Why Coffee Dates Make Great First Dates

"Start out with something small yet sophisticated, like a macchiato or cortado."

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[Photographs: Erin Meister]

"Do you want to get a coffee sometime?" It's the classic first-date proposal: Even baristas are susceptible to it. (My first-ever date was at a coffee shop—the one I worked at, as a matter of fact. Awkward!) This V-Day, let's talk about what makes that first caffeinated romantic encounter so perfect.

Cheap Date

Let's face it: Drinks? Dinner? Those are big-deal expenditures. But an hour or two at a coffee shop? Heck, you could probably drown yourself in the stuff and come out having blown $20 or less—even if you throw a brownie into the mix. (I will avoid taking this time to raise the controversial issue that coffee should cost more than it does, and instead simply point out how much your wallet will thank you in this case.)

Judge a Drink; Judge a Character

Of course one of the most important parts of a first date is sizing up what, and how, they order. If your date's drink of choice contains too many instructions for your liking ("half-caf part-skim two-Splenda latte in a double cup"), or is delivered without any niceties at all (lacking "please," "thank you," and/or a tip), you might be able to handily declare that he or she might not be The One. (Unless you like a laundry-list latte order and are stingy with your singles, that is. In that case, you probably just found your soul mate.)

Perfect Pacing

Unlike the lengthy commitment a sit-down dinner necessitates, the coffee-shop date comes complete with an adjustable expiration time. Start out with something small yet sophisticated, like a macchiato or cortado: You can easily sip and savor these strong little jolts, but they're also perfectly chuggable in case of emergency.

If you're in the lucky former category, it's even slicker to polish off a tiny but tasty drink and offer, "Can I get you some more coffee? I'm having such a great time, I think I'll get another cup." Going really well? Pull out the big guns and order a totally nurse-worthy Americano. And then there's the easy segue: "All this coffee's made me a little hungry. Do you want to grab something to eat?" Boom.

Keep Your Wits About You

Unlike the (admittedly naughtier) alternative suggestion, "Would you like to get a drink sometime?," meeting at a cafe has the built-in benefit of not accidentally ending in a crumpled-clothes haze the next morning. That is to say that no matter how much caffeine you ingest, your powers of judgment should be intact: There are no "cappuccino goggles," as far as I know.

What do you think about the go-for-coffee first date: A brilliant first option, or a total cop-out? Got any tips for the uninitiated and undercaffeinated?

About the author: Erin Meister 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. Her latest project is Eat This Neighborhood, wherein she attempts to eat at least one thing at every single restaurant in the vicinity of her Chelsea apartment.

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