What your coffee choice says about you


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Last year, when Nicholas Coffee’s prices went up minimally -- no more than 10 cents -- employee Seth Denne noticed that customers who typically order black coffee were the most observant of the price change.

“They were like ‘What? That’s not what I usually pay,’ ” he said.

This wouldn’t be all too surprising to Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, whose study last year found that coffee drinkers tend to be simple and resistant to change.

Her online survey, coordinated in conjunction with “The Dr. Oz Show,” tracked the correlation between coffee order and personality type, and found that there may be a connection between the two.

Latte drinkers tend to be people-pleasers, and those who ordered frozen or blended drinks tend to be trendsetters and sometimes reckless. Instant coffee drinkers are laid back and sometimes procrastinators, and those who ordered decaf or specially ordered drinks err on the perfectionist side and often make healthy choices.

“I’m an incredible people-pleaser, so I laughed when I saw this was the latte drinker … We all could find that in ourselves,” Ms. Durvasula said. “But there are things you can expect. I can’t imagine an abrupt detective walking into a Starbucks and getting a skinny latte.”

“As far as if someone comes in and orders black coffee that means that they know something about coffee or they’re interested in tasting and experiencing the coffee,” said Kate Blumberg, a barista at 21st Street Coffee.

Ms. Blumberg hadn’t noticed any overwhelming trends in personality, though.

“I get customers who are very serious and order lattes,” she said.

The study was done in about a month and was inspired by Ms. Durvasula’s interest in the reflection of consumer choices on personality, especially with coffee, which people spend money on and make part of their daily routine. The study was more of a marketing survey than a “university study,” which may oversimplify some of the data. She recognized other factors, such as price -- a cup of black coffee, on average, is less than $2, while some lattes or blended drinks can range from $3 to $4. The mechanism of the sale, too, may be more telling than the order itself. For example, black coffee is available to a customer usually within a minute.

“If I get a black coffee, you can’t mess that up,” said Craig Inzana, a patron of Starbucks in Downtown‘‍s Market Square, as he drank plain coffee in which he had added creamer and “lots of sugar.” A director, he noted that it’s often the more creative or flamboyant people -- the actors -- who order the fancy, flavored drinks. He typically sticks to straight coffee.

The difference in venue could also have an impact.

“I think that people who are coming here are generally interested in helping out a small business and maybe are a little more trendy or on the business-oriented side,” said Ms. Blumberg, who ags’s worked at 21st Street Coffee for two years at both locations Downtown and in the Strip District.

She said that people in the Strip District tend to spend more time in the coffee shop, while Downtown patrons come and go quickly -- which could have to do with the Strip District’s location having more available seating.

“People like coming here because we’ll talk to them, so it’s more personable,” Mr. Denne said. He’s been working at Nicholas Coffee for two years and although he didn’t track any particular correlations between coffee order and personality, he has noticed that Nicholas Coffee patrons tend to be easygoing and laid-back, which, he says, reflects the vibe of the coffee shop itself.

“This is more quaint and Old World. We roast all of our coffee here,” he said.

Ms. Durvasula noted that she didn’t track the age of various coffee drinkers. She also didn’t study people who don’t drink coffee at all, or people who have elaborate, multifaceted orders.

Mr. Inzana speculated on that group of people.

“People who order several different orders are just trying to show off and look knowledgeable or look hip,” Mr. Inzana said. “Black coffee drinkers don’t care what people think of them.”

Although the study was more “playful,” according to Ms. Durvasula, there may be some validity in her findings.

“We’re a lot more pattered than we think. Even in the smallest decision, our personality drives that a bit,” she said. “I don’t know if anything defines anyone, but you get insight into peoples’ habits.”


Kate Mishkin: kmishkin@post-gazette or 412-263-1352.

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