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issue 05/01/2000

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vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.


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Caffeinated Culture

Caffeinated Culture

by Donald Melanson

Addictions are not usually seen as a good thing. They are something that should be treated, or concealed from others. At the very least, they are frowned upon. One addiction, however, has been embraced by society as a good thing, perhaps even a preferable behavior. It is, of course, coffee.

Coffee as a focal point of daily life is nothing new, Arabs first discovered coffee's appeal and blended it with commerce. The cultivation and processing of coffee was kept a closely-guarded secret. Compare this with the technology that would become the internet being kept under wraps for years.

Just like the World Wide Web, coffee also had it's world-conquering qualities. It was an instant hit by the time it reached Italy in 1645. The British were soon to follow in 1650, and in France by 1660. During that time, coffee must have been the perfect example of viral marketing.

In 2000, Netlife and coffee are exploding in popularity. The most visible evidence of this is the rapid growth of coffee shop chains. Starbucks and Second Cup's have found their way into bookstores, university campuses, and seemingly anywhere else with enough room for an espresso machine. But I'm not complaining.

mugI'm one of the millions of people who won't do anything until they have a cup, or two, in the morning. Then varying amounts in the afternoon. Depending on what day you turn on the news, this practice may or may not be good for you. I'm gambling it's the former. If you might be interested in coffee's health effects, look no further than the Coffee Science Source, the "Online Source for Coffee, Caffeine and Health Information".

Nowhere else has coffee permeated more into a culture than with Internet and new media companies. It is ubiquitous. Important meetings often take place in cafes rather than conference rooms. Who knows how far Yahoo! or Netscape would have gotten without a constant stream of java fueling them.

There are many noticeable parallels between these two cultures. The highest concentration of coffee shops tends to be in cities like Seattle and New York, and in Silicon Valley. These areas are also home to a very high ratio of Internet and other technology companies. The USA is the world's largest consumer of coffee, importing 16 to 20 million bags annually (2.5 million pounds), representing 1/3 of all coffee exported. More than half of the United States population consumes coffee typically drinking 3.4 cups of coffee a day. The explosion of coffee and digital technology also occurred at roughly the same time, the mid-nineteen-eighties, and have continued through to the present day. Which brings forth the obvious chicken and egg question.

I won't attempt to answer that question, but there are some interesting statistics that show a clear connection. According to Starbucks, approximately 90 percent of their customers are Internet users. Considering that less than 50 percent of people in North America are Internet users, that is a very significant percentage, and far larger than in any other area.

And don't forget jobs. The Internet has created a lot of work, and the coffee industry's not hurting either. According to the speciality coffee association of America, the premium bean category of the industry has grown into a $1.5 billion annual industry. Over 25 million people are employed in the coffee industry.

You might even be enjoying a cup of Joe while you read this article. I've certainly had a few during it's writing. We're not quite sure where everything is going, but it's certainly going to be an interesting journey. In light of the recent partnership between Starbucks and, maybe if Bill Gates is looking to stay on top of things his next take-over target should be our good man Juan Valdez.

b i o :
Donald Melanson is the Editor-in-Chief of Mindjack Magazine and a full-time coffee drinker. His latest venture is, a new media design shop. He welcomes your comments on this article.

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