AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Follow any of the players on the U.S. women’s national team on your social media platform of choice, and you’re bound to see it: coffee, and lots of it.
The USWNT players have been asked repeatedly here during the Women’s World Cup how they spend their downtime and socialize, and the No. 1 answer by far is getting coffee. Touristy excursions like trips to Hobbiton or ferry rides to the nearby islands here in New Zealand? Not so much. This team is here to do work, and it’s a coffee culture in camp.
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“Sometimes I think it’s a sickness, but like, listen, we got to get our coffee intake,” defender Crystal Dunn said of the team’s coffee obsession. “The mornings have been really great — everything set up and having a coffee machine and a barista in our own hotel has been absolutely amazing to not go out of our hotel unless we absolutely have to.”
It helps that the USWNT’s base camp has a special coffee machine that will make whatever coffee drinks the players want, from flat white to lattes, and it prints realistic photos with food-grade ink. “You can upload pictures of your own photos from your phone, which — that can get crazy,” Dunn explained with a laugh.
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It was practically made for Instagram, the social media platform that several USWNT players have already admitted they can’t stay away from.
Midfielder Kristie Mewis has shared one of her selections, a heart with the words “I love you” printed on her drink. Striker Alex Morgan showed off a photo of her daughter Charlie on one of her drinks. Forward Trinity Rodman got the lovey-dovey emoji printed on one. A gallery of photos shared by Rose Lavelle seems to include a photo of her dog Wilma’s paw in a flip-flop printed onto a coffee drink.
Even when Doug Emhoff — the husband of vice president Kamala Harris and second gentleman of the United States — visited the team recently, he was offered a coffee with a picture of himself printed on it.
“It’s a machine that I feel like we need to buy — those things are pretty sick,” Dunn said.
The photo-printing coffee machine is not standard at the five-star hotel where the USWNT is staying here in New Zealand. Rather, it was brought in by Nike, a sponsor of the team through the U.S. Soccer Federation. As a U.S. Soccer spokesman put it: “There is a bar in the lobby when this is a working hotel, but it was turned into the coffee bar, courtesy of Nike, complete with Nike coffee cups with mini-swooshes.”
But what about when USWNT players want to get out of the hotel? That’s all about the coffee, too.
Defender Kelley O’Hara said the USWNT isn’t leaving their hotel much, but added, “Enough to get some cups of coffee out and about, but besides that, it’s basically been all focused on the tournament.”
Going out and sipping the local brews in New Zealand means adjusting to the local tastes, though.
There are plenty of Starbucks locations here, of course — the U.S.-based chain is a popular pit stop among the American press corps because the cup sizes at the local coffee shops are too small for those of us used to American serving sizes. For some of the players, however, sampling the local coffee has been a bit of a new experience, defender Emily Fox said.
“I just get an iced latte or a flat white, so nothing crazy. I know a lot of the girls like their vanilla iced latte but there’s not a lot of vanilla here, so that’s been kind of … ” Fox said laughing before she finished her sentence. “They’ve had to try non-vanilla, like bitter. For me it’s been great — the coffee here is amazing, so I’ve been spoiled.”
The team does have its non-coffee drinkers, of course. One of them is 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who still finds a way to hang out with the coffee club. “I don’t drink coffee so I usually get a chai or a matcha if we go out to a coffee place,” she said. “If they don’t have it, then I just don’t get anything.”
Although the team isn’t leaving their hotel much other than for coffee runs, it’s enough to encounter fans who made the trip down under from the United States. When the players get recognized during their coffee trips, it can be a little bit jarring, forward Lynn Williams admits.
“It’s exciting, but it’s also like ‘whoa’ because there’s a part of you that wants to be able to go out and enjoy your time and not think about soccer because you’re just so in it,” she said. “I want to be able to take a step out and enjoy coffee and talk with my friends, so when somebody recognizes you, it’s like, ‘OK, I can’t say exactly what I want to say anymore.’
“On the other side, it’s incredible to have the fans come. The amount of support we have, I wouldn’t change that for the world. It’s been really, really cool.”
Whether it’s in the hotel or out in Auckland, and whether they are spotted by fans or not, coffee is what brings this USWNT together.
“The coffee culture is up there for sure,” defender Sofia Huerta said. “We all enjoy getting coffee together, and that’s a way to be social with one another other than just training together.”