The Coffee or the cup?
A couple of years ago, I ran across an invitation to the reception for a couple who were to be married in the Provo Temple. In the obligatory picture, the man stood stone-faced, dressed in the usual church attire, while his fiancé was grinning ear-to-ear, kicking up a stiletto heel, and wearing a mini-dress that barely fell to her mid-thigh. My reaction was two-fold. On the one hand, I was happy for her. The woman was graced with fabulous Lady Di legs. Why shouldn’t she flaunt ’em? On the other hand, I was confused. Why would an LDS girl pose for her temple wedding invitation in a dress she couldn’t wear with her temple garments? (Unless she was planning to channel Cyndi Lauper.)
To look cool, of course.
OK, we’ve all been guilty of that at times. I can’t fault her for it. Only, to many LDS, “looking cool” means “looking like we’re not Mormons.”
Take, for example, Provo’s latest business model, Latter-Day Café, now serving “capomo,” a beverage derived from the maya nut, and billed as “the first ever natural coffee substitute that ACTUALLY TASTES LIKE COFFEE!”
Given their target clientele has probably never tried coffee, I’m guessing they’re in safe territory as far as taste goes. On price—not so much. Their cappuccino (billed as “an Italian favorite”) ranges from $5.75-7.00. But they do offer the trendy believer the opportunity to order a “flat white” in a coffee-house atmosphere, complete with spewing steam, foaming milk, and grinding beans (make that maya nuts). That alone could make Latter-Day Cafe a winner.
Obedience to the Word of Wisdom has long been a challenge for LDS hipsters. Hence the success of places like Sodalicious, that serve up cleverly titled “mixed sodas,” offering the believer a simulation of ordering an actual cocktail. But substituting 7-up for gin is as far as a Mormon mixologist can go. The LDS ban on alcohol is cut and dried. Whereas the language around coffee continues to be vague and evolving, allowing Mormons some actual wiggle room. (Consider the following.)
The Word of Wisdom, found in D&C 89, discourages the consumption of “hot drinks.” The Church interprets “hot drinks” to be coffee and tea. Because they don’t have caffeine. So herbal tea is OK because it doesn’t have caffeine. Likewise hot chocolate. (Only, it does have caffeine—but let’s not go there.) Decaf coffee is not OK, even though it has less caffeine than chocolate, because it’s coffee. Also it’s hot. But even when tea and coffee are iced, they are still not OK because they have caffeine. But caffeinated soft drinks are OK, even the so-called energy drinks that have more caffeine than coffee. Got that?
Perhaps this conundrum explains why the Latter-Day Café offers to lace your cup of capomo with “anywhere from as much caffeine as a Coca Cola or even more than your favorite energy drink.” (But in no way the same ratio as coffee.) Perhaps that is also why a recent study conducted by Jana Reiss revealed that a number of LDS Millennials are blowing off the whole “hot drinks” debate and just drinking the stuff.
Starbucks seems to do well in Utah, and not just thanks to the non/ex-Mormons. Nor is it because of those coffee-guzzling Mormon Millennials that Jana Reiss ratted out. Mormons love their Starbucks. A friend of mine who used to manage a Starbucks in Davis County saw non-coffee orders outnumbering those for coffee. In fact, some customers even complained if the latte they ordered had coffee in it! (I mean, shouldn’t a barista in Bountiful know better?) My friend literally had to ask: “Would you like any espresso in your cappuccino?” And when they answered “no” she’d send them off with a $3+ cup of foam. Why would a good Latter-day Saint patronize a business whose primary product is against his/her religion?
Because the cups make them look cool!
Can Latter-Day Café match that? Sure, they can make a mean no foam latte with extra caffeine and a triple shot of something that tastes “just like espresso.” But will it sell if served in a vessel without that super-cool green and white logo on it? Will capomo become the star of a new franchise of faux coffee houses? Or will it be relegated to a shelf at Smith’s Food King, alongside the Postum? What do Mormon hipsters really want? The coffee or the cup?
Bottom line, if Mormons actually want to be cool, they’ll stop trying to imitate outsiders and start reaching out to them with compassion.
How about those BYU students who started lighting the Y in rainbow colors? They’re pretty darned cool.