Coffee & the Uni Lifestyle

What role does the University lifestyle play in influencing a student’s coffee consumption?

It is generally recognised and understood that the transition period between high school and University is a tough one. It presents new personal and academic challenges, and attempts to encourage a higher level of professionalism in preparation for the fast approaching world of adulthood. These intentions of furthering a student’s education and enhancing character competency are deliberate pursuits, however what I’d like to explore in more depth is the degree to which the University environment inadvertently influences the development of ‘off-target’ personal attributes. More specifically, its role in the introduction or strengthening of a student’s coffee consumption.

People and culture make for a convoluted partnership, hence it can be challenging to obtain conclusive research. I have always been interested in cafe culture, and believe that delving a little deeper into the motivations of its consumers (specifically amongst the younger generation), has the potential for providing some diverse and interesting results.

Coffee consumption for me was never a daily activity, yet starting University significantly boosted my intake almost from the get-go, and I had to stop and ask myself why this caffeinated substance had suddenly become so much more appealing. I established that perhaps the emphasis placed on being alert in lectures was essential for the retention of valuable information, and with an abundance of cafes on campus, this seemed like the most efficient method for enhancing this. It quickly became clear that I was probably not the only student experiencing such an increase, so if others were finding themselves in similar circumstances, were they all for the same reasons?

Research conducted at the University of New Hampshire in 2013 suggests that students in the modern era are becoming increasingly dependent on caffeine to function at their optimal levels. Coffee was found to have been consumed throughout a variety of circumstances including before and during classes, throughout internships, to make up for lack of sleep and prior to studying for an exam (Olsen, 2013). Students looking to lessen the effects of fatigue associated with the chaotic University lifestyle tend to turn to coffee over energy drinks such as ‘Red Bull’ and ‘Mother’. This is due to the fact that the health benefits of coffee compared to such beverages appeared to be a much more beneficial way of producing similar effects (Kelly and Prichard, 2016), and also work out to be significantly cheaper for a student budget. It seems to make sense, however another study conducted at the University of Amsterdam details that coffee consumption is also associated with social interaction (Looijen, 2012). Cafes on campus are able to create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere, whereby students seeking a break from their hectic schedules can unwind and catch up with classmates – definitely not something you would do over a Red Bull!

Now in my second year of University, my ever-growing love and consumption of coffee has developed into a part-time job as a barista. Striving to perfect my execution of latte art, I take notice when customers take photos of my coffees and upload them to their social media sites. The aesthetic way in which a rosetta or tulip design embosses the frothy surface seems to have become quite the image to publicly document, especially amongst the younger University demographic. Could social media publication from other students’ alike cause an increase in coffee consumption?

An article by journalist Emily King surrounding the rise of cafe culture details that “the rise of social media, blogging and photo sharing has meant an increased need to appear fashionable and chic”, as “what a person eats and drinks are directly related to this increase”. As we now live in a society which prides itself on being social, it seems as though the rise of cafe culture has labelled the practice of coffee drinking as ‘cool’. This social credibility in conjunction with the sudden multitudes of campus cafes inundating young students at University could very well be a driving factor contributing to increased consumption.

Through my own observations, experiences and curiousity, combined with the research in sources presented, I believe that an exploration influences of the University lifestyle on a student’s coffee consumption would be worthwhile, relevant and achievable study to conduct in a timely manner. I hope to uncover a wider range of consumer motivators through both qualitative and quantitative research methods, and reveal more about the degree to which coffee consumption is being integrated into the student experience at the University of Wollongong.


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