Last Minute Holigay Gift Guide 2013: Caffeine is the Key to Everyone’s Heart

As a homegrown New Englander from rural Connecticut, I can’t remember a time I didn’t feel the need to have a warm beverage in my hands at all times. My fondest childhood memories include sitting by the woodstove on chilly mornings, warming my hands around a mug of sweet chamomile tea.

By the time high school rolled around, I had traded in my bad hair and JNCO jeans for boys who broke my heart and girls who asked me to prom even before I knew the extent of my queerness. My life was moving at breakneck speed and I needed a beverage that could fuel my impassioned diary scribbling and burgeoning queer-girl feelings! I switched to black tea: easy to make, strong but not overwhelming, and dependable — more dependable than relationships, and certainly more dependable than my complicated feelings.

Black tea saw me through the rest of high school and through many cold winters and shitty relationships in college, too. Graduation crept up on me, and I found myself 22, single, and ready to move on to something that required more investment than a cheap auto-drip or a tea bag, something that cultivated a little more passion and commitment and love. I was ready for a longer-term commitment. I broke up with the dining-hall dishwater and shitty espressos of my past, moved to New York, and embraced my new relationship with the single-cup Aeropress brewing method.

Today, black coffee is but one of many receptacles of my love and adoration. Still, I can’t deny that coffee and cafes have played a clutch role in getting me to where I am today in one piece:

Coffee was there for me when I was navigating life as a queer girl trying to masquerade as a sort-of-straight girl in a relationship with a dude who never wanted to acknowledge my sexuality.

Coffee was there for me throughout my hot mess of an experience living in NYC, waiting patiently for me at my many go-to Manhattan coffee shops, where I’d document my many feelings in my journal and pick up new ideas for Alternative Lifestyle Haircuts (if you’re looking for dykey hairspiration, NYC’s pretty solid).

Coffee was my daily constant, my liquid courage for when I got more comfortable saying the word ‘bisexual’, and then graduating to ‘queer,’ and then actually being able to say it out loud. In conversation. Even to my parents. So there.

Coffee was there for me when I ended a two-year relationship, left New York City, and funneled all my savings into a quarter-life-crisis cross-country road trip. Treating myself to one solid cup of coffee out in the town was the one creature comfort I promised myself each day, and it helped me start to get over a decades-long habit of not allowing myself to do things just for fun.

Coffee was my go-to in each new city I hit up on my epic journey toward radical self-love and oh-shit-where-did-my-money-go: Café Du Monde in New Orleans, Intelligentsia in L.A., Blue Bottle in San Francisco… Over cups of coffee with strangers or old acquaintances, I got to benefit from the happy feels of coffee as well as the stronger relationships and friendships that came out of it.

Though it might seem that way from my own love story, coffee’s glory is not just about touchy-feely relationship-building. Coffee is actually a magical wonder-drug that produces chemicals to make us feel stimulated and connected! Consuming coffee stimulates the production of dopamine, the same brain chemical that’s released when you orgasm. (This might help explain why you feel so ecstatic after your first cup of coffee in the morning.) Caffeine also increases the firing of neurons in your brain, which prompts your body to produce adrenaline — the hormone that makes your heart beat faster and your pupils dilate, recreating how you might feel from flirting. Or sexytimes. Nice.

These days, as I’m settling into my new home in the Boston area (my town’s a veritable queer-girl haven), coffee serves new crucial purposes. My neighborhood coffee shop, 3 Little Figs, is where I go for a quiet cup of kickass Gimme Coffee. Nearby Diesel Cafe is where I go when I’m feeling cool enough to get my heart broken by the ever-sexy genderqueer baristas (seriously, let Autostraddle’s Queer Girl City Guide be your bible). Caffeine gets me through long days as a youth worker, and is THE BEST accompaniment to chocolate ever.

Coffee and related merch have become my go-to for relationship-building and gift-giving. (Check out my recommendations on the next page!) Basically, coffee’s one of my favorite things, and I hope maybe it’ll be your thing too, and we can enjoy all the things TOGETHER!

Coffee Queeries: Holigay Gift Guide 2013 on Page 2 

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I'm a queer grrrl with a cause — erstwhile sociology major, social justice nerd, aspiring social worker. My passions are working with urban and immigrant youth, advocating for sexual health care and education, and trying to broaden my understanding of reproductive justice each day. I also have an unseemly love for good food, good coffee, and cafe dates with good friends, and am aspiring to have more of all of these things. Can't live without music and human connection; can't and won't forget my working-class rural roots. Queer, bipolar, plotting adventure.

Wren has written 1 article for us.


  1. First, I have to say I love you. And I don’t mean that in a crazy stalker-girl way. I just have a love for anyone who so “gets” coffee and the need for it in life. Were it not for coffee and cafes and music and good friends, I would have either exploded from frustration or died a withering lonely death by now. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the way you have with words about coffee. Merry Christmas, happy holidays and I truly hope someone special gets you something coffee related. :)

    • I agree on all counts! I wish you the same someone-special-coffee-ness, Alyson :-) And I did in fact get some holiday coffee goods, yay!

  2. Thank you so much for writing this post. I was beginning to feel like no one got coffee and its importance the way I do. It has created so many friendships, relationships, and hours of companionship for me. When strangers are alone together sharing a cup of coffee, it makes us all feel just a little less alone. And especially this time of year, when I feel the most alone, this post reminds me that there are other people out there for whom coffee occupies an identical space.

    Basically, you’re the best. And if I was at Harvard Law School right now (I’ve deferred admission, but every single person I know thinks I’m stupid for doing this), I would totally buy you a cup at Crema Cafe.

    • I TOTALLY AGREE. Especially the a-bit-less-alone sentiment. I found that I felt a sense of community even with strangers on a long, otherwise lonely road trip thanks to spending time in cafes.

      Also: a) You’re not stupid for deferring admission, and b) when you do make it to Harvard Law, let me know and we’ll grab coffee! Oh, and Crema Cafe — talk about strangers sharing a delicious cup of coffee basically on each other’s lap…

  3. As an aspiring social worker, as well as former JNCO enthusiast, I thank you for both this article and the work you do with kids.

    • Aspiring social workers (especially youth workers) rock my socks. And +10 for a shared love of JNCO. Till I die.

  4. Thanks for the recommendation- I’ll have to seek out 3 Little Figs now that I’ve just moved back to the Boston area and am sorely missing my Portland coffee haunts.

    • 3 Little Figs is bakery-licious and awesome! And they’re now open Mondays, which has pretty much made my year. Also, Portland’s coffee haunts ARE awesome… how can you beat Stumptown? (Except maybe with Gimme Coffee, which is what they serve at 3 Figs…)

  5. OKAY EVERYBODY. Now that I’ve survived the grad school application gauntlet and have emerged from my hermit-shell I would love to meet any of you in the area for coffee! In fact, I am caffeinating as we speak (second fix of the day).

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