Last week, MNN's food blogger Robin Shreeves shared the story about babyccinos, or coffee drinks for kids. Babyccinos have gotten a lot of press as of late, after a story in a New York newspaper about local parents ordering the drinks — some with shots of decaf espresso — for their kids at coffee shops.
While the term "babyccinos" may be new, the concept is not. Parents were ordering their kids steamed milk with sugar even before Starbucks took over the planet. But adding the catchy name — not to mention the decaf espresso shots — has many parents worried that this new trend will push kids to start drinking coffee earlier.
I asked Robin what she thought about babyccinos from a parent's point of view. Here's what she had to say:
"... although babyccinos seem silly, is there really any difference — nutritionally and health-wise — between a decaf coffee with a bunch of steamed milk and a hot chocolate? I don't know for sure, but I'd suspect there's not. If there's no sugar in the babyccino, perhaps it's even better for them. If it was 10 years ago, and babyccinos were an option at my coffee house, I probably wouldn't buy them, not because they were bad for the kids, but because one, I'm cheap, and two I'd worry about them wanting to drink real coffee at an earlier age."
And that of course, leads to the logical next question. How young is too young for kids to start drinking coffee? I did an unscientific, scientific poll of friends, family, and colleagues on Facebook and got a wide-range of answers.
Generally speaking, the teen years were a popular choice, while some parents caved to coffee in the tweens. Many parents pointed out that for some kids, coffee even helps them to remain calm and focused throughout the day.
S. Thompson, whose son has autism, noted, "[m]y son has been drinking coffee and espresso since he was in grade school but not on a regular basis. At about age, 12-13 we bought him his own coffee pot and he makes his own coffee when he needs it."
For others, there was no right or wrong age.
C. Graybeal, who has three boys aged 7-13 doesn't put an age minimum on coffee, commenting "[I] have always told the boys if they felt as though they wanted it or needed it have at it ... but so far none of them like the taste ... i have also read it helps with focus esp in kids with ADHD...i def would rather them have coffee over those energy drinks the kids are drinking."
As for my own kids, they have been sharing "mochas" (hot milk with one teaspoon of full-caff coffee) with my husband, the coffee drinker, as an occasional treat for years. Not being a coffee drinker myself, it's not something that I would let them have. And I wouldn't order them a "coffee" drink at a coffee shop any sooner than I would order them a non-alcoholic beer at a bar. But I don't think that a little bit of coffee every now and again will harm them. And I also have to face the fact that they simply like the taste of coffee and they would regardless of whether or not they had the occasional sip.
My personal take is that babyccinos are trendy and expensive, but not necessarily harmful to kids. What do you think? How young is too young for kids to start drinking coffee?