On the first warm day after winter, you can usually find me in a sensible jacket on a street corner somewhere, shaking my head at the impetuous fools rocking short sleeves and clutching sloshing plastic cups of iced coffee. I’ve always been a cautious type—my entire college career was predicated on not peaking too early, to such an extreme that I actually never peaked at all—and I view the preemptive move from hot to cold beverages as a revealing personality test. If you giddily order an iced coffee on the first day over 60°, I will presume that you’re also the type of person who disrobes in Central Park whenever the sun comes out, and perhaps someone who does class-A drugs on weekends. But those who wait it out, putting a finger to the wind and muttering, “This won’t last,” are the type of anorak-wearing hedgers with whom I share a silent solidarity.
In New York, I’ve found that people are more likely to jump the gun on iced coffee than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. I bet if you look at the month of April so far, iced coffee sales in NYC are through the roof, yet I defy anyone to tell me with a straight face that it has consistently been “iced coffee weather.” Since moving here, I’ve also encountered a lot of people with a brazen philosophy on iced coffee that’s so New York, which goes something like this: “I can get an iced coffee whenever the fuck I want, and then switch back to hot coffee whenever the fuck I want, you coffee nazi dick!” But for me, it’s a sacred rite of spring not to be taken lightly, like the first time I run in a pair of very small shorts.
Realizing that my way isn’t necessarily the only way, I decided to hit up a few food writers and known caffeine junkies to get their thoughts on the matter. Here’s what they had to say. (For the record, I haven’t made the move yet, but looking at the forecast I’m thinking Saturday might be the day. We’ll see! When I do pull the trigger, I know I’ll have plentiful options at my fingertips.)
When do you make the switch to iced coffee?
Ben Leventhal, Eater co-founder and Kitchensurfing.com president: “If you have to ask when iced coffee season starts, you’ll never know. I think Louis Armstrong first said that. The start of the season this year was during the first week of April. (Quite late, actually.) So it is, so it shall be written, so it shall be done.”
Jordana Rothman, food writer/Twitter #influencer: “Iced coffee season starts when Ben Leventhal declareth it. Live by the Leventhal. Caffeinate by the Leventhal.”
Robert Sietsema, critic, Village Voice: “I switch to iced coffee on the first day when you cross the street in order to walk on the shady side instead of in the sun. That usually occurs sometime in May. Then I don’t switch back until I start wearing sweaters or a light jacket in the fall.”
Ruth Brown, coffee writer and FWF contributor: “It is acceptable to drink iced coffee when the weather gets above 85. Anything colder than that is soft.”
Mari Uyehara, Food & Drink editor, Time Out NY: “No one should drink iced coffee. It is a shit expression of coffee for people who are looking for a megasized, stale, watery caffeine delivery system. Iced coffee versus hot coffee is like dead leaves to young buds. Fuck iced coffee.”
Michael Williams, A Continuous Lean: “Ice coffee is the flip flops of drinks. I like it because there’s no easier way to let people know you are vapid. I refuse to drink ice coffee. Not because I think I am interesting (I am not)—I abstain because I feel that coffee should be served hot. Unless, of course, you are in L.A. Iced coffee is fine in Los Angeles.”
Gabriella Gershenson, senior editor, Saveur: “I generally switch to iced coffee when it’s so hot out that there’s sweat dripping down the backs of my legs when I’m not even moving. It’s got to be extreme. Otherwise, I prefer my coffee hot. There’s something about the warmth that’s soothing and as essential in the morning as a caffeine buzz.”
Dave, editor, World’s Best Ever: “Manhattan Special has been serving up that chilled espresso soda since 1895, so I’ll say it’s seasonless. And since my preference is room-temperature coffee or coffee from a French press that’s been in a refrigerator, I say, ‘Drink it whenever!'”
Francis Lam, writer and Top Chef Masters judge: “NEVER. I may dabble, but never switch.”
Russ Bengston, Sneakers editor/caffeine fiend, Complex: “Personally, I think it’s on the first day you can go outside in the morning without a jacket. The weather might get chilly again, but once you switch, it’s in season until fall.”
Ryan Sutton, critic, Bloomberg: “Sadly, I don’t drink coffee! I’m a tea guy—always have been, and always will be. Pearl Jasmine green tea (highly caffeinated, actually) is my drug of choice, and I go through a few hundred dollars worth of the stuff every year. Though my doctor says I should cut down as the tea might contribute to my regular passage of kidney stones. I actually worked as a barista for Dean & Deluca during the summer of 2001 when I finished college. People told me I made a pretty good espresso and I took tremendous pride in what I did, but like a sober bartender I never really sampled my product. That all said, I had my first ICED TEA this morning, a medium iced chai latte from Starbucks. Kills me to say that, as I like to support small businesses, but so be it.”
Chris Stang, Immaculate Infatuation: “I drink a lot of coffee, and I typically choose not to mess with the iced variety. Unless you’re buying the cold press from Stumptown or some other high-end shop, you’re essentially just giving some guy an extra $1.50 for a cup of hot Folgers that’s been cooled down in a bucket and then handed to you with a straw. No thanks.”
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