Coffee is everywhere. Coffee shops line the streets, coffee machines take pride of place on kitchen counters in homes and workplaces and coffee cups are as commonplace in the hands of passers-by as mobile phones. Coffee is the go-to social activity. You can go for coffee with someone you’ve just met, or with someone you haven’t seen for some time, or indeed with just about anybody. It is drunk on the morning commute, on lunch breaks and even after dinner. Caffeine is like the new oil. It would be no surprise to me that the elixir of life, should there be such a thing, contains at least two shots of espresso and would come at somewhat of a discount if you can provide your own cup.
The ubiquity of the likes of Costa and Starbucks and Café Nero only speaks to the prevalence of coffee. Everywhere you look you can see Costas and Café Neros – is that the plural? Perhaps it’s Cafés Nero? And don’t even get me started on the plural of Pret A Manger (Pret A Mangers would probably be my guess). Regardless, these cafés are a firm fixture in the landscape of Dublin city and only seem to be growing in number.
As a result, Trinity students have a truly mind-boggling quantity of coffee at their disposal. Dawson Street alone is an embarrassment of riches in this sphere, with representatives of several of the coffee giants offering immediate caffeination just a few yards from campus, ideal for the fatigued student.
I don’t actually drink an inordinate amount of coffee, but the coffee I do drink tends to be in cafés. While the prices these places charge for coffee may seem high, it is a price that I am happy to pay when I consider that I am really paying for significantly more than just my coffee. The coffee I buy also allows me access to an excellent place in which to work or to socialise. I spend rather a lot of my time in coffee shops, sometimes enough to drink more than just one coffee – shocking, I know – and more time than I do in class, which I can imagine makes STEM students roll their eyes.
It is as if they are an extension of the college campus itself. Many of my college classes seem to spill into cafés. When students begin to congregate outside the classroom, going for coffee is often almost telepathically agreed upon, as if it is tacitly felt that, unless you have other commitments, going for coffee after class is only natural. Cafés provide an ideal post-class venue for students to convene and discuss the information they have just received, and these discussions often last longer than the class itself.
I have done and continue to do much of my college work in cafés as well. They are an ideal place for working, I find. They are perhaps less tense than libraries and, for the most part, only a little noisier. This is a trade-off that I can accept. The only major downside to working there, however, is that should you be discovered by a friend, it is next to impossible not to be distracted from your work. When this happens, I cannot help but abandon whatever I am doing. As such, I may have to work in cafés further afield where it is less likely that someone should chance upon me.
When I look back at my time in university, it is likely that I will have spent more time in cafés than in classrooms or libraries or any other part of the Trinity campus. While that time was spent drinking coffee, it was also spent in what I shall optimistically deem a healthy balance of time spent academically and socially. The drinking of coffee is almost part and parcel of my university education and going for coffee is a skill that I have acquired and refined. I hope I haven’t made it too enticing though, because I’d rather not arrive at my next café of choice only to find it full. Getting your coffee to go just isn’t the same.