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Professional coffee as a keystone of academic culture

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Why do professors drink so much coffee? And why is there a cult-like passion for coffee in college settings? For North American scholars, coffee is an integral part of academic culture. This particular passion for hot bean juice often borders on unhealthy and impulsive. Coffee is like oxygen to researchers and academics.

For many professors, the habit started in graduate school. The stereotype of grad students is that they have too many keys, always seem sleep-deprived, and are clinging to their coffee mug, which may be their only important possession. Staying up all night with coffee in the lab is one of his longest-lasting rituals in graduate school. At times, the stress and pressure made me question whether I would survive graduate school. But on some level, we enjoyed these experiences—or at least enjoyed our coffee. Thus, the transition from a nice breakfast drink to a way of life was underway.

basic explanation

There is a basic and simple explanation for the widespread coffee consumption of professors. About 60% of North American workers drink coffee regularly. Professors are workers, so they drink a lot of coffee too. Coffee consumption is highly regarded by many others who are not academics.

Coffee is a socially accepted caffeine delivery system. The professor has coffee in his paper about lifestyle shortcomings because he tends not to have a good balance between sleep and work life. Or, at least, coffee is an energy boost during mid-afternoon energy dips.

Teaching life requires a certain amount of solitude to read, think, and write. Often this loneliness is intense and detached. There are real, common social activities surrounding coffee. “Coffee with Professors” is a popular university-sponsored activity to facilitate discussion between students and professors outside the classroom. Many departments have faculty lounges, with a communal coffee urn as the focal point of the unit’s social life. Coffee is one of the few social experiences in much of academic life.

Coffee is such an important ingredient that many scholars do much of their thinking and writing in coffee houses. The number of times I’ve seen Starbucks thanked in paper acknowledgments is second only to his mother’s: the coffee shop offers endless caffeine, free his Wi-Fi, plenty of social noise and atmosphere, and an academic boost. Minimize the isolation of

Finally, scholars write. Truck drivers, medical personnel, and police officers may consume more coffee than academics. But professors seem to write, obsess, ponder, analyze, and glorify their coffee consumption more than any other profession.

The Magic

Coffee and chocolate are the magic ingredients of North American academia (and maybe even scotch in some circles). We instill them with magical healing properties and cure them of all ailments. Academics love to post links to studies showing that coffee and chocolate are good for physical health, but ignore all negative or zero results. Until in this situation the scholar exits. We love that magic and coffee are important to our professional culture. And we like cultural touchstones to be magical.

Most scholars base it on rituals and customs. As much as I enjoy coffee, I drink much more green tea and water during the day. But coffee is a ritual to start the day. Boil the water, grind the beans, brew the beans, watch it brew, press the coffee beans, your favorite mug, the aroma, warm your hands, the sweetness of the first sip, the bitter roundness, the warm feeling. Then the day is really ready to begin. Academics hope that good ideas are born every day. And coffee is a ceremonial call to the Muses, Minerva, or the Muses-inspired gods.


Coffee may not be so special. In some parts of the world, tea is the drink of choice for scholars. Cocoa, soda, water, or any other beverage serves exactly the same purpose as the beloved coffee bean. But for those of us who enjoy coffee, it is an essential source of comfort, camaraderie, warmth, inspiration, energy, and ritual.