Coffee has become a fairly controversial subject as its view has changed in response to the time. In the article “Coffee Drinking: An Emerging Social Problem?” by Ronald J. Troyer and Gerald E. Markle, the concept of sociological trends of coffee are analyzed. In doing so, it exposes the issues the proponents and opponents of the coffee culture in America experience in reaching the public. Under this context, one can deduce the sociological trends that might occur to influence people throughout the whole of American society.
It is not uncommon for people to fear the effects of coffee. Since its inception in Arab countries (most likely Yemen), outside countries exposure to it caused negative responses especially from skeptical Europeans. North American opposition only became prominent in the 20th century. In fact North American claims against coffee varied in degree throughout the 20th century. From 1920 to 1960 warnings were rare and didn’t increase until the 1970s. At this point various medical studies were exposed that argued both sides of the coffee debate. While some argued intellectual improvements, others countered with a connection it maintained with cancer, birth defects, and heart disease. The 1970s also saw a psychological focus that suggested a link to mental disorders. At this point the popular media were immersed into the argument with various responses on the obsession.

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Many health groups are participating in the caffeine argument and coffee’s regulation. In response, the coffee and soft drink industry are countering to sell even more of the product. One of the strongest opponents to the caffeine phenomenon is the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which holds conferences and discusses the negative medical effects coffee culture has created in America. Meanwhile, the National Coffee Association (NCA) advocates coffee and lobbies for the industry. Opponents of coffee’s prevalence and sociologists alike attribute the sociological coffee trend to the addictive properties and repercussions of cigarettes.

These factors being considered, there are several points that should be emphasized in regards to the coffee industry. To begin, like cigarettes it’s becoming a sociological trend in which something very prevalent and socially acceptable in society has to be changed in the eyes of the public. Due to its acceptance in society, anti-coffee organization must gain allies to support their cause. Likewise, the importance of special interest groups are highlighted in the article as illustrated by the NCA’s control over public perception. The controversy this entails creates a unique paradox in which the views on coffee are largely dependent on sociological trends of people along with how the market is affected.

With this being considered, I found the essay to be engaging and insightful as it lays out a major social problem seldom addressed in our culture. In an organized and effective manner the academic journal analyzes the history of coffee and its relevance to the way people view it in our society. Perhaps more importantly, it beckons the question as to social problems in society. By drawing the parallel between cigarettes it investigates the connection between special interest groups and their role in preventing (or working against) the well being of society. It also puts a social context of how socially acceptable norms are reluctant to reach the public when it comes at the expense of a profitable job market.

  • Troyer, R. J., & Markle, G. E.. (1984). Coffee Drinking: An Emerging Social Problem?. Social Problems, 31(4), 403–416.