What’s in your cup?

This winter, students weigh in on the importance of hot drinks.

by Mariel Fulghum | 1/18/23 2:20am

by Naomi Lam / The Dartmouth

At any given college, on any given morning, there is a decided omnipresence of caffeinated drinks and bleary eyes. Campuses are flooded with coffee. Iced, hot, from Starbucks, homemade — or dorm-made, rather. The point is: you name a form of caffeine, you’ll probably see it.

Now, take Dartmouth, which happens to fall under the aforementioned category of “college,” meaning it has students who are — practically by definition — tired. However, Dartmouth’s winter weather differentiates itself from many colleges around the world.

It is cold here. Very cold.

Hanover winter has arrived, albeit with what seems like less force than usual. Still though, it’s very chilly. Dartmouth’s 10-week term is always grueling, but add frigid New Hampshire temperatures onto that, and you are left with an especially exhausted and numb student population. How do Dartmouth students deal with this? 

Caffeine, of course! Not just any kind, but the specific form of caffeine that can warm our frozen hands and ease frazzled minds — we’re talking hot drinks.

As I enter my second Dartmouth winter, the mere thought of a term without hot drinks sends a chill down my spine. Sure, no matcha oat milk latte means a cold, uncaffeinated Mariel. But for me, it is about more than the physical effects of hot drinks — I believe they do something for the soul. 

Lara Roelofs ’25 said she agreed, adding that she enjoys “the experience of a drink more than the actual drink itself.” 

For Roelofs, sipping a warm beverage can be helpful when she is feeling particularly sluggish, but she said she is only “a little bit addicted” to caffeine. Instead, she mainly makes hot drinks because she enjoys the calming ritual of creating and drinking them. 

Roelofs said she is a coffee and tea connoisseur of sorts: She owns a french press and coffee grounds, as well as a collection of bagged teas and matcha in her room. She says that she prefers a homemade drink, because after much experimentation, she’s nailed her go-to recipes. Often, when she buys an expensive drink at a cafe, Roelofs said that it fails to measure up to what she makes at home, which is — as she so succinctly put it — “sad.” 

Ellie McLaughlin ’25 has a different opinion on the debate of homemade versus purchased drinks — she said she needs caffeine to start her day, so she does make espresso in her room, but only for purely practical reasons. 

“It’s not enjoyable,” McLaughlin said. “It’s straight espresso.” 

She takes the espresso as a shot and then goes about her day. However, McLaughlin added that she sometimes has a second coffee during the day, usually an espresso drink that she pays for, and she still appreciates the experience of a caffeinated drink.

This is the drink that she chooses for “the taste… the culture… the pausing to enjoy it.” 

McLaughlin added that walking to Still North or Starbucks for a coffee is an experience “in its own sacred realm” as a moment away from the demands of schoolwork. Since going to a cafe isn’t one of her daily habits, something about it still feels novel and enjoyable, especially when accompanied by friends, she said. According to McLaughlin, the experience surrounding the purchase of a drink makes the relatively high cost worth it — to her, it is “money well spent.”

India Jones ’25 sits somewhere in the middle of this debate: She enjoys the experience of buying a coffee, but she doesn’t deny the benefits of a more cost-effective drink. When asked about her go-to winter drink, Jones immediately answered, “One Wheelock coffee, because it’s free.” 

Jones added that she also likes making espresso and tea in the kitchen of the LLC where she lives, but that affordability is not the only aspect of coffee consumption worth considering. 

She said that she drinks coffee for “taste and experience primarily. Caffeine sometimes.” 

This is why Jones often finds herself ordering a drink at Umpleby’s, a cafe and bakery in town.She said she likes the atmosphere to study or catch up with friends there, so it feels like she’s paying for that experience when she buys a coffee, which makes the cost worth it.

While it’s true that caffeinated drinks can function as a cure-all for Dartmouth students beaten down and tired out by a cold, fast-paced term, their caffeine content doesn’t seem to be all that is important. Rather, hot drinks allow for a pause. They provide the space for a mental break. 

Whether students are creating elaborate drinks in their dorm or making the trek to Starbucks, one aspect of drinking a hot coffee seems to stay the same — it’s not really about the coffee itself after all.