“Medium cold brew with caramel swirl and almond milk please,” has been my Dunkin’ Donuts order for as long as I can remember, or at least since I was allowed to drink coffee. In New England, Dunkin is a cultural phenomenon: everyone has their order. It’s the order that you wait too long for and end up coming to class with your Coolada and blueberry muffin twenty minutes late. It’s enough to get you out of bed on a groggy Saturday morning and await the anticipation of taking the first sip: will it taste like sewage water or will it be the best drink you’ve ever had? That’s the gamble you take with Dunkin.
I have fond memories of when I was younger my mom would ask, “Do you want to go to Dunkin?” and my brother and I would reply with a gleeful, “YES!” On special Saturday mornings growing up, we got to go to the Dunkin drive-thru in our pajamas. The idea that we got to go in the car in our pajamas was the most exciting thing I had heard as a child. I remember crawling into the back seat, my mom buckling us into our car seats, and we were on our way! When I was younger, my order was always a hot chocolate with a glazed donut, and still to this day, nothing compares to Dunkin’s hot chocolate.
Is it the nostalgia of the drinks that make me loyal to the chain? I would say yes and no. Their drinks are (sometimes) very good and they stick to the basics. There hasn’t been too much variation in their menu over the years. Even with the pressures of having to keep up with the wide variety menus of Starbucks and other trendier coffee shops, Dunkin has still managed to add items to their menu without losing their original charm.
Having left New England for college, I have lost the ability to have four Dunkins within a five mile radius to me. The Dunkin in Washington, DC, as hard as it tries, will never compare to New England Dunkin for me. The drinks might physically be the same, but the atmosphere is completely different. The people here don’t have the same vigor for Dunkin as I or other New Englanders do. However, as different Dunkin may be outside of New England, I find that whenever I am lucky enough to have it, I am transported back to my childhood. I am reminded of how special it was to go out in our pajamas to Dunkin on crisp Saturday mornings. I remember being late to class in high school because my friends and I were too busy talking over coffees to remember that we had somewhere to be. Now, I am able to share these memories with my friends from college who do not share my same passion for Dunkin, but are happy to join me in an iced coffee.