Caffeine nation: Student journalists find common thread in caffeine

Deborah Barnes, another barista at Mill Mountain Coffee, works an early morning shift. Photo by Deepa Shivaram

Sometimes, as a journalist and as a student, there is a cliché yet persistent need for a jolt of energy. Caffeinated teas and coffees are very popular among students, and particularly with jCampers. Some would even say that the drinks are an integral part of the journalistic process.

Walking into Mill Mountain Coffee, the atmosphere is bustling and friendly. Regular customers are around sipping their chosen cups, and the whole place hops with a coffee-fueled buzz. Behind the counter, Brianna Hazelwood, 20, fills orders for  customers and recalls how coffee has played a part in her studies.

“A lot of people like lattés and regular coffees,” said Hazelwood. “It gets really busy here around midterms and finals. I drank a lot of coffee in high school around that time too.”

Hazelwood, a student at Virginia Tech and barista at Mill Mountain, prefers the Malawi Roast because it is lighter when compared to the other twenty blends the shop has.

She has been a coffee fan since she was 16, like the 54 percent of adults who begin drinking coffee regularly between the ages of 13 and 19.

As Hazelwood continues to make the orders, she adds to the estimated total 200 cups of coffee that Mill Mountain sells per day.

“We go through a ton of iced coffees in the summer,” she said with a laugh, just as another customer ordered one.

Not only does the caffeine give people a zap of energy, but it can also contribute to increased focus on an assignment. An article by Laura Kern published in the Wisconsin Engineer reports that caffeine is a stimulant that interferes with a brain chemical, adenosine. Adenosine has a calming effect on the body. Students will commonly capitalize on this reaction by drinking teas and coffees while trying to cram in extra studying time.

Ben Cross, Langley High School (‘15), agrees that coffee gives him energy for tests and studying. When he does drink it, he prefers mocha. Cross regularly drinks his coffee during big test weeks, but not as much during the summer.

A row of coffee bean dispensers at Mill Mountain Coffee. Photo by Deepa Shivaram

As more customers come into Mill Mountain, the baristas hop from pot to pot, making coffee and tea to the customers’ specifications. Not all orders are just used for staying awake, as customers at coffee houses all over will often order drinks that are more flavorful.

“Sometimes I really like going to Starbucks and getting a more fun, sweet drink,” said Yasmine Maggio, Herndon High School (‘13). “But other times I’ll go because I want some energy.”

But the flavor does come with a cost: caffeine content. The Caramel Frappucino and the Caramel Macchiato, two of the most popular sweet drinks at Starbucks, both have about 100-150 mg of caffeine in a 16 oz serving. Compare this to their Pike Place Roast, which has 330 mg of caffeine in a 16 oz cup.

The allure of kicking back with a sugary cup of coffee at Mill Mountain can tempt even non-coffee drinkers. In a newsroom, however, coffee is a staple that goes hand in hand with reporting.

“I’d never had coffee before my high school newspaper bought a coffee maker for the class,” said Emily Hughes, Stone Bridge (‘13). “I’d never tried it before that, but now I like it a lot. I think coffee is a good connection between people, especially journalists.”

As journalists with deadlines and interviews, editing and capturing the moment, we are not just your average joes.

Follow me, @alliezaleski on Twitter!

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