Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How is the economy affecting your morning coffee routine?

I was thinking of querying if anybody was going cold turkey on the stuff to save money in these uncertain times, but one recent 8:30 a.m. trip to Buc-ee's at 2541 Main Street, Pearland made me change my mind.

I don't usually drink coffee, and if I do, it's almost always the decaffeinated kind. But the recent stretch of dank, drizzly weather and weeks-long fatigue from the time change had me craving a pick-me-up.

I went to the battery of coffee machines to get a medium hazelnut cappuccino for $1.29. When my 11-year-old son is with me and successfully begs a couple of dollars, he delights in getting that size cup and squirting an ounce of each of the flavors to make a concoction that includes vanilla, hazelnut and honey bun. (He convinced me once to have a taste and actually, it isn't half bad).

On this particular morning, I paused to look around. Each of the six customers in the store either had coffee or was headed to get some.

Huddled in intense silence around the table that has the cup tops and coffee extras were four people getting down to business ripping tiny packets of sweetener and non-dairy creamer.

I noticed one middle-aged, diminutive woman with a Sweet'N Low packet in one hand and a stir stick in the other. She was as solemn and focused as a priest administering one of the sacraments. She stirred the powder in with three stirs. I got the feeling that it was always three stirs with her.

A staff member told me that during the week, the store had trouble keeping the coffee machines filled.

What about the local specialty coffee vendors? Nationally, Starbucks has had layoffs, but when I drove back home passed the one at Walnut and FM 518 one morning, I noticed a queue of vehicles winding through the parking lot and around the building.

People might be more conscious of spending, but when the alarm clock says 6 and your body says 5, discipline breaks down and you might find your car in line for a Grande Cinnamon Dolce Frappuccino.

At ExpressoGoGo at FM 518 and Woodcreek Drive, barrista Shannon Simpson works in the confined quarters of a tiny stand-alone building that sells drinks such as Hot Smore Mocha, Honey Bun Latte and Machiatto espresso out of two drive-through windows. How has business been since the shop opened just before Thanksgiving?

``It's been good, considering the economic times,'' she said. ``A lot of people are still having their coffee.''

Read the full story HERE.

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