In the 1990s Rom-Com You've Got Mail Tom Hanks' character poses a thought for all coffee drinkers: you are your coffee order.
It's true that humans tend to be creatures of habit. Drinking the same coffee everyday. As a Barista you start to identify people with their order. The older gentlemen with the cowboy hat and mustache becomes "the 16 oz Americano, no room for cream and a straw please." Eventually you learn their names you become friends with them. You form relationships with them and you find out why they prefer their coffee a certain way. I once worked in a little Bistro that had a loyal following but there was no one so loyal as Betty. I worked there for 3 years and she was there almost every day. When I started she was in her late 80s. Now she is 92 and her coffee order is still the same. "Drip coffee with a side of milk. Not cream. Milk." When I asked her about this particular preference sitting in her sun room one afternoon. She said that she had started drinking coffee during the war. Betty had grown up on a ranch in Texas. It was the depression and money was tight so coffee was scarce. When her parents were able to get some coffee they saved it just for themselves. Betty's first brush with coffee was when she was a stenographer for the War department during World War 2. Technically we had not entered into the war yet. It was 1940 and she was working in a Radio Tower in New Mexico. They would receive messages and then type them up. Betty was working her first night shift in the tower and she was afraid that was going to fall asleep. One of the older girls made some coffee and said, "Drink this, and add some milk to it. That way it doesn't taste so bad." Betty decided that it tasted pretty good and it's how she has taken her coffee ever since.
To me this speaks to the human in us all. The millions of little decisions we make that eventually become the thing that people associate us with. My grandmother would always tell me, "you are the company you keep. Choose it wisely." Meaning that you are the people you associate yourself with. If this is true of our relationships with other humans it must be true of our relationship with other things: coffee, shoes, television shows, wine, beer, food. I find myself as a Barista often judging what I think a person is like based on their coffee order. Not in a snobby, "Why would you drink that?" way but, in a "people watching" getting a glimpse into someone's life way. I can tell who frequents the chain store cafes, and who is rockin' the Mom and Pop style coffee shops. Who has a sweet tooth, and who may be just a little bit bitter. As it turns out the millions of meaningless decisions we make really do mean something. Maybe they do not create this overall great sense of self. But, they often can/do lead us to people and things that can remind us who we are if we find ourselves needing a reminder.