90’s Television and US Coffee Culture

It is no secret that I am quite the fan of coffee.  People all over the world have enjoyed coffee for centuries, yet it has only been in the last 20-odd years that coffee shops, cafés, and tea houses have become more mainstream in the States.  Although there were a few trendy local spots, mostly in larger cities, that one could go and get a cappuccino, finding a coffee shop to get a double espresso was not easy.  That is, until 90’s television made it popular.  When the mega-hit Friends came on the air in 1994, it was really the first time that the cast of characters had a reoccurring meeting place that was not a bar, but rather Central Perk, the local coffee shop, where Rachael ended up getting a job.  In like manner, the fictitious Café Nervosa on the show Frasier was the usual meeting place for doctors Frasier and Niles Crane.      Since many people love to imitate their favourite celebrities, people started going to coffee houses, just like their on-screen brethren.  Although Starbucks was founded in 1971, it wasn’t until the mid-to-late nineties that they started to balloon all over the United States, and eventually, the world. Even blockbuster movies like You’ve Got Mail released in 1998 featured the cast visiting a coffee house, further showing its popularity.  

I am not saying that Friends and Frasier are directly correlated, nor am I saying that they have a spurious relationship, but I do find it interesting that one did not see an abundance of coffee shops until the mid 1990’s. Oddly enough, even with the popularity of this relatively-new coffee culture in the United Sates, American people have yet to fully adopt European-style coffee.  Most people still have drip coffee machines in their homes rather than espresso machines, and when going out to coffee shops, they get frozen, blended drinks, or espresso drinks with syrup to make the drinks sweet, rather than that rich, bitter taste that coffee brings.  I suppose that it is a step in the right direction, but still not quite there. Most food (and even toothpaste) in the United States contains sugar or sweetener.  The American Diet focuses mainly on sweets, so it does make sense that most American people do not like the bitter taste of good coffee, but it has given them the chance to at least experience new tastes, even if the majority of people do not take advantage of it.  

That’s all—no real point, other than an observation. Enjoy your coffee, and next time you’re in your local coffee shop, try to get a macchiato or a latte without any flavouring in it—you just might like it.  

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