Coffee at night: weird customs in society

The other day, I was working a dinner shift at my restaurant day job. One of my tables was a group of immigrant folks celebrating their first anniversary living in Canada. And as I cleared their dinner plates, I asked what I always ask customers: “Would you like anything else? Coffee or tea?” These folks paused and, giving me an odd look, asked why they’d want coffee at nearly 10 PM.

 

Which is a good point. I mean, offering a stimulating, caffienated drink at nighttime? Am I trying to keep them awake all night? I winced chucklingly and said, “Uh. You’ve probably noticed that Canadians drink a lot of coffee.”

johnny_automatic_coffee_couple

If you’ve never been to northern Ontario, Canada, let me tell you that coffee is a vital part of life. In some areas of my city, “throw a rock and you’ll hit a coffee shop” isn’t an exaggeration. People walk around with big paper cups of takeout coffee at all hours of the day and night. We use terminology like double-double or four-by-four to describe how much cream and sugar a particular cup of coffee has in it. You’d think that Canada grows coffee beans but no, we definitely don’t. Importing coffee and drinking it all the time is just a habit that has taken hold in our local culture.

 

Maybe it’s an extension of how hot beverages work well as a friendly, welcoming gesture? Coffee can be easily tailored to a guest’s tastes, served boiling hot or chilled over ice; with no cream or lots of it; with no sugar or several heaping spoonfuls; with non-dairy milks or calorie-free sweeteners. Canadians have a reputation for their friendly melting-pot culture and coffee suits it well. But that’s the only real reasoning I can think of. As those new immigrant customers pointed out, sometimes the most mundane customs will defy all rational explanation.

 

It makes me think of fictional worldbuilding, and the standards we hold fantasy worlds to — or even historical stories based in our true past. It’s easy to read a book and say, “That’s a dumb custom. Why would the characters do that? Don’t they notice that it makes no sense?” It’s easy to look at a fictional custom that doesn’t make sense and accuse the author of poor worldbuilding. But I go to my day job and offer people caffeine right before their bedtime, so I’m apparently not one to talk. Societies grow in strange ways sometimes.

 

Related articles:

Teas and tisanes: What’s in a name? (heidicvlach.com)

◦  Food culture of Aligare (Part 2: Daily meals) (heidicvlach.com)

Milk consumption in fantasy worlds (heidicvlach.com)


2 Comments on “Coffee at night: weird customs in society”

  1. Amaaré says:

    The tradition of drinking coffee in the evening, particularly after food, has become common across most western countries.
    It comes through France and Italy from Turkey, though coffee it’s self comes from the Arabian area of the middle east.

    • So the custom probably came came to Canada through European immigrants? Sounds plausible! Although I still wonder about deciding to drink caffeinated beverages at night … Thanks for the info, Amaaré.


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