The Evolving Social Dynamics of Office Coffee

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Let’s talk about the role of coffee in the workplace.

For many years now our generation’s ‘water cooler’ has actually been the coffee station. During our parents’ generation, someone in the office would literally brew a pot of coffee and then everyone come gather when it was ready — it was a social atmosphere. Each office had its own coffee rules and etiquette.

How office coffee culture has changed!

During the late 90’s and early 2000’s, office coffee moved to the “pod.” An awesome office was one that had a Nespresso machine. Articles emerged suggesting the death of drip coffee makers. Yes, technology had evolved, but so too had the culture. Once again, the only constant is change, even when it comes to coffee.

Coffee moved from social to individual: pods only brew INDIVIDUAL cups of coffee, a subtle but powerful difference. Gone was the idea of gathering to socialize around communal coffee.

We moved even further toward individualism with many people physically vacating the office altogether for their daily coffee fix, often at Starbucks. Drip coffee increasingly lost its luster to increasingly fancy and innovative concoctions like the triple, venti, soy, no-foam latte.

Now while we might occasionally venture out with co-workers, the modern coffee excursions is intended to be solo in nature — a means of temporary office escape. Coffee breaks are now arguably times to self reflect or attend to a personal matter with little to do with the coffee itself.

Perhaps with the rise of shared office space, we will once again see coffee return to its social roots. And ironically, despite all the technology innovation around pods and fancy digitized brewers, the best cup of coffee tends to be made sticking to the basics: fresh beans and a simple Chemex.

Update: This post and its concepts were featured in this Financial Times article and then inspired an additional follow-on article

What office coffee used to look like:

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