Despite living in Rhode Island for a decade, I was born and raised in New York, about an hour north of the city. My dad drank coffee regularly, and in high school when the seniors were able to walk off campus during their lunch hour, many would come back with cups branding the double letters of a well-known coffee chain; more for the cool-factor, I imagine, than for the actual coffee. It seemed normal to me.
I moved to New England for college and immediately found it a strange place. Suddenly, people were complaining if they had to drive more than 20 minutes. Everyone knew everyone. They had their own language. (Old-school Rhode Islanders, for example, call milkshakes a “cabinet”. Say what?) And most of all, everyone drank coffee. EVERYONE.
To fill this need, there is a coffee shop on every corner. A quick count in my small town alone brings me to four chain coffee places, and at least five locally owned shops. To top it all off, everyone has their favorite place, which makes their coffee a certain way, and if you try to suggest another way of drinking it, you might find yourself at the bottom of the Atlantic. I once listened to two co-eds argue over which chain made the better iced coffee. Place A used cubed ice, Place B used crushed. This argument went on for 20 minutes. I kid you not.
I had no idea I was immersing myself amongst the Coffee People. I am an outcast in a sea of roasted beans. I drink chai, after all. And don’t tell the Coffee People, but chai is a tea. I could lose my Rhode Island license for that.
I joke now that after 10 years, I’ve picked up some of the habits of the locals. I hate to drive very far now. If I have to leave my beach town for the strip mall-ed city up North, I better have a good reason to go. I have my favorite coffee places now too, and while I won’t argue with you for 20 minutes over which one makes the best chai, I might go a round or two for at least five minutes.
I refuse to call a milkshake a “cabinet”, though. I mean, really. Come on.