The ritualization of coffee: A community endeavor – Tufts Daily


As the semester rolls along, students dive into midterm season and a familiar ritual sweeps across campus. Throughout the Hill and into the local neighborhoods, the irresistible aroma of warm cups of freshly brewed coffee fills the air. Before everyone rushes off wistfully to their morning class, next test or to clock into work, they all follow the same routine. Whether it be pre-, mid-, or post-pandemic, the routine remains: the ritualization of coffee.
Students agree that coffee comes with a ritual of sorts. Junior Kate Guttilla describes herself as a moderate to frequent coffee drinker. Guttilla explained that her coffee gets her through the day and is a helpful part of her routine.
“The taste is something that’s really enjoyable for me [and I also enjoy] the routine that’s built into it,” Guttilla said. “I feel like I need to start my day with coffee most days because then I feel like I’m more in a place where I can get a lot of work done.”
Similarly, senior Jen Frye, who is also a dual degree BA/MALD candidate at the Fletcher School, explains their coffee consumption as a healthy habit that gives them an extra push.
“I do think that it sort of perks me up and gets me motivated,” they said. 
Junior Autumn Stelzer, who worked as a barista at the Danish Pastry House this past summer, spoke to some of the patterns that exist in coffee consumption. She said coffee rituals change between ages, and noted the common habits she’s observed within age groups.
“What’s funny is when somebody comes in and is like, ‘I want a coffee,’ if they’re younger than 30, you know that it’s an iced coffee, and if they’re older than 50, it’s a hot coffee,” she said. “I’ve never been wrong about that.”
Although coffee consumption is a major part of many people’s daily routines, it can sometimes get a bad rep for its addictive nature. Frye discussed the effects of coffee consumption.
“I think as long as you’re aware of the fact that you are creating this cycle both psychologically and physically of some sort of dependency, and you don’t let it run your life, I think that’s okay,” Frye said. 
Clearly, coffee plays a vital role in the daily lives of many people. However, these routines were all challenged this past year by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Guttilla commented on how her more irregular schedule last year led to less overall coffee consumption.
“I feel like coffee is definitely synonymous with having structure in your day,” Guttilla said.  “So if you don’t have structure in your day, maybe your coffee consumption also falls off or becomes inconsistent.”
From a coffee shop owner’s perspective, Jason Hutchinson, manager of Tamper Cafe on Boston Avenue, explained the rapid transformation of his business model. During the pandemic, he managed a solely online, takeout coffee shop.
“To me, it was bizarre,” Hutchinson said.” People would order the day before … We knew we needed X amount of scones … then we just waited for people [to come pick up their orders at assigned time slots].”
Ulla Winkler, owner of the Danish Pastry House on Boston Avenue, also experienced hardships during the pandemic. She had to close her coffee shop for eight months. 
Despite the safety restrictions, coffee drinkers were still motivated to find solutions to acquire their drink of choice. Frye explained that because of the pandemic, they were not really going into coffee shops as much, but they had to adapt to the circumstances.
“During the pandemic, I moved off campus,” Frye said. “And so I now make most of my coffee at home. I invested in a Moka Pot, which is my favorite thing ever.”
Many coffee drinkers missed the environment of the cafe. Hutchinson explained how his customers had intense anticipation for Tamper’s reopening.
“I’d run into people, and every single person would be like, ‘When are you opening? … We miss your coffee, we miss going to Tamper,’”  Hutchinson said. 
Whether taking matters into their own hands like Frye or inquiring about the status of coffee shops like Hutchinson’s customers, the energy behind acquiring coffee did not appear to subside throughout the pandemic. 
With the arrival of vaccinations providing some hope, coffee shops began to slowly adjust to a more normal version of their business plan. As customers returned to Tamper, Hutchinson expressed joy seeing students back in the shop, as the “neighborhood” atmosphere of Tamper picked up again.
“When the students came back, it was great,” Hutchinson said. “There were groups of kids that came pretty much every day. And they would get breakfast and lunch. And they would hang out and they would work on their computers.” 
Different people also embrace the ritualization of getting coffee for the community that it provides.
“Consuming coffee is a product of our environment, and especially on a college campus where everyone else is drinking coffee … people kind of gather around coffee shops, it’s like a place where communities are formed,” Guttilla said.
Hutchinson said he has found the same sense of community. 
“We’ve gotten to know a lot of people in [the neighborhood],” Hutchinson said. “I have some really good friends from here now.”
Hutchinson has even named items off the menu for customers. One of Tamper’s  dishes, the  “Zac Attack,” is named after a math professor who has been coming in since the opening of the cafe. 
Neighboring cafe owner Winkler has similarly enjoyed working and living in Medford/Somerville. 
“I’m not driven by money or anything … I’m not driven by how many cups of coffee I sell. Really, I’m not,” Winkler said. “I am driven by [the fact that] the students have been so supportive and put a really big effort into [seeing] me succeed and I think that’s very beautiful. I live in the neighborhood myself, on Sunset Road, so I just think it’s very beautiful to be part of that community.”