What pours forth

In our latest poll, readers tell us what fills their glasses

Fourth Annual Readers Survey

May 31, 2006|By KATE SHATZKIN | KATE SHATZKIN,SUN REPORTER

Espresso drinks are out; regular coffee and tea are in. As a celebration beverage, bubbly falls behind wine and liquor. Men like beer; women prefer wine. And few of our readers are getting eight glasses of water a day.

Those are some of the results of our fourth annual Taste reader survey. We asked you to tell us about what you like to drink, and 1,731 of you responded.

Beverages are getting lots of attention these days, with new flavored waters, exotic teas, cocktails, juice blends and energy drinks literally flooding the market.

Many readers were passionate about their choices. What they drink is motivated by several factors: how it tastes, whether it goes with what they're eating, nutritional content and who's drinking what around them.

Like many of the women surveyed, Qiana McKoy, 26, likes a glass of wine -- often a Kendall-Jackson chardonnay -- when she's socializing with girlfriends. But when she's hanging out with her boyfriend, "sometimes we'll just sit down and have a beer," says the Belair-Edison resident.

Among the survey's findings:

Despite the expanded choices, readers of all ages showed a strong preference for the basics. Cocktails may be popular, but nearly half of those who responded would order beer or wine instead when meeting friends.

The younger readers were, the more likely they were to drink coffee and to prefer it with caffeine. Sixty-nine percent of 18- to 34-year-olds liked coffee strictly or mostly caffeinated, compared with 54 percent of those older than 65. Two percent of 18- to 34-year-olds don't drink coffee, compared with 15 percent of the oldest group.

Forty-one percent of the women said they drink hot tea every day; 23 percent of the men did.

Nearly a third of the readers reported drinking diet soda daily; 9 percent make regular soda a habit.

A quarter of the readers don't drink wine with dinner at home. Of those who do, only 2 percent would spend more than $20 for the bottle.

The coffee craze appears to be going strong -- 80 percent of those surveyed drink it and 63 percent have it every day. But 91 percent of the coffee drinkers said they eschew fancy espresso creations for a cup of joe -- regular or decaf -- from a pot.

"The lattes are like 40 or 50 percent milk; they're too rich for me," says Lisa Supovitz, a 46-year-old mother of two who lives in Owings Mills. But she does like to wake up to a cup of coffee with a little cream in the morning.

For the 9 percent of coffee drinkers who do order lattes and other espresso drinks, visiting the coffee shop is part of the attraction. Tim Caldwell, who operates a design-and-build firm in Sparrows Point, likes to indulge in a vanilla cappuccino "with a lot of foam" when he's on vacation. But for his everyday habit, Caldwell, 47, has switched from coffee to green tea. "It just doesn't have the strong punch that coffee does," he says. "I can gather my thoughts a little bit better."

For Erin Branham, promotions director at the Christian radio station WRBS, the twice-a-week run she makes to the Starbucks at Arundel Mills for a decaf skim sugar-free vanilla latte has become a ritual about more than the drink itself -- so much so that she would rather make the 15-minute drive from her Lansdowne office than use the espresso maker she has.

The 25-year-old often picks up coffee and chai lattes for her co-workers as well. "We have our friends at Starbucks," she says. "It's scary; you know you've been to a place too often when they know exactly what you want."

Branham also loves Teavana at The Mall in Columbia -- "my absolute favorite place," she says, because of the endless varieties of tea flavors. She maintains an office stash and enjoys trying new loose teas with colleagues.

When it comes to water, readers were almost evenly split between bottled varieties and the tap (preferred by 54 percent). That split plays out at the Pasadena home of Marguerite and Bill Rush, 72 and 73. He likes bottled (though he's been known to fill up the empty bottle with tap water); she likes tap. They've made peace with their different habits, says Marguerite Rush: "Neither one of us likes change at this stage," she says.

Rush says she drinks one to three glasses of water a day, an answer given by 43 percent of readers. Thirty-eight percent reported drinking four to seven glasses and just 16 percent said they had eight glasses of water a day. Rush, like several other readers, said she doesn't really monitor her water consumption -- she just sips when she's thirsty.

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