The way the coffee crumbles – the science of hot drinks

I tend to be wary of people who don’t like a cup of tea or coffee, I don’t trust them (one of those old wives tales I suppose).

I’m also known to judge a hotel room or conference centre by its tea and coffee-making facilities. I either blame my mother for this, or the fact that we’re all so British and a good cuppa is high on our list of expectations.

If you’re in the UK, you expect a good cup of tea wherever you go. It’s standard. The done thing. It means comfort. It can also mean that a hot drink leads to a heart-warming person, according to some research.

In an earlier post on We Blog Events, I talked about the power of a coffee meeting – that most of the firms and people I write about I’ve met over a coffee. I’ve also played witness to surviving off the stuff in the lead up to an event. So I know first hand that the events industry likes caffeine.

But does the success of the meeting or event depend on the heat of a drink?

Whether it’s a green tea, coffee or even a hot ribena, a ‘warm’ drink can make someone feel at ease and comforted. US researchers have long noted that if you want someone to warm to you, give them a hot drink.

Very little in life can’t be improved by putting the kettle on.

Hearing the phrase alone can soothe some, as it often implies an invitation to sit down and talk things through. Hot drinks can soften or slow the pace of life, especially if you’re busy heading towards your latest deadline. You can’t rush a hot drink, it has to be taken slowly so you don’t burn your mouth. So, while you’re sipping and blowing and waiting for the right drinking temperature, you’re actually spending the time talking to the people you’re with.

Does this mean that hot drinks can make you friendlier?

An experiment published in the journal Science, conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder, found that people judged others as having a ‘warmer’ personality.

If they had held a warm cup of coffee and less so if they had held an iced coffee. In a second study, people were more likely to give something to others if they had just held something warm and more likely to take something for themselves if they held something cold.

When we ask whether someone is a warm person or cold person, they both have a temperature of 37 degrees. These terms implicitly tap into the primitive experience of what it means to be warm and cold. Physical warmth can make us see others as warmer people, but also cause us to be warmer, more generous and trusting as well – Psychology Professor John Bargh from Yale University

I’d be interested to see if handing someone a cold drink in a meeting will make the person trust you less and think you are less caring. Would you then think that that person has a ‘cold’ personality? What do you think #eventprofs?

Psychologists also suggest the effect a warm drink has on you is to do with positive associations from early parental warmth and its associated nourishment.

Yes, that’s right, hot drinks run deep. What do you think your drink says about you?

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