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Coffee: An American Tale

Brandon King / Red Dirt Report
Logan Summers enjoys a cup of coffee before he goes to work.
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It’s six in the morning when the alarm clock rang throughout the one bedroom apartment. Logan Summers knew that he had to be at work by seven. His efforts to get up wouldn’t be successful until he made his way into the kitchen.

Half an hour before his shift at IHOP, the hum of the old metallic coffee pot brewed.

“There’s nothing like the smell of coffee in the morning,” Summers said. His eyes are glazed over by sleep deprivation and lack of caffeine. If it weren’t for the promise of money, one would have to wonder if he’d get up at all.

Five beeps yell out from the kitchen. It’s ready.

Summers drops his morning routine and goes for his favorite mug. Sniffing the steam, his eyes close and a smile spreads across his face. One gulp, two gulps and he’s off.

Less than 10 minutes go by and he’s out the door. A metallic travel mug in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Just before he got into his car, he took a long drag before putting it out in the parking lot.

Another swig of coffee and he started his 2004 Honda Accord.

“A day in the life,” Summers said. “I’ll tell you what, without this stuff, there’s no telling what I’d be doing. Hell, I’m practically a zombie without it.”

Logan Summer’s story is one of many throughout the United States.

According to a Gallup poll, two-thirds of U.S. adults drink at least one cup of coffee a day.

The age demographic for coffee consumption ranges from 7-90 years old.

Coffee has become a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle in America. It’s the first meeting place for old friends and older flings. Major chains and local shops are hubs for humanity for people to be with one another.

Has it always been like this? Have we become addicted to coffee?

One of the main components of coffee is the rush of caffeine that keeps a person going. Chances are you may have seen a sign over the old pots which read, “For Closers Only”.

Caffeine has been defined by medical professionals as “a stimulant that acts on the brain and nervous system.”

It’s the side effects that continue to bring people back. A rush of energy that saves you from feeling your eyes droop into dreams is what we need at various times. What’s often overlooked are some of the negative results that come from the coffee we drink.

Anything from insomnia, stomach acid build-up or rising blood pressure can happen to anyone who drinks coffee without moderation.

“I’ll tell you this: there’s nothing like feeling the drop of a caffeine rush,” Summers said. “I hate it but that’s why I keep drinking. Yeah, I guess you could say that I’m addicted but it’s a tasty one.”

The word “addiction” has been used to describe the involuntary need for coffee. The same Gallup poll said 25 percent of U.S. adults said they were addicted to the drink.

Only 10 percent said they would consider cutting back on their habit.

While the Center for Disease Control deems caffeine as an addictive substance, it still holds the United States in its clutches.

As Summers settles in for work, I sit in the booth closest to the door. One after the other, I see all types of people shuffle to their tables. The morning air fills with coffee grounds being brewed over copper pots.

Each table has a pot of their own. The morning drifts into the afternoon, yet the calls for more coffee never stops. Hell, it doesn’t slow down.

“This isn’t new,” Summers said. “You might as well call this joint the International House of Coffee. Then again, I think some place like Starbucks might have a problem with that.”

2 year old Jen Hughes works at the Starbucks off of May and 36. Hughes started at the store in order to have a stable job and wanted to use it as, “a stepping stone.” Four years later, she continues to serve Oklahomans coffee as the Shift Manager.

Hughes plans to move on from her life at Starbucks. In the meantime, she manages a team during what is called the “peak”. It’s the two busiest hours of the day and it ranges between 6:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.

“On a daily basis it averages to about 600-900 transactions but it really depends on the day,” Hughes said. “Fridays and Saturdays are busier so we make more money and see more people.”

Hughes went on to talk about the type of people that she sees comes through her store.

“We see all sorts of people,” Hughes said. “If Starbucks is anything, it’s definitely diverse. Big time business people, doctors, nurses, artists, actors; it’s crazy.”

It’s hard to remember a time when there wasn’t a Starbucks on every corner in America. Before its founding in 1971 in Seattle, coffee shops were tacked onto places like diners or made into small kiosks in shopping centers.

Since that time, 7,880 Starbucks stores have opened across the nation. More than 30,000 specialty coffee shops locally owned have been operated since 2015.

According to the National Census Bureau, the number of coffee shops is estimated to rise by 20 percent over the next five years.

The clock strikes one. It’s break time for Logan’s double shift and he sits at a table for two. One sip after the next, he sips on his black coffee while looking out on the half empty parking lot. The crowds have left but are sure to come back for dinner.

Just before he can get comfortable, Summers boss yells from the back. He’s asked to make three more pots of coffee before the dinner rush shows.

“It never ends,” Summers said.

A group of teens comes through the door. They seat themselves by the window facing the busy road and ask for an order of coffee. The three keep to themselves while they pour each other a cup.

The young woman of the duo of men raises the empty pot of coffee. An older waitress makes her way to the table.

“Excuse me ma’am,” the woman said. “Is there any way that the three of us can get our own pot of coffee? Believe me, it’s for your benefit.”

Logan shakes his head as his glasses fog over from the steam of a new cup. He went on to say that this is a usual event and it happens by teens and older people.

“I don’t know why but there’s something sweet about people getting together over coffee,” Summers said.

Derek Scarsella is a 35 year old student at the University of Oklahoma. While raising her daughter Stella, she never goes a day without a cup of coffee.

“I eat, sleep, breathe, and drink the stuff,” Scarsella said.

Scarsella believes that human nature and coffee is as natural as friendship. She said that it’s, “a sacred American ritual.”

“By nature humans are devoted to routine and fellowship. Our ancestors gathered around fires for storytelling. Today, we have coffee,” Scarsella said. “We gather with our friends over steaming cups and catch up on life. It feels primal.”

Summers remembers his first cup of coffee. It’s one of many memories that he shared with his father who passed away in 2011.

“I must’ve been about six or seven at the time. My old man was working for the electric company and doing the best he could to raise me,” Summers said. Logan’s mother left before Logan could remember what she looked like. “Before he would go to his shift, we would sit at the table and drink coffee. He knew that it was the only time we had together before he came to pick me up from our neighbor’s house.”

“Those times with him mean more to me than you’ll ever know,” Summers said. “Drinking coffee is just another way for me to remember him for who he was.”

He took a final drink from his stained white mug. Plopping it on the table, he smiled and went back to work.

“Plus, it makes me feel like I can do anything every time I take a drink. You can’t beat that,” Summers said.

The cash register in the lobby continues to chime with each transaction. It’s become musical over time.

The United States has the coffee industry to thank for the accumulation of jobs. About 1,694,710 jobs in the U.S. economy to be exact.

According to the National Coffee Association USA, U.S. consumers spent $74.2 billion on coffee in 2015. In the same research paper it reads, “the total economic impact of the coffee industry in the United States in 2015 was $225.2 billion.”

This number makes up for approximately 1.6 percent of the total U.S. gross domestic product.

Coffee has always been a more international experience. In fact, it is rare for Americans to drink coffee that is domestically grown. From a report done by Business Insider, there are only three places claimed by the United States that makes coffee: California, Hawaii and the territory of Puerto Rico.

Over $4 billion dollars are spent by the U.S. government in imports for coffee. The United States imports from countries like Columbia, Bolivia, and Vietnam.

It’s closing time for the IHOP. Logan clocks out and gathers the tips he made for the day. By the time we make it back to the apartment, Summers pours the remainder of the cold pot of coffee into his mug.

He places it in the microwave for one minute and waits. Summers laughs when asked if drinking coffee at 9 p.m. was a good idea.

“I’ve done it since I was a teenager and I’m still kicking,” Summers said. “Sure, I have to drink water in between cups but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it at all.”

A recent study reported by CNN said that people who drank two to four cups a day had an 18% lower risk of death compared with people who did not drink coffee. Without moderation, coffee has been known to increase heart rates and produce a dependency to caffeine.

Logan finishes his cup of coffee and cleans his pot thoroughly. As he’s getting for bed, he writes a message n a note and slaps it to the fridge.

It reads “GET MORE COFFEE.”

“I don’t plan on stopping any time soon and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Summers said. “In a time which most people in the nation cannot agree with each other, coffee might be the only thing we can agree on.”

“Coffee is what makes the heart smile.”

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About the Author

Brandon King

Brandon King is a journalism student at OCCC, working towards becoming a professional writer....

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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