Smart Coffee for Regular Joes

5 Things to Consider When Dating a Non-Coffee Drinker

Image Credit: Saxbald Street Photography

They say opposites attract, but when the opposites involved are "coffee lover" and "non-coffee drinker," can it really work? That might sound a little too serious, but if there's one thing we know about coffee drinkers, it's that they take their coffee very seriously.

Coffee as a Dating Deal-Breaker

Some people go as far as to call abstaining from coffee a dating deal-breaker. "All I know is that when my parents got divorced, my mom (coffee drinker) stated for the record that the ultimate deal-breaker for any new relationship was that he must be a coffee drinker (Dad was not one). I took this as sage advice," says Jennifer Koskinen of Merritt Design Photo, a coffee-loving friend.

Coffee as a Shared Ritual

Non-coffee drinkers might identify the deal-breaker reaction as a prime sign of addiction, which very well may be true, but I think it points to something deeper: If we are coffee lovers, and many of us are, we aren't just drawn to the drink, we are drawn to the ritual. And a good, healthy relationship involves sharing our rituals with someone, right? Coffee is a social act; it's even better enjoyed together.

"One of the best parts about coffee-drinking is the whole experience of it, which is definitely best enjoyed with someone who gets that," says Helen Williams of Green Girls Eats, who happens to be in the Coffee As a Deal-Breaker category. "Plus one of my favorite things to do when traveling to a new place is tracking down the best local coffee shop. They've at least got to be along for the journey."

I understand where Williams is coming from. My partner in crime was a casual coffee drinker before he met me, and in our relationship, coffee has become a thread that ties our experiences together. We seek out cafes and roasters in new places when we travel, brew coffee outside whenever we're camping, and experiment with various cold brew and iced coffee methods in the summer. To be honest, he has turned into more of a coffee geek than I have.

Inevitably your partner is going to have interests that don't align with yours. You just have to choose whether or not dating a non-coffee drinker would really work for you.

On Converting a Non-Coffee Drinker

A coffee addiction can be perplexing to the non-coffee drinker, but it can also lead to conversion — so there is hope!

"I guess you don't miss what you don't know. I found it odd that we had to walk for ages to find 'good coffee' — surely all coffee is just the same?" says Bronte Aurell of Scandinavian Kitchen. When opening the popular London cafe with her husband (the coffee drinker), she realized if she was going to make good coffee, then she would have to start drinking it too. "I think it was just my tastebuds waiting to be woken up. An acquired taste, but one I was meant to fall in love with."

5 Things to Consider When Dating a Non-Coffee Drinker

If you're considering dating a non-coffee drinker, here are the steps I feel you should consider.

1. Get to know what the other person wants.

Sure, you want a French press when you wake up, but what does your partner want? Tea? Do they want green or black? What kind of teapot do they like? Don't be selfish — give their drink of choice the same attention you give your own. This goes for you non-coffee drinkers, too.

"I even have a coffee press for guests (boyfriends included) at my house," noted my tea-drinking friend Whitney. That also means you need to have coffee to put in it, but this is when it's OK to say, "Bring whatever coffee you want, I've got what you need to make it." Because let's be honest — if there's a deal-breaker out there, it's stale coffee.

2. Plan dates accordingly.

If you really want to go on a coffee date, then make sure to go to a place that has coffee as well as other things. That means no specialty espresso bars that serve coffee and coffee only. This is after all, really just a basic rule of common courtesy when trying to get to know a potential partner, coffee lover or not.

3. Share your passion (respectfully).

Coffee could be a teachable moment in your relationship, and a chance to share what you love. "Try to figure out what they don't like about it," says Williams. "If I had to guess, I would say most people who are anti-coffee believe that it always tastes bitter. Take them to a coffee shop that always gets it right. Make them a really amazing cup at home, maybe pair it with something that brings out the particular nuances."

It's true that many people have never had a good cup of coffee, and this might be their chance. Of course, if you ensure that they get a good brew, and they still aren't convinced, let it be. It's OK to have differences, after all.

4. Be prepared for surprises and disappointments.

I was surprised to find out that there are even baristas who end up with non-coffee drinkers. "The first time I stayed at his place (he lives in a different city), I brought a bag of coffee beans from where I work. I thought it would be a good introduction," says Sierra Hatcher, who is a barista at Café Lomi in Paris. "That's when I found out he doesn't drink coffee. He was touched, but apologetic when he told me I'd be the only one using them."

5. Be open to the possibility of converting them.

My favorite response from asking around about various coffee-dating experiences came from my friend Kat: "My partner loved all the rituals of coffee; I'd never had coffee at all beyond sugary cappuccinos at trendy coffee houses back in high school. It seemed a lot of fuss and hassle for a bitter morning drink. But we do all sorts of things for love, so I learned to drink the (then-vile) substance, and we came to share all the bits he loved: the sound of grinding beans, holding steaming mugs in the morning, gritty campfire brews scented with wood smoke, the warm mug in hand for a chilly morning walk. I came to love it, too.

"In my next relationship, my partner and I started every morning with one or the other making coffee and bringing it back to bed where we would sit, sip, be and set the day together. I am converted."

Do you have any stories of coffee conversion from your own relationships? Or simply coffee resignation — as the solo coffee drinker in your household?