Is the Coffee Break Dead? Bring Back Mug Time

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[Photograph: Erin Meister]

Sometimes it seems there are only two types of people who go to coffee shops anymore: the Stay-Puts (oh, you know—laptops and power cords, lukewarm Americanos nursed for hours, the tell-tale, "Do you have Wi-Fi?") and the Lemme-Gettas (as in, "Lemme getta cuppa regular to go"). The Stay-Puts practically become a part of the decor, while Lemme-Gettas dart around like bugs in a jar, desperate to get out ASAP.

As a barista, I can sympathize with both breeds. There's a certain satisfaction to whiling away the many, many hours (mostly working but also "working") outside of one's own dreary apartment; there's also a particularly heady feeling of freedom that comes from being presented with piping-hot coffee in a disposable container you can chug from, chuck on the way to the train, and promptly forget about.

But what about that delicious in-between? Where has the true coffee break gone?

I don't mean the "coffee break" as in the time spent in the office kitchen, pouring yourself some of the sludge that's been sitting on the burner for hours. I mean that instead of just "running downstairs for a coffee," you could, you know, disappear for a few minutes—wink wink. Just enough time to take it easy and take it to stay.

What's wrong with making a little Mug Time for yourself? Mug Time is a beautiful thing, and yet seemingly rare nowadays. What's to blame for the death of this mid-size caffeinated intermission? Is it the way our workday is all go-go-go, bosses breathing down our necks, lunch inhaled at our desks? Or is it the fast food mentality that's sneaked into our coffee shops with the birth of the "Grande Skinny Half-Caf Extra-Hot Whatever So I Can Drink This in the Car" thing?

The basic drink itself is perfectly suited to this breather: best served small, fresh, and hot, and enjoyed in relatively short order—but not guzzled (or left to grow tepid and stale).

Whatever the culprit might be, I propose we bring back Mug Time—just think of it as the drink equivalent of a power nap. Granted, maybe not as a daily occurrence (some of us do have to get back to work, for Pete's sake), but could it be weekly? Could you find a free half hour on Saturday to read the Daily News over somebody's shoulder?

Get that latte in a mug, sit down, people-watch. Don't go anywhere, don't "do" anything, just enjoy yourself. You deserve it—and so does the coffee.

About the author: Erin Meister (just "Meister" to friends and enemies) trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista and an audacious eater, but she remains a Nervous Cook.

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