Illustration by Joaquín Kunkel/The Gazelle

Where's the coffee culture at NYUAD?

I used to love coffee. Drinking lavish cappuccinos in Portugal’s small cafés and trying new Zimbabwean roasts in Barcelona’s hipster hangouts, I was ...

Nov 14, 2015

Illustration by Joaquín Kunkel/The Gazelle
I used to love coffee. Drinking lavish cappuccinos in Portugal’s small cafés and trying new Zimbabwean roasts in Barcelona’s hipster hangouts, I was always up for experiencing something new. The experience of how and when I drank coffee was, to some extent, more important than the actual concept of coffee as a drink. This European coffee culture is very different from the one I see here at NYU Abu Dhabi.
People don't have coffee dates at NYUAD. I’ve never heard or seen students meet up for coffee, to enjoy each other’s company over a lovely latte or mocha. Coffee is an individual thing here; the coffee you get, you mainly drink alone. You grab it and go, drinking it on the way because you have a 4000-word essay to write and you need to be awake to do it. The drink is only there because of its caffeine content. Rather than enjoying the actual taste, savoring its flavor and appreciating your surrounding company, the only thing that matters is the molecule of caffeine found deep down in the cup. The purpose of the drink is for you to stay awake and be able to write your essay. This, in my eyes, devalues the concept of coffee. You might as well just be taking caffeine pills.
However, not all individuals on campus partake in this coffee culture, or lack thereof. Many students and faculty actually just enjoy a cup of warm coffee goodness when they study, work or chat with friends. Although this is rare, I believe it does occur at this university. Maybe its minimal visibility is due to the fact that we only have one nice café spot on campus, with limited seating that restricts one's ability to enjoy coffee in this way. Coffee is generally served in the dining halls or in the somewhat tiny library café, where the atmosphere feels more like a to-go stand.
The coffee on campus is mainly the most-loved or the most-hated Starbucks. Often, to make Starbucks coffee more bearable, people stuff the drink with sugar and shots of flavor, or order the iced variations. But a Pumpkin Spice Latte with a shot of caramel and whipped cream eliminates any existing taste of coffee, and will probably also give you diabetes.
As many students have a large amount of Campus Dirhams left over every week, a cup of coffee's price is often not a pressing factor for students. Getting an expensive coffee with soy milk, flavor shots and other extras may decrease your Campus Dirhams balance by only a tiny bit. Once students study abroad, however, they realize overpriced Starbucks isn’t a fundamental need in life. Starbucks outside of NYUAD is expensive, and having two lattes a day isn’t really a possibility because it digs deep into your own funds. Once your own money is involved, coffee plays a different role.
As an absolutely caffeine-sensitive human, I have no idea what it means to be able to drink several cups of coffee and still fall asleep at a reasonable time. Therefore, I am seeing NYUAD’s coffee culture from the outsider's point of view, and am amazed by the strange perceptions surrounding the drink. The university's coffee culture is distorted because students strive to make the coffee on campus anything but. The university needs to change it approach, and make coffee more about the company than the caffeine molecule.
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