Like many a US state highway department, Australia’s Northern Territory offered free coffee to the area’s highway drivers since 2003. Drivers were invited to pull off the freeway and pick up a free coffee from participating roadhouses in the hopes it would keep them awake and prevent highway deaths. Aussie writer Alyssa Betts bemoans the fact that the program has been eliminated in a just-posted article.* She blames the program’s end on the latte-sipping “Princess Mucks”. Indeed, the program was canceled because of lack of participation. The drivers sped right by and if they did want coffee to keep them awake, they chose to buy it from barista’s who could make the brew into cappuccino and macchiato drinks and the like. They did not ignore the program because the free coffee was too expensive, or because the roadhouses were inconvenient, or because they don’t drink coffee. Australian drivers neglected to take advantage of the free brew because it was instant coffee. Thus the snob epithets from Betts, who says “Apparently coffee snobs don't just want to stay alive on long drives. They want a barista's loving touch and maybe a vanilla-caramel-frangipani shot too.” Cash-strapped government programs don’t want to keep supporting programs that become ineffective for lack of use. So the funds are being directed into a different approach: providing information about trip planning and road safety. It will be published in a multilingual pamphlet. Other funds will be used for improving road signs. It’s assumed that the drivers will continue to purchase their own gourmet coffee drinks to help them stay awake on long drives. What this change reveals is how far Australian coffee drinkers have come. When free coffee used to be fine, even if it WAS instant, it’s now no longer good enough. Drivers prefer to put out their own cash so that they can have the upscale coffee drinks, both hot and cold. But it shows something else as well: coffee drinkers are enjoying coffee for more than just an energy source to keep them awake. They are enjoying coffee for its flavor and goodness. Now, THAT’S a change we can believe in! *Just like ROASTe’s coffee, the news doesn’t get any fresher. Tomorrow's news today - this article is dated August 18!
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