Is Coffee More Than Just Coffee?

It’s fair to say that I, along with my colleagues, spend more time thinking about coffee than most people. My husband’s a teacher who’s lucky to get a kettle and some instant and is constantly surprised and embarrassed by my coffee obsession. ‘Why do you order a flat white if you’re only going to complain it’s not made properly?’ These regular weekend discussions made me think: am I, and my fellow coffee industry colleagues, inflating the value of coffee in everyday lives or are we on to something? Do most people really know their latte from their cappuccino or care or notice if it’s been slow brewed, over brewed or cold brewed?

Can coffee be central to satisfaction and engagement at work?

The Leesman Index, the largest independent database of workplace effectiveness, shows that when it comes to the importance of physical and service features in the workplace, the importance of tea, coffee and other refreshment facilities ranks third, only beaten by the importance of people’s desk and chair. Have you ever been in an office when the coffee machine breaks down?

And then there’s Margaret Heffernan’s work. She asks managers to recognise that coffee breaks can make workers more productive and valued employees. I do know that my best work ideas are rarely conceived at my desk. It’s when I’m interacting with my colleagues and taking a moment away from my desk that inspiration can strike. And who hasn’t used a great coffee to get through a long meeting?

What makes your coffee at work great?

Perhaps the reality is that most people don’t know their preferred brewing method, the difference between a cappuccino and latte or the perfect crema but they do know that coffee helps them through their day. People know that they, and their employees, want to enjoy good quality coffee but they’re not sure how to achieve it. Fresh beans? Capsules? Which blend? And then of course there’s the milk. Cappuccinos and lattes are the most popular drinks in the UK so the importance of milk in the UK coffee can’t be underestimated.

And is it enough to offer free, instant coffee in a plastic cup anymore? Yes it’s free but the ubiquity of high street coffee has raised expectations. Is instant coffee in a plastic cup still seen as a benefit or a poor imitation of the real thing?

One thing I do know from watching people in our office, and not just the coffee obsessives, is that people are willing to put a little effort into their coffee. We recently installed the Lavagna, a tank fed Lavazza capsule machine. As you might expect our office has lots of different self-serve solutions, including those which don’t require anything more from the caffeine hungry coffee drinker than to press a button. The Lavagna, on the other hand, needs a little love and care. You have to, wait for it, insert the capsule yourself, get the cup yourself and, on occasion, fill up the water tank. And yet you will still see it being the coffee machine of choice for those who’ve decided Lavazza is for them.

More than just coffee...

So on balance, I do think that coffee is more than just coffee. Sometimes it can just be about that caffeine hit but it can also be comfort on a cold day, a daily reminder that your company cares enough to bring you great coffee, an essential part of your daily routine and a time when you can engage with your colleagues and let the inspiration flow.

I’d love to hear from you if you agree that coffee is more than just coffee or if I’m just an obsessive that’s taken it too far…