A widespread notion that the youthful penchant for popping cola cans threatens the future of the coffee industry fails to reckon with the trendy tastes of college students, some innovative merchants have found.
At Michigan State University in Lansing, just steps from a cafeteria urn selling coffee for as little at 45 cents a cup, is a row of brews redolent with hazlenuts, almonds and the like - for at least 20 cents more.More often than not, the students pick the expensive stuff.
Michigan State was the first beachhead in a national invasion of college campuses by speciality coffee shops that students can find by following their noses.
JoAnne Shaw of Flushing, Mich., president and founder of The Coffee Beanery Ltd., said there was concern that young people did not drink coffee and might never make it part of their lives if they didn't start by graduation.
Some experts said the young were too attached to the simple task of opening soft drinks to go to the trouble of making coffee.
With coffee the second-largest selling commodity after oil - overall sales approaching 2.4 billion pounds - such an eventuality would be a severe economic problem.
"That's exactly why the program exists," said Shaw of a national effort called the Coffee Development Project in Washington, D.C.
"My husband, Julius, and I volunteered to be on a task force to help construct a college campus program which began in 1982. It was strictly to increase coffee drinking among students, to help establish a new generation of coffee drinkers who would demand quality coffee. It was very successful. There are now 85 coffee houses (on campuses)," she said.
The project has helped set up coffee houses on the campuses of Michigan State, University of Michigan, Central Michigan, Northwestern, Columbia, Arizona, North Texas, University of California, Louisiana State, Vanderbilt, Duke, Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Ohio State, Dartmouth, Shaw said.
Shaw, 44, a mother of two, was chairwoman of the national task force in 1987, then retired after serving five years.
Her 23-store Beanery group, started in 1976, includes two campus franchises - at Michigan State and Central Michigan. Others across the country have been established locally, she said. Her son, a Michigan State student, was instrumental in starting the first franchise there in 1981.
The aroma, snappy freshness and rich taste is what impresses students, she said, as well as customers of the Coffee Beanery stores in five states.
"We have whole bean coffees in our stores," said Shaw. "We import all our own coffees and we roast them ourselves so we can tell what the quality is."
While overall coffee consumption has declined, speciality coffee nationally has grown from $50 million in sales in 1983 to $500 million last year, Shaw said.
The trend coincided with that of other high-quality products embraced by affluent, well-educated consumers.
Larry Lillis, who runs the Michigan State franchise alongside the cafeteria in the International Center, said he sells about 500 cups a day.