Coffee culture: What students say about coffee preferences

Photo by Emily FerraraBy KATY WARD

The Starbucks line in Samford’s food court blows up during campus rush hour. Pumpkin Spice Lattes and misnomer Italian sizing seem to have won over any former O’Henry’s regulars.

Cultured coffee drinkers tend to have strong opinions on everything from beans to packaging, so I talked to students who work at local shops and students from abroad about Birmingham’s coffee culture and how it compares to the green queen of coffee we now have in the University Center.

 

What do you think about Starbucks now being on Samford’s campus?

“For sweet coffee drinkers, Starbucks is good, but for black coffee drinkers, O’Henry’s was better.”

Emily Goodman, junior nutrition and dietetics major

 

“I’m not the biggest fan of O’Henry’s, but I wouldn’t want Church Street to be in that position because I work there and know that the owners are great people. And Starbucks doesn’t make much sense with the small business push Samford has had recently: ‘Let’s have small business week, and let’s also throw in a Starbucks.’”

Clayton Hornback, Beeson Divinity student

 

What distinguishes “specialty” or “artisan” coffee?

“I think what is throwing people off in this new age of coffee culture is the new found depth of the science behind
coffee.

“If you love Keurigs and pumpkin spice lattes, I want to make peace with you. I love specialty coffee, so I don’t like anything that masks or dulls the natural flavors of coffee, but to each his own. The coffee culture isn’t for everyone, but if you want to learn, we love making friends at Seeds. But if you can’t let go of pumpkin spice lattes, ask for Fall in a Cup.”

Rob Johnson, junior religion major, history minor

 

What is the difference between “coffee culture” and coffee chains or monopolies?

“American coffee shop culture mostly stems from European coffee culture, where it’s just as much about the experience as it is the beverage. For this reason, Seeds, Octane, O’Henry’s Homewood and Church Street have all put a great deal of effort into developing their own unique atmosphere. This is why coffee snobs hate big name, corporate chain coffee shops that slosh your drink together and hand it to you. There is no atmosphere, and if there is, the atmos-phere is weak.”

Mark David Bradford, junior religion major, business minor

 

How are American coffee shops different from German shops?

“German and American coffee culture are not so different when you look at the choices you have. You can get all kinds of Lattes, Macchiato, Chai’s… with a hundred different flavors. What I recognized here is that you have so many Starbucks and O’Henry’s type shops that are not very individual. That´s something I really like about Germany or Europe: there are many, little coffee shops and I think it’s so much nicer to have coffee in an individualized place.”

Carmen Sibold, German exchange
student

 

Colombian coffee has a great reputation. Is it very much different than Starbucks?

“People always say that Colombian coffee is better— my mom says that coffee here is not as strong and that it tastes like water. We have a lot of coffee shops in Colombia, most of them are Juan Valdez, which can be compared to the Starbucks here. Actually Juan Valdez supplies Starbucks with some Colombian coffee!”

Juliana Guzman, Colombian exchange student

 

What happens to coffee beans from farm to cup?

“I grew up on an agricultural training center in Bengkulu, on Sumatra, Indonesia. They focused on training farmers in more efficient agricultural methods in the mountainous rain forest. The coffee that they produce on that farm is available at Seeds Coffee. They use the farm I grew up on as one of their primary exporters; that’s pretty cool.

“Seeds Coffee and Octane are amazing about serving coffee that has been roasted within the last week. Starbucks and other big monopolies have access to the best coffees, but they don’t treat them right, so they just don’t have the same quality in the end. If the coffee wasn’t roasted where you bought it, it’s a pretty good bet that it is going to be stale.”
Michael Zeiger, biology alum, class of 2014

 

What are Indonesian coffee shops like?

“Coffee shops in Indonesia are rarely established like they are here.

“The best coffee you can get is from the street vendors who push around little carts and will stop and make you a drink if you catch them.

“In Indonesia when you go to someone’s house you will be given a glass cup full of extremely thick, sweet coffee. Over there they grind coffee extremely fine, what we call espresso grind, and then mix it directly into water with a lot of sugar. If you give the drink a few minutes to settle you will get coffee in a gradient of strength as you get closer to the grounds.

“The last sip before you get to the grounds is the best, it will knock your socks off but it is delicious.”

Michael Zeiger, biology alum, class of 2014 The Starbucks line in Samford’s food court blows up during campus rush hour. Pumpkin Spice Lattes and misnomer Italian sizing seem to have won over any former O’Henry’s regulars.

Cultured coffee drinkers tend to have strong opinions on everything from beans to packaging, so I talked to students who work at local shops and students from abroad about Birmingham’s coffee culture and how it compares to the green queen of coffee we now have in the University Center.

 

What do you think about Starbucks now being on Samford’s campus?

“For sweet coffee drinkers, Starbucks is good, but for black coffee drinkers, O’Henry’s was better.”

Emily Goodman, junior nutrition and dietetics major

 

“I’m not the biggest fan of O’Henry’s, but I wouldn’t want Church Street to be in that position because I work there and know that the owners are great people. And Starbucks doesn’t make much sense with the small business push Samford has had recently: ‘Let’s have small business week, and let’s also throw in a Starbucks.’”

Clayton Hornback, Beeson Divinity student

 

What distinguishes “specialty” or “artisan” coffee?

“I think what is throwing people off in this new age of coffee culture is the new found depth of the science behind
coffee.

“If you love Keurigs and pumpkin spice lattes, I want to make peace with you. I love specialty coffee, so I don’t like anything that masks or dulls the natural flavors of coffee, but to each his own. The coffee culture isn’t for everyone, but if you want to learn, we love making friends at Seeds. But if you can’t let go of pumpkin spice lattes, ask for Fall in a Cup.”

Rob Johnson, junior religion major, history minor

 

What is the difference between “coffee culture” and coffee chains or monopolies?

“American coffee shop culture mostly stems from European coffee culture, where it’s just as much about the experience as it is the beverage. For this reason, Seeds, Octane, O’Henry’s Homewood and Church Street have all put a great deal of effort into developing their own unique atmosphere. This is why coffee snobs hate big name, corporate chain coffee shops that slosh your drink together and hand it to you. There is no atmosphere, and if there is, the atmos-phere is weak.”

Mark David Bradford, junior religion major, business minor

 

How are American coffee shops different from German shops?

“German and American coffee culture are not so different when you look at the choices you have. You can get all kinds of Lattes, Macchiato, Chai’s… with a hundred different flavors. What I recognized here is that you have so many Starbucks and O’Henry’s type shops that are not very individual. That´s something I really like about Germany or Europe: there are many, little coffee shops and I think it’s so much nicer to have coffee in an individualized place.”

Carmen Sibold, German exchange
student

 

Colombian coffee has a great reputation. Is it very much different than Starbucks?

“People always say that Colombian coffee is better— my mom says that coffee here is not as strong and that it tastes like water. We have a lot of coffee shops in Colombia, most of them are Juan Valdez, which can be compared to the Starbucks here. Actually Juan Valdez supplies Starbucks with some Colombian coffee!”

Juliana Guzman, Colombian exchange student

 

What happens to coffee beans from farm to cup?

“I grew up on an agricultural training center in Bengkulu, on Sumatra, Indonesia. They focused on training farmers in more efficient agricultural methods in the mountainous rain forest. The coffee that they produce on that farm is available at Seeds Coffee. They use the farm I grew up on as one of their primary exporters; that’s pretty cool.

“Seeds Coffee and Octane are amazing about serving coffee that has been roasted within the last week. Starbucks and other big monopolies have access to the best coffees, but they don’t treat them right, so they just don’t have the same quality in the end. If the coffee wasn’t roasted where you bought it, it’s a pretty good bet that it is going to be stale.”
Michael Zeiger, biology alum, class of 2014

 

What are Indonesian coffee shops like?

“Coffee shops in Indonesia are rarely established like they are here.

“The best coffee you can get is from the street vendors who push around little carts and will stop and make you a drink if you catch them.

“In Indonesia when you go to someone’s house you will be given a glass cup full of extremely thick, sweet coffee. Over there they grind coffee extremely fine, what we call espresso grind, and then mix it directly into water with a lot of sugar. If you give the drink a few minutes to settle you will get coffee in a gradient of strength as you get closer to the grounds.

“The last sip before you get to the grounds is the best, it will knock your socks off but it is delicious.”

Michael Zeiger, biology alum, class of 2014

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