The Coffee Crisis

It happened by accident one day. A serendipitous moment where convenience was born of necessity. Nearly six years ago, now … the day that we went to our favorite coffee stand, ordered our drinks, and realized that neither one of us had any cash. They don’t take debit cards. I couldn’t find a checkbook in any of the typical places–I checked the glove box, the center console, between the seats. Panic set in. I could smell the sweet aroma of those Brazilian coffee beans, mixed with the perfect measure of chocolate and warm, creamy milk. Dear God, please let me find enough quarters to make this happen this morning. The coffee is ready. It’s sitting right there on the window sill waiting to bless my lips with caffeinated goodness. That’s when it happened … when the coffee siren sang her sweet song of our demise … “Would you like to start a tab?”

A tab? At the coffee stand? My husband and I glanced sideways at each other with silent glee, as if Christmas had arrived early this year. A tab, you say? Don’t mind if we do …

And so began our illicit affair with the coffee stand. No matter where we’ve lived in the last few years, we are never too far to make that coffee run first thing in the morning. Shower? Not yet … gotta go get my coffee. Drop the kids off at school? It’s right next to the coffee stand. Leave in time for the ferry? I’ll leave a few minutes early to grab my coffee. On days when I know I have to commute the next morning, I just tell my BFF, the barista, which ferry I’m shooting for, and she has my drink waiting for me. Really? It’s too good to be true …

And then comes the end of the month when the tab is due. It’s embarrassing, really. But it happens every month. I pull up to the window, anxious for my next fix. And she throws those four bitterly insulting words at me … “your tab is due.” I brace myself for the total. (Which I won’t share here, because like I said … it’s embarrassing. Sometimes we go to the coffee stand twice a day. Both of us. And grab a cookie for the kids. Or an Italian soda. And sometimes I eat a Breakfast cookie. And it’s such a habit to go there that even if I don’t want coffee, I get iced tea. ICED TEA!! Look, I’m no chef, but even I could make iced tea at home.) And then I do the drive of shame … across the street to the ATM so I can return and fork over my children’s college savings to my dealer …

Once a month, I promise myself–that is it!! My coffee pot groans as I dust it off and carefully measure my coffee grounds. I love the smell of coffee brewing in my house. This is something I could get used to every morning, I think. Then I pour the nectar of the gods into my cup, savoring its steaming sweetness. Add some cream. Add some sugar. Take a sip … and think to myself … every time we pay our tab, we accumulate one free coffee for every ten we’ve purchased. I’ll just go back to the stand a couple of times to use up my free ones. I mean … why let a free cup of coffee go to waste in this economy, right? But time after time, I use the last of my free cups, and then I’m hooked again … damn you, double-tall-2%-iced-coconut-mocha–hold the whip.

So, as I’ve been pondering a minimalist lifestyle, I’m thinking outside the box … not just about my material possessions, but about my wastefulness in general. Sure, coffee is coffee. Whether I drink it here or there … from the stand or made by hand … I’ve even replaced the wasteful plastic cups from the stand with a single re-usable cup that I wash every day … just doing my part to minimize trash. But think about the carbon footprint that my morning cup of joe has on this planet. Rumbling in my husband’s monster diesel truck the two miles to the coffee stand and back each morning–making the daily pilgrimage. This is also shameful. (Not to mention the impact of transporting these beans from South America and the output of roasting them.)

As you can imagine, I’ve been wrestling with this demon for some time. How to change a very bad habit? How to reduce the increasingly burdensome line item on my monthly budget? How to minimize the impact of my affair with the coffee ritual?

And then, this morning, as if the stars had aligned … we pulled up to the coffee stand. Cash in hand. Paying our penance for our month of indulgence. Our good friend, the barista, leans out the window and says in a hush barely louder than a whisper … “Management has changed our policy. We’re not running tabs anymore.”

The old me would have died inside this morning. But not the new me. No, the new me sees this as an opportunity to MINIMIZE my coffee addiction. Minimize my spending. Minimize my carbon footprint. Minimize my wastefulness.

May I leave you with a final word of advice (based on similar experiences of my past)? You may not want to be around me tomorrow …


About Not-so-SuperMomma

See my previous blog at to learn about how I used to be a SuperMom ...
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11 Responses to The Coffee Crisis

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  8. Vicki says:

    Switch to tea! It is inexpensive, soothing and comes in green, black or white (so you have a choice of whether to stain your teeth or not). “All in This Tea” is a wonderful documentary about tea and artisan tea producers, I think it’s on DVD by now. I recently joined Tealightful Treasures as a consultant, and look forward to giving tea parties for my friends and family. Gourmet loose tea can be enjoyed for as little as 17 cents per cup (what was the rate for a cup of coffee at Starbucks again??)

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