March 11, 2011

On Coffee and Habit

Ask any person why they drink the coffee they do, and aside from the usual "I like it", the answer is probably going to have something to do with habit. This is an assumption on my part, but I think it stands up.

The very act of drinking coffee is ritualistic, or at the very least, habitual. So the specifics are, it follows, likely to be influenced by that habit as well. There is a favorite mug, and that coffee which seems to pair best with it. It's the morning ritual, as stimulating in its comforting sameness as the couple hundred milligrams of caffeine.

Perhaps that's why I'm still drinking Seattle's Best Coffee. I no longer work for the brand, of course, so whatever loyalty I felt in that regard should have dissipated. Neither can I make the case that I need to be familiar with it, in order to better describe and sell it.

And yet, for the past few weeks, it's SBC's Number 1 that I've been drinking. Ask me why, and aside for the usual "I like it", the answer is probably going to have something to do with habit. That is, I've been drinking SBC for a while now, and thus developed a taste for it. And there is the matter of taste, which shouldn't be totally overlooked. The Number 1 is as light a roast as you're likely to find, biting and acidic, a perfect morning kick-start, in my estimation. I called it a marriage of orange juice and coffee when I first tried it, and that sweet tanginess persists.

But it's not just about taste, because it can't just be about taste. As much as I do think SBC is quite good, that has to be parsed in relative terms. That is, it's quite good, considering it was roasted in another city, quite some time ago, then shipped here, to sit on a shelf until purchased. There are local roasters from whom I could buy beans, purveyors of single origin artisan coffee roasted yesterday.

And yet I'm not buying those beans, though, by any objective criteria you wanted to apply, they are probably "better". Certainly, they would lend me more credibility. There is something intuitively off about a coffee blogger - and thus, one might not incorrectly assume, something of a coffee snob - choosing corporate coffee over local stuff, mass roasted blends over carefully crafted single origin beans.

And yet that's what I'm doing. Is habit the answer? To an extent, I'm sure it must be. Working with SBC, I've been surrounded by it, drinking and preparing it for a while now. So there is a familiarity to it. However biting the acidity of Number 1, it is a friendly bite, like that from a pet. You know it; you trust it.

That familiarity is valuable, given the context in which coffee is consumed. It is a ritual, as much a part of my mornings as the sun rising and fighting the urge to skip showering. Consistency, not changing the variables too much, or even at all, ensures that ritual's continued success.

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