A Deep Dive into our Love Affair with Coffee

A Love Affair with Coffee

As part of our “Love Essentially” series, Jackie Pilossoph helps us navigate the complex world of relationships. Have a question that you would like her to answer? Contact her here, and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

For those who want to live a purposeful and happy life, experts suggest that when we first wake up in the morning we express gratitude for the people we know and the things we have that give us joy and meaning. There are actually studies that link practicing gratitude to benefits like better physical health, a more fulfilling social life, and less stress.

But whether or not you choose a gratitude ritual upon opening your eyes first thing in the morning, I’d be willing to bet I can name something for which most people are always grateful: that first cup of coffee.

The delicious aroma of coffee beans, the inciting sound of the coffee grinder (or for some, the Keurig), the warmth of holding your mug, and that first delectable sip of its dark, rich flavor. Our beloved routine of brewed coffee beans in hot water and a splash of milk or cream for some, is not only comforting, awakening, and even inspiring, but it’s one of life’s simple pleasures that we rely on for a few moments of joy each day.

But coffee is so much more than the drink. What I mean by that is, putting aside its most assumed feature—caffeine, a cup of java compliments many other gifts in life that people enjoy.

Let’s start with nature. Think about being on vacation, maybe in the mountains or at the beach. It’s pretty typical to wake up in the morning and want to look at the beautiful scenery outside the place where you’re staying. So, what’s the next move? Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the view! What I’m saying is, coffee adds to the serenity of gorgeous surroundings, and the experience can become almost meditative.

Even at home, coffee and nature go together. Jo Litman, a Deerfield based financial advisor and mom of three had this to say about her cup of Joe (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun):

“What I love the most is, it’s the morning ritual that coffee goes with. I pour a cup and go out on my screened-in porch (even in the cold weather) and look at nature or watch the sunrise with the warm, steamy cup in my hands.”

Coffee also goes hand-in-hand with work. Soothing yet energizing, a warm cup on your desk can feel comforting, and can help you stay focused at the same time. I’m actually drinking coffee while writing this article.

A fellow writer, author, Lisa Barr of Deerfield said she can’t write without having a cup of coffee by her side.

“My motto: give me my coffee and no one gets hurt,” said the Deerfield mom of three, who has written two published novels and is currently working on her third.

“Coffee is my morning BFF,” said Lisa Hammer of Glenview. “I just like the smell, the first taste, the calmness, and holding the mug while reading emails.”

But perhaps the biggest reason we love our java so dearly is because it’s a catalyst to connect with other people. 

Coffee is an activity. It’s a reason to get together with someone. Coffee is social. It’s a great group activity for a discussion, a business meeting, a celebration, a support group, or a reunion. 

A great first date option, meeting for a cup of Joe, unlike getting together for drinks at a bar, is inexpensive. Plus, a coffee date has the option of being short and sweet if the chemistry just isn’t there, or it can turn into dinner and drinks if sparks are flying.

There’s a reason why the U.S. has over 37,000 coffee houses (according to Statista.) One of those is Glenview Grind, which has been a beloved Glenview spot since 2013 (and repeat Better Best of Winner!).

Owner of Glenview Grind, Cathy Schiltz

“Coffee is universal in bringing people together,” said owner, Cathy Schiltz. “We have so many regulars who find comfort in knowing us and knowing each other. This is a community. It’s family. People love bringing their dogs and their kids and knowing each other’s names to say hello when they walk in.”

Schiltz, who bought Glenview Grind in 2015 and moved its location to its current home on Glenview Road, said there are a lot of customers who live alone and work from home (especially during Covid-19), who come to her place to feel less socially isolated.

“Coming in becomes their routine,” Schiltz said. “They know if they stop in, they will see someone familiar or someone they know, or they will meet someone new. It’s comforting. It feels social, less lonely.”

Sarabeth Murphy is a barista and store supervisor at Starbucks in Glenview, and said from what she’s seen in the two years she’s worked there, people are more likely to start a conversation with a stranger in a coffee house than they are somewhere else, such as a grocery store.

“There is a group of older men who are here every day and they sit and talk with each other for hours, but they also talk to other people who come in and out,” said Murphy, who explained that she had never tried coffee until she started her job. “People enjoy that contact and conversation. It’s like a routine of seeing their favorite people every day.”

When asked how much coffee she serves during an 8-hour shift, Murphy estimated 300 transactions, almost all which include coffee or coffee drinks.  

When you add up black coffee, espresso, cappuccino, and latte drinks, hot or cold drinks, seasonal drinks, and customized drinks, both Schiltz and Murphy explained that there are unlimited variations of coffee and endless possibilities for coffee recipes.

“People are very attached to their coffee, Murphy said. “Not just coffee in general, but their specific coffee the way they order it, and most get the same thing every day.”

Patrons enjoying coffee at Glenview Grind, pre-Covid

Going back to gratitude, I want to share a memory I think about often. Several years ago, when I was going through a divorce, I called my dad one morning, feeling sad and hopeless about the future. As I complained about my problems and painted a dark picture of what was ahead for me, my then 80-year-old dad listened. 

Finally, I asked, “Dad, what do you think?” 

He answered, “How’s your coffee?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I responded.

He asked, “Does it taste good? Are you enjoying it?” 

What I realized right then was that I hadn’t even thought about the delicious cup of coffee I had in my hand during the conversation. I couldn’t even taste it because all I could taste was stress and unhappiness. In fact, I couldn’t enjoy anything because I was so wrapped up in my situation. At the time, I lacked gratitude of any kind.

If you think about it, coffee is a small thing in the big picture of life. But, aside from the people in our lives, isn’t it the vast collection of small things that added up give us the most joy? 

In the words of Jerry Seinfeld: “We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.”

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Jackie Pilossoph is a former television journalist and newspaper features reporter. The author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially, Pilossoph is also the creator of the divorce support website, Divorced Girl Smiling. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers.

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