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Babyccinos: Coffee for Babies

February 21, 2012

Photo by maywong_photos


“Babyccinos” made headlines
last week as the latest hip trend in Brooklyn – coffee shops serving up cutesy beverages, “babyccinos”, to children. After which, the story seems to have gone in two separate directions. One is a debate (ranging from outrage to indifference) and the other is denial. An ABC journalist tried to cover the story only to conclude that there was no story – the coffee shop owners denied the trend, saying they weren’t really selling many of these kid drinks. Is that really true? After all, maybe some café owners didn’t want throngs of angry parents boycotting their shops? In fact, one of the café owners in the original article admitted that she doesn’t allow her own two kids have the “faux-adult beverages”. Other newspapers have confirmed more occurrences of these “babyccinos”, so lets get back to feeding babies coffee. And let’s start with what the heck a babyccino actually is.

What’s a Babyccino?

“Babyccino” is a made-up word for a made-up drink, so it really has no reliable definition. It’s basically any beverage served by a coffee shop to a child. These drinks generally fall into 2 categories: steamed milk and decaf coffee. The plain steamed milk and foam often comes with a sprinkle of chocolate or cinnamon on top. The coffee version is typically a macchiato-like beverage with a shot of decaf espresso topped with steamed milk and froth.

Serving babies coffee..

Plain steamed milk? If you believe in drinking milk, no harm done in terms of health. I won’t go there in terms of not drinking milk in the first place (a la paleo).

The decaf one, on the other hand… For goodness sake, people, decaf still contains caffeine! Enough said? Apparently not. According to the original article,

Doctors say that caffeine is not healthy for kids in large quantities, but a decaf shot of espresso contains less caffeine than a soda.

Awesome comparison, because obviously, soda is a staple in all kids’ diets, so no harm done if they have a babyccino instead. Introducing an addictive substance to toddlers is a-okay.

Today, Babyccino. Tomorrow, Coffee.

So what happens when your adorable babyccino guzzling child declares that they’re no longer a baby, and they insist on the real grown-up version? Or they just buy it for themselves? These kids are getting introduced to the café culture at a very young age, thereby increasing the likelihood of them starting to drink coffee at a very early age. Some will say, so what? Well, believe it or not, not everyone believes that coffee is healthy.

Babyccinos: Evil Marketing Genius

This whole babyccino thing is a marketing ploy. Kids have been drinking warm or steamed milk for ages. And cafes have always served coffee alternatives for those that, well, don’t drink coffee. So that’s not really news.

But branding these drinks as “babyccinos” and targeting them towards parents, and sadly, their children – that’s evil marketing genius. Coffee companies get a new, probably unexpected, group of customers with lots of disposable income (their parents’), that’ll likely nurse their coffee-drinking habit for decades. Plus, they get a unique form of brand loyalty – one day in the future, these kids will reflect back on the babyccinos of their youth, quite possibly preferring the brand that they used to drink growing up. This is similar to how many adults crave McDonald’s or Kraft Dinner, because it’s a comforting taste reminiscent of their childhood.

What’s the Deal with Babyccinos?

Why do parents buy into these babyccinos, anyway? Is it because they think they’re cute? Are they trying to assuage their guilt over repeatedly dragging their kids to coffee shops, by trying to make it “fun” for the kids? Who gets more of a kick out of babyccinos – the kids, or the parents?

What is the message that these kids are getting? That they need to walk around with a beverage in their hands at all times? That they need to be trendy? That they require caffeine to function property? That their day isn’t complete without a caffeine fix?

Kids will have the rest of their lives to be grown-ups and drink coffee (if they so choose). For now, rather than encouraging them to be mini-hipsters with their own “faux-adult” decafs, why can’t we just let kids be kids?

What’s your take on babyccinos? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah April 30, 2012 at 4:17 PM

I enjoy my coffee at home most of the time (that way I can make it with less milk than a latte, but still not black – I’d rather have a bit of milk than add sugar). So I buy beans at our local roasting house. Which just happens to do free coffees when you buy beans there. They also offer free “babyccinos” which are basically half-sized hot-chocolates that aren’t actually hot. My kids love them, but I’m quite firm that they don’t get coffee – “coffee is a grown up drink”. I see no harm in letting my children have a hot drink when I am having one – they’re little people, not accessories that I drag around.

Decaf coffee, on the other hand, is a whole other ball game. Children don’t understand the impact of caffeine or even what “decaf” means. Thankfully, here in Australia we don’t seem to do the decaf coffee kind of babyccino (in fact, I never heard of such a thing). There’s no way I would let my children have decaf coffee, or iced coffee milks (which contain caffeine) or any form of cola (the only softdrink they get is lemonade, with no artificial additives and cane sugar only, and that’s an occasional treat).

If you ever taste breast milk, it’s fairly obvious that children are designed to consume more sugar than adults are, and from a biological perspective they’re also designed to process milk products until about age 7 (and I know the arguments against cows milk, but if it gets the calcium and protein in and they aren’t actually intolerant I think it’s worth it). So I don’t see any harm in the odd sweet drink or babyccino. But coffee, even decaf? That’s crazy.

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[email protected] April 30, 2012 at 9:42 PM

Thanks for your insights :) Sugar aside, I don’t see a problem with kids having their hot chocolate while the parent has a coffee – I just wish it was simply called what it is, a hot chocolate. Calling it a babyccino seems to set the stage for a real coffee when the child is no longer a baby. I totally agree about decaf coffee for kids being crazy.

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[email protected] of Pace December 13, 2012 at 3:25 AM

Oh no… All my kids need is their mommy’s coffee addiction. This is totally unnecessary. When I do go to a coffee shop my kids might get an apple juice or a hot chocolate as a treat.

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[email protected] December 18, 2012 at 10:23 PM

No kidding eh? As if there aren’t enough things messing kids up, do we really need to throw a caffeine addiction into the mix?

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