We all have our coffee consumption habits. Growing up, I remember my dad standing over the kitchen sink first thing in the morning, looking out the window as he sipped from his coffee mug. It’s not something I really took note of as a kid, or even as a teenager. It was more just a fact of life: Dad drinks his coffee over the kitchen sink.
Now, with a toddler of my own, and every morning an epic adventure to get out the door, I so get it. My dad was holding on to his sanity for dear life, and the coffee and that window were his lifelines. While the rest of the house collapsed into chaos, his ritual pulled him through: Come downstairs, brew a pot of coffee, toast a couple slices of bread, and look longingly out the window as he consumed them both. All of this happened within a small corner of the kitchen. In other words, he didn’t cross our paths and we didn’t cross his until the ritual was performed.
My dad is one of the kindest, gentlest people you’d ever hope to meet. But three kids making and eating breakfast at once, morning after morning, is going to grate on even the biggest of hearts. I see that now. He wasn’t avoiding us so much as he was simply easing himself into his day. The guy had sacrificed almost every other inch of his personal space for us. All he asked was that we grant him a corner of the kitchen that none of us had any reason to be in anyway.
I didn’t start drinking coffee until relatively late in life. Fresh out of college, I was coming off my first all-nighter at work. I picked up a several-days-old pastry from the 7-Eleven across the street from my office and, for no reason that I can remember now, a large cup of coffee bogged down with creamer and sugar. Even though I was running on fumes, that was maybe the most productive morning I’ve ever had in my life. I haven’t gone a morning without coffee since.
A lot has changed over those 20 years. But my dad, I’m pretty certain, still drinks his first cup of coffee every morning standing over the kitchen sink. I’ve tried to enhance those moments—and perhaps discreetly express my solidarity with him—by gifting him quality coffee beans, a grinder, and a French press through the years. They’ve become the tools of my own morning ritual, and my lifelines, too, if I’m being honest.
What they really are, though, are relics. And my dad and I are dinosaurs. I’ve suspected it for a while now, each time I indulge and dip into a café, but the latest Generational Report from the National Coffee Association confirms it: The younger you are, the more likely you are to drink coffee outside of your home.
Check out the above coffee consumption infographic that highlights the most interesting stats to come out of the survey. Among them, out-of-home coffee consumption peaked in 2017 at 46 percent. And coffee drinkers under 35 are a third more likely to drink theirs in a café, meaning the trend is only going to become more prominent for the foreseeable future.
My son looks at me curiously when I take those first couple of sips in quick succession each morning and then close my eyes for a moment. I want to tell him that he’ll understand someday. He will and he won’t. The same way I tailored my dad’s ritual to become my own, he will, too. And that’ll likely mean waiting in line somewhere while a barista brews a way better cup than I ever could.