From Sanka to Starbucks

Sitting in a Starbucks this weekend, I couldn’t help but think about how coffee and it’s role in our society has changed in my lifetime. I have vivid childhood memories of my grandparents sipping Sanka. Sanka seemed to be the big deal when it came to coffee. Do you remember Sanka? What are your early memories of coffee?

Black coffee was so popular. Perhaps people added cream and sugar. Most children did not drink coffee. I wasn’t permitted to have coffee as a child. Or I remember it as a rare moment, as I got older, mixed with milk and sugar. It tasted almost like melted coffee ice cream. For children, the caffeine may have been undesirable, but the taste was awful to me, too. My generation did not ride along with our moms on a “drive thru” coffee run when we were growing up.

I don’t even think I realized decaf was a thing as a child. But I do now! A caffeinated beverage past 2:00pm and I’ll be wide awake at some point during my typical sleep cycle. As I’ve gotten older, I sometime feel jittery with more than a cup of regular coffee. Perhaps you can relate. Do you prefer regular or decaf?

And then there was Folgers. I looked up a commercial from back in the day with “Mrs. Olsen.” The commercial really reflects how societal roles and behaviors have shifted, as well as the coffee. On a side note, this reminded me of the gender roles and expectations within which our mothers managed to act.

I started drinking coffee in college. In fact, I discovered that coffee was helpful when studying all night and going to classes in the morning. Did you have one of those aluminum plug-in desktop devices that heated a small amount of water in your dorm room? Perfect for making coffee, tea, or oatmeal servings for one.

Now, I’ve observed in my area that children know what “Starbucks” is by name and have a favorite drink. Nice brand marketing, Starbucks! They have built the next generation of clients. Perhaps they’ll associate Starbucks with happy memories of times with a parent.

Even coffee options have changed. Basically, during my youth, our options were:

  • Regular
  • Decaf
  • Instant
  • Brewed

No wonder there is often a line at Starbucks, with endless drink options including:

  • Cold brew
  • Latte
  • Cappuccino
  • Frappuccino
  • Americano
  • Macchiato
  • Espresso
  • Mocha
  • Flat White

Sizes now bring more choices: Short, Tall, Grande, and Venti for Starbucks. Other coffee shops have different names. Customization options  for a coffee drink include half and half cream, heavy cream, nonfat, 1%, 2%, whole milk, soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. Plus Equal, honey, Sugar in the Raw, Splenda, Stevia, sugar, Sweet ‘n Low, and a variety of sweet flavored syrups. Let’s not forget whip or no-whip.

Brewing methods are varied. Pour over, drip, cold brew, French press, percolator, Keurig K-cups, and more. But before you brew, pick a roast and a method of grinding beans. Endless choices.

Coffee shops are popping up and very popular places for meeting friends, working or reading alone, and working for many, including me. When I was a visiting teacher for homeschooling families, I would use Starbucks as my office when out traveling for the day. The bathrooms are decent, and grabbing a little table for workspace made it ideal to get some work done between appointments.

But Starbucks and other coffee shops are more than just coffee, breakfast items, and sandwiches. Starbucks has created an experience, including our names perhaps even spelled accurately on our cup. We walk in to a warm and inviting atmosphere, visually appealing. We smell coffee. We hear conversations, brewing devices, and music. We hold a cup of something and feel it’s warmth or chill. And we taste a beverage we have selected and customized with our desired flavors. Starbucks has created an experience that touches all our senses, making it personal and engaging.

Coffee remains central to American life, but it seems to play an even bigger role in 2017. For example, how far is it between Starbucks in your area? Do you feel happy when someone says to you, “Hey, I’m stopping at Starbucks. Do you want anything?” Coffee still symbolizes community in many respects, yet now in many public spaces, instead of the office, at church, at a restaurant, and in private homes as in the past with Mrs. Olsen.

Stay charming, friends!

Closing thought: I feel it is only right to close this week by taking a moment to remember and acknowledge the suffering in our world due to evil acts of violence and horrible natural disasters, and to pray for healing, peace, and recovery for those affected. It has been a difficult time. Please give to a worthy organization that can aid, if you have the ability. Thanks.

8 thoughts on “From Sanka to Starbucks

  1. My Grandma Alice let us dip our toast in her coffee.
    I grew up with an extended Mormon family who didn’t drink caffeinated beverages. Everyone, except Grandma Alice. She was obviously a rebel. My other Grandparents once told me that coffee was the hardest thing to give up when they became Mormon.


  2. I feel like Starbucks opened my world to the endless possibilities that surround the liquid awesomesauce called coffee. The experience you speak of was appealing to each of my senses. Plus, it is way convenient with those snake-like drive-thrus. However, after having left the Starbucks nursery and branching out to Java Elementary, I have learned that I no longer appreciate or accept the Starbucks product- burnt beans. Also, as a holistic nutritionist, the sugar content of those dreamy drinks makes my liver quiver. So, to Talia’s I go and sparingly (aka once a week). I’m using my dollars to support small business, smoother flavor, and a mission-centered mindset.


    • Coral, you do have a way with words. I hope everyone learns to and make good choices. I watch so many sugary coffee drinks that walk out of coffee shops, and it is startling. I love Talias as well, and always applaud your commitment to shop small businesses.


  3. I have many of those same memories though I have never had a cup of coffee pass my lips. For some, the smell of coffee causes the desire for a cup. For me the smell is bitter and uninviting, though with the favors these days, the aroma has greatly improved and become more enticing, though I still have no desire to try it. I do occasionally visit a Starbucks for conversation or a simple Teavana iced tea or egg sandwich as they entice me with stars and double stars, etc. for free food or drink. When there I do think of all the money spent on coffee and think, if people would only desire to give as much to missions or helping their neighbors in times of these natural disasters. My granddaughter worked at Starbucks for a year. another plus is that it gives good employment to many, young and old, including veterans. It gave her lots of good training and she is now a hospitality major graduating in May, and has had a job with Marriott for 1 1/2 years. Thanks Starbucks and thanks Cindy for this thoughtful piece on coffee. Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand where there is a Starbucks on the corner of the Night Market.


  4. We tell a family story of the first time I took my kids to Starbucks and my then sixth grade son stopped in his tracks once he entered, closed his eyes and inhaled the aroma of coffee which he has loved since. Since then the increased demand for coffee, in all its forms, is quite amazing. Who knew? But panic sure strikes if I can’t brew my morning coffee, to the extent I now have a stovetop coffee pot just in case.


    • This is a great story! I can picture it. A stovetop coffee pot sounds like a good precaution. Coffee is definitely part of what I enjoy about morning.


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