Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Not just a cup of coffee

I've drunk mediocre mass-produced coffee from gas stations, I've drunk high-quality, handcrafted coffee from locally owned coffee shops. I've drunk coffee in the midst of chaos as my children fill the house with noise, and I've sipped coffee in the serene stillness that reigns during naptime. I've drunk coffee on buses, in college classes, and at church functions. I've drunk coffee by myself, and I've drunk coffee with young adults, middle-aged adults, and my 80-year-old neighbors. I've drunk coffee with near-strangers who, over mugs of steaming java across the weeks and months, become dear friends. I've drunk coffee with barely a thought, and I've noted the intricacies of this drink during a coffee cupping. I've even used coffee to entertain children. 
I was sitting at the kitchen table of my neighbors, when one of them said,

I remember when we would save the coffee grounds during World War II. 

The others nodded in assent, their collective memories wafting together with the steam from our mugs.

...we would reuse the grounds to make more coffee. 

...since coffee was rationed.

My heart filled with gratitude for these friends of mine, who graciously share their life experiences, and my eyes widened as I picked up my mug of coffee. I have not looked at coffee in the same way again. This simple drink that that I sip sends me whirling into the past.

As I drink my coffee, I reflect on those who, like my friends, lived through WWII and the rationing of coffee.

I think about the farmers in Brazil, who harvested the beans that were used to make the coffee I am now drinking.

I think about all of the people who cleaned, processed, and packaged the beans, and those who prepare and serve coffee for their livelihood.

Each sip becomes a prayer for peace as I recall how the Islamic people popularized coffee, and how, according to legend, Pope Clement VIII gave his approval for this drink, which then helped it grow in popularity among Catholics. A simple drink, unifying the people of two different religions.

Fragmented memories of my life drift by:

Standing in the kitchen with my mom, stirring instant coffee granules, sugar, and cocoa powder in a mug as a preteen...stopping at a gas station with a high school classmate and filling a cup with the sugary, frothy, ready-made cappuccino...listening to a friend tell others-in a shocked voice-that I put a few sugar packets into a cup of coffee before drinking it... discovering the wonders of an excellent cup of black coffee-no sugar or cream necessary-as an adult.

And I am brought here to the present moment, where I hear the murmurs of the coffee shop owner and the barista as they discuss coffee in Europe and a new roastery opening nearby, and I listen to the babbling of my newborn as he plays on the floor next to me. 

This coffee that I drink is not "just" a simple cup of coffee. It is not simply a caffeine jolt that helps me bounce through long days. It is much, much more. A simple cup of coffee connects me to centuries of men and women of different religions and economic classes in times of darkness and light. It unifies me with individuals worldwide. As I sip my coffee, I am filled with an intense surge of gratitude for this beautiful gift of life, and for the incredibly diverse and rich fabric of humanity. 

P.S. Y'all should check out Shannon's post on the health benefits of drinking coffee, because it's really fascinating and gives even more reasons to drink coffee :)  

1 comment:

  1. Awww! I've drunk exactly one cup of coffee in my life. It was a cappuccino, made with love by a dear college friend when I was visiting his apartment and he was so excited about some milk frothing thing and made me a cappuccino.
    I did not like it at all...and have thus far never managed to acquire any taste for it (the smell is so strong I've never really tried drinking it otherwise), but at the same time I certainly believe it's impacted a lot of lives, and history itself. A worldwide drink!