One morning last week, I found we had run out of milk and had to go get some. I passed a Dunkin Donuts on my way to the supermarket and was amazed at the long line at the drive-in window. It stretched from the drive-in window at the side of the building, round the front and spilled over from the approach lane onto the road itself. There must have been at least twenty cars idling as the drivers waited for their turn for a morning coffee and a donut (or two?).
The sight reminded me of the time before I retired, a time when I too used to wait in line for coffee. Only, I used to get my coffee at a cart parked in front of my office building in Manhattan. That coffee was both a pleasure and a necessity. A pleasure to smell, and a pleasure to drink at my desk before the office day started. With it, I usually had a buttered roll or, very rarely, a donut. This ” breakfast” assuaged the strain of the long commute and got me ready for the day ahead.
Seeing those people waiting in line for Dunkin Donuts coffee got me thinking about why we prefer a particular coffee. Some swear by Dunkin Donuts coffee, others opt for Starbucks, still others have a particular food cart they go to. What makes a particular brand of coffee a favorite.
I have a theory, ridiculous though it may sound.
Over the years, as I changed office buildings and got my coffee from vendors at different carts, I realized something about the taste of coffee. The taste you want is the one you get accustomed to. When I first started work I used to get my coffee at a Chock Full O’ Nuts and I thought it was the best. Then I moved to another building and had to get my coffee from a cart. I didn’t like it at first but after a week it seemed like I’d always been drinking it. When I tried Chock Full O’ Nuts again, the coffee seemed “different”. The experience was repeated every time I patronized a different vendor. Initial dislike soon changed to complete acceptance.
No doubt, that is why aficionados of Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donut coffee swear by their particular preference and can’t do with anything else. Me, I don’t drink coffee regularly these days and haven’t built up any brand loyalty. I stay away from Starbucks because of their exorbitant prices and I’m not one for flavored coffees. When we were in Vegas a few months ago, I had to get coffee at a Starbucks because there was no other option and I was stunned at the prices. Dunkin Donuts where I go occasionally is more reasonable and I usually have plain coffee.
Incidentally, further to this theory of liking what you get accustomed to… Because I usually drink coffee from take-out containers, I find I don’t like to drink it from the heavy mugs that it comes in at diners. I wonder if my theory applies to other things too. I like Red Stripe beer because of its ” crisp” taste. But do I like it because of that or because I got used to it and measure all other beers against it. And what’s with single malt scotches? Does my brother-in-law like MacCallans because of its distinctive taste or because he is used to it? I will have to pursue this with him next time we meet.