Java-holic Jitters

Rebecca Lubart has been hooked on coffee since she was 15 years old. Now a junior at GW, she drinks three to four cups a day to feed her addiction. And that’s just because she’s trying to cut back.

“I need it to function,” Lubart said. “Otherwise, I feel like I’m in a daze the entire day.”

Notoriously, college students with hectic schedules and little sleep often rely on caffeine to open their eyes every day, and with the recent launch of a third Starbucks on campus, grabbing a coffee around GW has become more convenient than ever. Unfortunately, for many addicted students, coffee cravings multiple times each day can be expensive when each hot cup of caffeine requires a swipe of the GWorld.

According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, the coffee industry, which employs more than 20 million people, is second only to oil in the worldwide trade market. The specialty coffee retail market size in the United States alone was nearly $9 billion at the end of 2003 and has been steadily increasing since 1999.

While the coffee industry is growing, however, GWorld accounts of students who need coffee to function everyday are quickly shrinking.

The J Street Starbucks, which recently raised the prices on many of its drinks, now charges up to $4.20 to soothe a caffeine craving. Students can end up spending even more in the newly opened Gelman Starbucks, because unlike its J Street counterpart, the new store charges tax on GWorld.

No matter how high or low the cost, the effects of caffeine addiction may be hurting more than just students’ GWorld accounts.

Last week, Professor Rowland Griffiths of Johns Hopkins University declared that caffeine withdrawal could be considered a psychological disorder. According to NationalGeographic.com, the professor of behavioral biology and neuroscience based his findings on the last 170 years worth of research and published articles dealing with caffeine’s physiological effects and the effects of withdrawal.

According to Griffith, as quoted in National Geographic, these studies suggest that people who drink caffeine on a regular basis may do so not because they enjoy it, but solely to get rid of withdrawal symptoms.

Regardless, many students, like junior Laura DiTillio, prefer to save money by brewing their own coffee at home. DiTillio said she depends on her daily caffeine fix but prefers the convenience and low cost of drinking the cheapest brand that she can make in her own dorm.

“Every once in a while if I feel inspired I get a white chocolate mocha,” DiTillio said. “But it does run up the GWorld dollars.”

To graduate student Kartik Bulusu, soothing his own caffeine cravings at home is not a matter of convenience but a cultural indulgence. Bulusu uses a mechanical coffee pot to prepare special coffee sent from India. Because the process is mechanical, the no-name brand ground coffee needs to be prepared overnight.

“In the morning, when you open it, there’s a beautiful smell,” Bulusu said. “And you just add milk.”

Seventy five percent of the more than 300 million cups of coffee that Americans drink each day is home-brewed, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America. This low-cost option is not open to many students, however, because coffee pots are illegal in dorm rooms without designated kitchen areas.

For those less ambitious coffee lovers, the new Dunkin’ Donuts in the Ivory Tower food court is a favorite place to grab some caffeine. Freshman Michael Loeb said he prefers the donut chain’s coffee to Starbucks because it tastes about the same and is “much, much cheaper.”

An even less expensive option than Dunkin’ Donuts can be found just feet from the entrance of Gelman’s new coffee shop. Le Hoa has been selling coffee, as well as other items such as cigarettes and pre-packaged cookies, from a cart outside of the library for the past 27 years. The price of a hot Styrofoam cup of coffee has been raised only once during all of that time – from $1 to $1.25.

Coffee sales for Hoa have gone down in recent years, but Hoa, who had never made as much money off coffee as other items, is not discouraged.

“Some customers know me and buy from me,” she said. “People like it and come back.”

Perhaps the best-kept coffee secret at GW lies tucked away at the Mount Vernon Campus’ Eckles Library. Hidden on the second floor, in the back of the student lounge, a machine brews coffee (regular, decaf and French vanilla), cappuccino and hot chocolate. What the machine lacks in convenience it makes up for in price – 25 cents per cup.

Although Foggy Bottom students may find the journey to Eckles to be too much of a hassle for the cheapest coffee on campus, freshman Somers Hall resident Kate Golcheski said the low-priced coffee’s location is appropriate.

“That’s our consolation prize for living on the Vern,” she said.

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