Dutch Bros. Coffee

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Silent Film with Lecture

(In-house sound effects: rain and idling car engine.)


1. Inside car wipers slosh headlights back together and rain splashes them apart.

2. Grey foggy hills, bits of blue sky.

3. Dutch Bros. sign in neon orange in the rain.

4. Tulips painted on flat gray wall.

5. Girl in booth window, smiling.

        TITLE: “Hi, how are we doin’ today?”

6. Overhead of Dutch Bros. booth straddled by two opposite cars, steam coming out exhausts.

7. From side girl leans far to hand coffee down to car.

8. Hands move from coffee cup to steering wheel, turning onto interstate.

        TITLE: “Nasty weather today.”

9. Interstate at 65mph through windshield, wipers every second.

10. From other side of booth (flip of shot 7) boy leans far to hand coffee down to car.

11. Overhead (same angle as shot 6) car drives away. Booth with no cars: 20 seconds. Door opens; boy runs out.

12. Boy opens “Hair It is!” door.

13. Boy opens bathroom door.


“Now, when you go down 99 just before the freeway you’re gonna want to veer left. The road will kinda pull you to the right.” It was a deadpan joke. He alluded to the two competing drive-thru coffee huts, The Human Bean and Dutch Bros., on the way North out of Ashland. It’s a pull that whenever I’m driving with my dad I pretend is something only he feels, relying on a continuity from before I ever drank coffee. Or I should say pretended, as it will be rather difficult to go on pretending, considering who reads this blog. But yes, every time we drive by that gauntlet of coffee together, he either stops to get coffee and I pretend to order with ambivalence, as if to say “oh, as long as we’re here,” or he makes a joking show of how he’s restraining himself by not going, and I say nothing.

But the truth is I feel the same pull, and I restrain myself every time I go by there. It seems like the perfect way to make the drive more bearable. I might have to drive to Medford, but at least I could have coffee. In times of desperation on longer trips when I’ve been driving forever (read: more than an hour) and I can hardly pay attention to the road, going to a coffee drive-thru is a matter of caffeine, but the initial allure is that of companionship. Just as how one lives to see a pet’s growth, youth, old age, and death, and yet imagines it will always be there, that one can reach out and, well, pet it, with coffee in the cup holder I imagine I can always reach out and take a sip. But coffee of course lives (stays hot) for minutes, not years. The actual time I have with the coffee, warm and comforting, is very short. This doesn’t stop me from wanting it.

I’m similarly drawn to a cafe by an ideal scene that seems like it could last forever. Coffee beside me, my space made somehow more private by everyone around me, words flow effortlessly onto the pages of my notebook. That’s how I imagine it.

I have already made the distinction, but: Is Dutch Bros. a cafe? One comes to it for similar needs--namely, coffee--but above all else a cafe is a place, and one doesn’t come to a drive-thru. One goes to it. But thinking in terms of pedigree, one can’t entirely separate Dutch Bros. from cafe. As cafes might not exist without the popularity of Starbucks, drive-thru coffee would never have come about were it not for the recent American proliferation of cafes. Drive-thrus are their tacky, practical children. Why put baristas in a box? Because we want espresso, not gas station coffee.

While being at the freeway entrance is a perfect hook, somehow the other Ashland location over in the shopping center next to the Cinema draws plenty of people, but not because one is caught unawares by roadside advertising. For the most part one premeditates going here to get coffee, knowing that it’s here.

I have always thought there’s something to the colors and design of Dutch Bros. Maybe it’s because, for some reason or another, I’ve spent a lot of time waiting in the car, staring at the wall of a Dutch Bros. booth. The color scheme is a vision of coffee as a warming fire in a storm. The walls are medium gray, the awning is blue. Even the name, “Dutch Bros.” isn’t in the alarm tones of fast-food, but just white and blue. It’s “Coffee” that burns yellow and red.

What is Dutch? As the Bros. have it: Tulips, windmills, and blue and white. It’s not coffee; they do not espouse there being anything Dutch about coffee, despite the fact that their name is “Dutch Bros. Coffee”. Their numerous window and bumper stickers make a running gag of all things (not) Dutch: Dutch Mafia, Dutch Fro, Dutch Freedom Fighter. Dutch, being a more or less meaningless ethnic signifier around here, makes a perfect tongue-in-cheek brand for a west coast drive-thru coffee chain. It could not have been called Mexican Bros., or Chinese Bros., or even, really, German Bros.. But Dutch? Yes.