Fine: Drinking coffee is a social activity


Simona Fine, Columnist

Coffee. The drink of choice for many sleep-deprived college students. The perfect treat after a long day of work. The accessory that can accompany any outfit when held in a student’s hand as they walk from class to class. Almost everyone I know indulges in a coffee from time to time or, like me, has become genuinely addicted and consumes it regularly.

Every time I run into a friend on campus who I haven’t seen in a while, one of us inevitably says something along the lines of “We should get coffee sometime.” There’s an unspoken understanding that sitting in a cafe and sipping coffee together is the way to catch up.

Yet, despite this universality, I didn’t recognize drinking coffee as a form of socialization until recently.

Since leaving campus and being quarantined in my home, I haven’t been able to frequent coffee shops like I usually would during the school year.

When I ponder how I started drinking coffee, it began as a means to connect. Coffee cups graced desks at my high school and students frequently walked the halls with an iced coffee in one hand and a water bottle in the other. By our sophomore year, my friends and I were not immune to this phenomenon.

During our senior year, we regularly walked to a local deli before our morning art class and brought back large plastic-wrapped cups containing a sugary concoction that theoretically contained iced coffee. We even jokingly named one of our group chats in honor of the tradition.

Coffee and the act of getting coffee continued to be an integral part of my social life at Northwestern. Last year, a friend and I made it our mission to try a new cafe in Chicago or Evanston each week. This year, stops for coffee were still a staple of ventures into the city, even if that was not the main objective of the visit.

I also started going to coffee shops with friends when we needed to complete assignments. Whether that meant choosing to sit in BrewBike rather than other places in the library or venturing out to Philz on weekends, cafes gave us a productive place to work that still allowed us to socialize with one another.

Even when I think of the terrible coffee in the dining halls, I am reminded of drinking watery coffee over lunches in Allison with members of my residential college or during afternoon snack breaks in Sargent with my engineering classmates.

During my first few days at home, I simply made iced coffee and quickly drank it by myself. The act honestly felt sadder, but I couldn’t place why. Now I realize as silly as it sounds, I wasn’t just craving the caffeine, but the social interactions that would normally accompany it.

In the past several weeks, I’ve found a few ways of coping. Drinking coffee during Zoom calls was a great starting point. I also have tried deviating from my normal iced coffee by experimenting with more complicated recipes. So far, I’ve attempted lattes, mochas and a cinnamon latte, forcing my sister to be my taste tester and critic. She drank them, so I’d like to think I’ve been successful in this pursuit. Many cafes have been posting drink recipes, so I’ll probably try some of those next.

We also adventured to a drive-thru Starbucks as my hometown, unlike Evanston, has a dearth of local coffee shops. After waiting in line for half an hour, my sister and I secured our beverages. The “normalcy” of going to Starbucks was a refreshing change of pace from the current craziness.

Despite these temporary solutions, I must admit that I’m counting down the days before I can go out and get coffee with friends again, waiting to fill those punch cards that remain idle in my backpack and to explore new cafes.

Simona Fine is a McCormick sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.