Caffeine helps get conversation started one sip at a time
That blessed companion that keeps many a student awake after a night of studying. A motivator like no other. A warm comfort on a cold day. Something that brings people together.
“Not only do most students enjoy coffee and use the act of ‘going to get coffee’ as a type of social event, but coffee is obviously also used as an energy booster,” Samantha Moran, a Liberty senior, said. “With tons of homework, studying, work, social life and other obligations, our schedules as college students can become overwhelming and cause us exhaustion. The caffeine in coffee is useful to help keep students awake on late nights of studying and to help them wake up in the morning for class.”
According to the Coffee & Health organization, the caffeine in coffee acts as a moderate stimulant of the central nervous system, causing the mind to be more alert, as well as improve attention span and concentration.
“I love the taste of it,” Lindsey Varble, a Liberty sophomore and Dunkin’ Donuts employee, said. “It keeps me awake and (it’s) something to focus on when I’m sitting in class. I think a lot of people drink coffee to stay awake.”
To celebrate National Coffee Day on Sept. 29, Dunkin’ Donuts gave away free hot or iced Dark Roast to everyone who wanted a cup, something that many students took advantage of. At one point, the line for the free coffee stretched from the cash register all the way to the side door of the Vines Center.
“It was pretty intense,” Varble said. “Everybody wanted the free coffee.”
Not only does coffee serve to keep the brain alert, but it can be an emotional support as well.
“It’s a comforting substance,” Steven Meisinger, a Liberty junior, said.
Meisinger, a self-proclaimed Starbucks fan, said he began drinking coffee his freshman year at Liberty, developing a regular coffee drinking habit over time.
“I really didn’t like coffee (at first),” Meisinger said. “It was almost too bitter. But gradually, it sort of took the same rich taste as a warm cup of hot chocolate when I was little. So now, when I drink a cup of hot chocolate, I want it to taste more like coffee.”
J.J. Cole, professor of sociology at Liberty, agrees that coffee is a comforting beverage.
“I think it’s a nurturing thing,” Cole said. “Scent is a big draw.”
Cole, who has worked in residential group homes, understands firsthand how the smell of freshly brewed coffee can change someone for the better.
“We always had a pot of coffee going for people,” Cole said. “But I always wanted it first thing in the morning, because when you would walk in the door, or you would have visitors, I’d want them to smell the smell of coffee. It really kind of released some of the aspects of relaxation.”
Sarah Castro, a senior and supervisor at the Barnes & Noble Café in the Liberty bookstore, began drinking coffee at a young age, but did not become a habitual drinker until her junior year, when she needed something to keep her awake while studying. Castro says she loves seeing students gather together for coffee while she is on the job.
“It’s just neat to see people come in to the bookstore, and everyone knows people there,” Castro said. “People say ‘Let’s go get coffee,’ just to be able to talk. It gives them an environment where friends can get together.”
Sip by sip, coffee cultivates community.
“I’ve meet so many people at the bookstore (while) working there,” Castro said. “I think that it’s neat to be able to make friends that way.”
Something happens when people meet together over a cup of coffee, be it hot or iced, plain or flavored.
“Coffee is the central element in many a fellowship hall in our congregations — and perhaps in most,” Edward Martin, professor of philosophy at Liberty, said. “The activity of sharing together, or ‘koinonia’ in Greek, means ‘fellowship.’ The Lord causes, and indeed is himself, community. But the Lord uses the physical to express the spiritual. Coffee often plays a role there.”
Coffee invites. It stretches out its aromatic arms and beckons one to come and partake of its riches.
“Coffee is just a beverage, but it can be a transcendental focus that helps people on to some higher purpose, some common rallying point,” Martin said. “It can be a catalyst to help people keep going, to improve, to talk things out. That refill just might be worth it and (initiate) final settlements and concluding resolutions in an all-important meeting.”
“Let’s get coffee” has become a sort of catchphrase in today’s society, especially among college students. But what does this phrase actually mean?
“I think it’s very much a statement of, ‘I want to spend time with you,’” Cole said. “It’s what slows us down. It really is a catchphrase of ‘Let’s have some serious fellowship time.’ And that’s part of the Christian mission — just taking the time to notice and impart and encourage. Coffee can be one of the vehicles that does that.”
For many college students, the pace of life is often hurried. Homework keeps them up at night, and technology clamors for their attention. Life begins to feel crowded. But still, something inside longs for community and connection.
“Part of that is the Holy Spirit within us yearning to have that fellowship time,” Cole said. “We grow stronger as we connect with others in the faith.”
In the beginning, God made man for community. He also created the coffee bean.
“In our fast-paced world where we are tempted to focus more on our electronic devices than our flesh and blood friends and colleagues and co-sharers in the body together as one, having coffee together is a way of saying ‘I care for you — you are important to me,’” Martin said. “The victory is sitting, breathing, struggling, attentive in the chair next to us or across the table, with the steaming brew between us. Tennyson said that a friend is a sheltering tree. I think he would add that a good shared coffee is a sheltering taste: hopefully smooth, rich and a remembrance of good things past and good things yet to come.”
Visitors of the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall and Hill City Bistro (the dining hall at the Annex) consume, on average, 812 cups of coffee per day. Approximately 1,500 coffees or coffee-based beverages are sold daily at Liberty’s retail dining locations, such as Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks.
GRAF is a feature reporter.