We’re about to embark on an adventure. One of grande-size legend—with cherry plants, goats, monks, and even eggs—that’ll make you think a whole lot differently about your morning cup of coffee. So, no more snooze button: go on, roll out of bed, dress in your Sunday best, and I’ll meet you down below for our favorite pick-me-up!
How do you start your day, and how does it compare to the way others start theirs? Say, the timely businessmen of Tokyo, the tribes of Papua New Guinea or perhaps even your noisy downstairs neighbor—an avid daytime drummer of suspect talent, who complains about your midnight footsteps on the floor above? (You’ve even bought yourself slippers to help your cause!)
What if I told you that coffee, yes, that plain ole’ cup of Joe you sat down with this morning, is at the heart of everyone’s sunrise in ways that shine beyond caffeine? I’d like to take you to the coffee shop of the written word, and on the way, I’ll let you in on the surprising folklore behind our sacred routines!
How do you take your coffee?
Whether you take your coffee black, with no room ever, or perhaps decide to try the single-origin medium roast because you’ve read an op-ed on specialty coffee, it’s time to get away from the same old’, same old’, and treat yourself on your bestie’s dime.
Today, that happens to be me.
“Congratulations! World’s Best Cup Of Coffee! Great Job Everybody!”
— Buddy The Elf
First, let us roll our fingers down past your routine order. “Perhaps,” you nod reluctantly and say, “okay, if you’re buying.” You exhale, stow away your wallet and find your first fancy: the macchiato, two dollars extra; perhaps you scroll further, the flat white. Why is it flat and why doesn’t it look white?
Your finger runs down the menu; up next, kaffeost. You look over and see another customer plucking cheese curds out of their to-go cup. Your tastebuds recoil in horror as you find the safe space of café de olla, literally “(clay) pot coffee” prepared with piloncillo, or unrefined cane sugar. Cà phê trứng, invented by an improvising bartender in response to a milk shortage, calls you by your name. But you don’t speak Vietnamese, it was never offered in middle school, so you ask politely and learn: yes it’s also coffee — with eggs.
You take an espresso shot of time (or thirty seconds), de-briefed on the birth of decaf in seawater; and your senses consider the gold standard of Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. You scratch your head once more, that egg coffee sounds nifty, I’m feeling adventurous—when, in your leap of faith, you are overtaken by the last good vibes of the menu: civet poop coffee, or Kopi Luwak. Yes, you read that correctly. Your finger stops dead in its tracks, you brace your mind for never, but you stop at maybe one day? By now, you’re exhausted by your choices but hey, if you’re feeling risque, there’s whiskey—we can thank the Irish for their evening practicality.
Now that I’ve piqued your palette, I’ll let you savor these unique stories of how others enjoy our great equalizer and pastime in this video from Great Big Story!
You just might feel enough jitters to step outside your coffee comfort zone.
To see more fantastic work from Great Big Story, make sure you head over to their channel to explore endless stories they’ve curated from around the world!
“When we wake up in the morning, we clean the house and we make coffee. We don’t do anything else until we satisfy our craving for coffee.”— Dima Atabala, Ethiopia
Now… What About Those Goats?
Oof! If you’re up for an origin story, we’ll need to strike the clock back one thousand years and head to the Ethiopian Desert.
Kaldi, our hero, herds his goats under the stars; tonight is unlike any other, and he finds his troupe gnawing on cherries from an unfamiliar shrub 2. He taps his stick, beckons for them to follow him home, but no, their heartbeats start to rattle, their hooves stomp, the horde breaks out into dance. Bee Gees “Night Fever,” only with hooves instead of bell-bottoms.
Kaldi, curious as ever, follows suit and soon finds himself equally delirious; he takes his discovery to the monks in his village, who dismiss his pleas and toss the cherries into their evening fire. Lo and behold, the burning fruit casts an intoxicating aroma that we’re all too familiar with today—the humble Dark Roast is born. The monks realize that this elixir, when chewed or mixed with water, helps them stay up all night and pray; they deem the bean worthy of their daily lives, and the rest, as we’ve said for ages, is history.
But now, let’s go back to the future.
“Latte! On. The. Bar. For MIKE! MIKE? MIKE …? ”
10 Minutes Later
“Is This My Latte?”
We caffeinate; therefore, we are.
Now, imagine your tomorrow without any coffee—ever. How different would your routine be if you had to get through the day without that extra kick? If we are what we eat, we certainly are what we drink: two billion cups of coffee every twenty-four hours 3.
No matter how different we think we are, we all do the same thing: eat, sleep, fall in love, dream, live, die, and drink coffee (we do see you, our dear cousin tea drinkers). We hold doctorate degrees in ways we’ve mastered to separate ourselves in order to seem unique. What we deem as not ours, we deem as theirs. We don’t have to brew together, of course; some take to sugar, some to Splenda. If only we remember that the whole world wakes up with us and drinks coffee, too, in its own way.
So, as you take your first sip over breakfast, imagine how many folks are out there doing the same thing.
If you’re thinking about what to do with your day now that you’re up-to-date (thanks, coffee), check out this fun Ted Talk on the lost world of yesteryear coffeehouses and how their celebration of good conversation inspired new thought (you’re welcome, age of Enlightenment).
Today, coffee can also be used as an instrument to reconsider the sameness of our differences, and the difference of our sameness. Özlem Cekic, thought leader and former member of the Danish Parliament, is already doing so in her #dialoguecoffee series, by purposefully going out for drinks with people who share opposing viewpoints, often with those who even send her hate mail!
#DialogueCoffee: Why We Need More Difficult Conversations
The world can feel pretty divided right now, but we have a fix for you. It’s a technique called #DialogueCoffee and it makes talking to someone with an opposing viewpoint on the world a little easier (and much much more rewarding). Here’s the story of how it came to be!Read More
Now, if you’re tired of looking into your own genealogy, check out coffee’s!
Nowadays, we grow over one hundred varieties of the prized coffee cherry, and the grandpappies of em’ all are considered to be arabica and robusta: the former is the favored choice of roasters for its cup quality and occupies three-quarters of the world’s current coffee production. The latter grows at lower altitudes and its double caffeine content perks up the bean’s resistance to disease but produces considerable, cheaper crop yields, whose bitter taste is often disguised into espresso blends and instant coffee.
But how did we get here? Check out this image from Cafe Imports to see how the bean has evolved with our creative engineering!
I think (of lattes), therefore I am.
You’re back at the shop. You’re exhausted yet an expert of sorts: egg-coffee, cheese curds, and goats; you’ve clued into the grass-fed butter bulletproof coffee fad, you sip on the fact that the most expensive beans are cherries eaten, digested, and defecated by civets. So, you say, what’s next, coffee without coffee? Well, that too, is in the works. It’s called molecular coffee, made with watermelon seeds and coffee husks rather than beans.
They’re all out there, one and all, short and tall, coffees and their personas.
If all it takes is one person, one cup of coffee to take that first step, and even if you’re feeling all doom and gloom, always remember that your morning may have been very different if not for one sacred evening in Ethiopia, and that you’re not alone; the bean honors you. If anything, let’s all remember to thank the goats for our good mornings.
“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” — Leonard Cohen
- Boris Riabov
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- 5 Deliciously Unique Coffees Around the World. “5 Deliciously Unique Coffees Around the World.” YouTube, 15 Nov. 2019, youtu.be/pVh6yN36M0A. Accessed 16 Apr. 2020. ↩
- Milos, Giorgio. “Coffee’s Mysterious Origins.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 6 Aug. 2010, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/08/coffees-mysterious-origins/61054/ ↩
- Ponte, Stefano (2002). “The ‘Latte Revolution’? Regulation, Markets And Consumption In The Global Coffee Chain”. World Development. 30(7): 1099–1122. ↩