Just a Little Java

My loyalty to Dunkin’ Donuts goes way back. My mother took me to a shop on Railroad Street in St. Johnsbury, VT in the late ’70s. We’d swivel in hard stools at a long counter shaped like a U, drinking coffee and hot chocolate from thick, white ceramic mugs. The waitress—in a beige and brown dress and practical shoes—would bring a honey-glazed donut for my mom and a chocolate crème-filled for me. Basically, my donut was a chocolate lard-filled delight rolled in sugar. They didn’t powder the crème-filled back then, just dipped them in sugar—a true delicacy for a seven-year-old! The napkins were a crisp white (recycling hadn’t really been invented yet) and they were still serving to-go coffee in paper cups.

Today’s Dunkin’s looks quite different. And, they’ve multiplied! I used to pass five separate shops driving my son to hockey practice. And just when I thought Dunkin’s couldn’t get any better, with a kind of coffee for every whim and every time of day, they took it the next step.

They just surpassed themselves. They now sell K-Cups.

For years, I just couldn’t make a cup of coffee as good as the ones from Dunkin’s. When they started selling ground coffee in their stores, I got a bit closer. There was still a temperature issue, though—I could never get my coffee as hot as Dunkin’s. But now, with my Keurig machine, I can almost experience a real DD cup—just minus the girl in the apron and my mom and her glazed donut sitting next to me.

So I’d like to add an entry to the list of top inventions of all time. It’s an illustrious list—the steam engine, the automobile, the television. And, we can’t forget the computer, the cotton gin, and penicillin. But a Keurig paired with Dunkin’ Donuts K-Cups? It’s a downright phenomenon.

There aren’t counters at Dunkin’ Donuts any more. Their staff now wear more contemporary uniforms and their drive through times are 30 seconds or something ridiculous like that, serving people like me dashing off to work or to a football game. The shops are still branded with the signature orange and brown, but now they serve tuna salad, wraps, and Mountain Dew Coolatas.  And, of course, pumpkin coffee, donuts, and muffins in the fall! And they serve nearly a billion cups of coffee a year.

Can you imagine? What has this world come to? Dunkin’s has yet to spread across the entire continent as famously it has in New England. So they have a ways to go. But in the meantime, what is the rest of America running on?

Note: My son, who was named Duncan when he was born, said more than once that he wished we spelled his name Dunkin. Kids sometimes spell it that way on birthday cards. Now that is taking brand loyalty a bit too far. I have to draw a line in the sugar somewhere.