Coffee as a conversation starter

Tumble outta bed
And I stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
And yawn and stretch
And try to come alive…

Dolly Parton echoed the sentiment of millions of coffee drinkers when she referred to coffee as a “cup of ambition” in her classic song, 9 to 5. And for many consumers, coffee is just that — a caffeine “kick” or “fix” that they use to start their days or when they need a “pick me up.”

Coffee has the reputation for being an energy boost that is consumed on-the-go and often associated with jitters. Tea, conversely, conjures relaxing, calming, and soothing thoughts.

It may give many the jump-start they need, but coffee is also a highly social beverage, one that brings people together, often in casual, relaxed settings. (It is not called a “coffee break” for nothing!) How often do people “meet over a cup of coffee” whether it is at breakfast, in the afternoon, around “happy hour,” or in the evening? How many diners end their restaurant repasts with a cup of coffee (breakfast, lunch or dinner)? And how many friends or family members “put on a pot of coffee” to talk?

Coffee is Ethiopia’s national drink and is consumed throughout the day, and rarely alone. In Ethiopia today, in fact, the coffee ceremony is still more than a simple cup of coffee, it is an integral part of the social and cultural life in the country. An invitation to attend a traditional buna coffee ceremony is considered an expression of friendship or respect and is a prime example of Ethiopian hospitality. This special ceremony can take several hours.

In her keynote presentation during the National Coffee Association’s (NCA) Virtual Convention (3-5 March), journalist Michele Norris, founder of The Race Card Project™, discussed race, culture and identity, and even touted the power of coffee. “Narrative has power, telling your story has power, but listening to someone else has power because it can build a dialogue, a conversation, a relationship,” she said explaining that coffee can be that conversation starter because “people come together over coffee and often have the most meaningful conversations over coffee.”

Scientific evidence continues to reveal the health benefits of coffee. So, maybe now is also the time for coffee’s messaging to move beyond that of a just a jolt of caffeine to one of a healthy beverage, which brings people together, and what a better way to start than with a conversation?

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