup a day.
Why is that? Some of it may be health concerns; I seem to recall hectoring news stories saying that drinking too much coffee (like overconsumption of just about everything) is bad for you. I have noticed more people walking around with water bottles or energy drinks or cans of Coke. I also see people sauntering by with Starbucks cups, so no doubt some folks have stopped drinking firm coffee with the rise, on every corner, of tony coffee shops that offer expensive, sugary concoctions. The simple unflavored black coffee offered at the firm may just be fighting a losing battle against the appalling coffee snobbery that is sweeping the nation.
These kinds of minor social changes are interesting and inevitable in ever-changing modern America. Still, I miss the old days, when the fourth floor of the 68 building was proud of its robust coffee consumption and it was commonplace to meet a fellow lawyer at the coffee station and have a quick chat as you each poured the next cup of joe.