Finding photos to accompany this post will be the easiest task in the world. The small piece of visual heaven is made with a perfect arrangement of a nice, round cup filled with hot, dark, bubbly beverage surrounded by ‘casually’ placed books, blank sheets of paper or recently turned on laptop waiting for you to start getting shit done. Even though I am aware those photos are staged (I mean, who reads 5 books at the same time and aligns their markers by the shade of their colour?), I love them and can’t stop looking at them because they make me feel at peace.
I sometimes imagine I am the one who just took that alluring photo, although my current surroundings are nowhere near that photogenic. I know that everything I plan on doing will have to wait just a few moments longer until I take at least a couple of sips of my morning/afternoon coffee. I take mine dark, unfiltered with a couple of drops of milk or cream, this is what I consider to be ‘a real cup of coffee’. Everything else that is prepared with too much milk and sugar is coffee for babies, tasty but doesn’t have the ability to get creative thoughts flowing or giving me a clear perspective and focus. If I’m alone, it is a ‘wake up’ peace and quiet morning coffee, while another cup much later in the day is closer to ‘work’ coffee most of the times, meaning I expect from myself to start or finish something I’ve been thinking about, it’s often something to write about or coming up with new ideas. Or at least try to, make notes and sketches, sometimes only starting something without finishing, but nevertheless, a necessary energy boost.
An ancient ritual vs. modern age
Wikipedia taught me that coffee first appeared and was prepared as a beverage we know today in 15th century Yemen and a century later started its journey towards Persia, Turkey and Africa. Europe didn’t stand a chance, people got hooked, everyone started to talk about this magic potion and the rest is history.
The preparing process is a ritual of its own, after brewing it, as we all know, coffee can be made in numerous ways according to individual taste and culture it derives from. It’s funny how a banal detail like a single cup of coffee can differ from country to country, for example I learned a long time ago that according to classic Italian recipe espresso needs to be served with a slice of lemon. I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t judge in advance, but if Italians say so, it should work, right? I found a short, informative article with some other specificities, for example, I am not so excited about the coffee + garlic combination, but this Moroccan ‘grinding a mixture of spices — including sesame seeds, black pepper and nutmeg — together with ordinary coffee beans produces an unusual, but a very strong drink’ is now on my ‘to try’ list!
This multicultural coffee spirit is something that should be protected from corporations like Starbucks who are limiting the creativity and imposing the same products on worldwide markets. Commercial success of well-known brand seems to create an approval among us, the customers, making us feel like buying an overpriced pumpkin white chocolate mocha latte is totally worth it. Some countries feel like their national identity and tradition are so strongly connected to coffee consuming culture they look at Starbucks and similar companies as a threat to their core values. Ok, we can all relax and agree that those companies are not really about the coffee, of course that is not a first place you will look for an espresso, but still it feels like a small earthquake that is about to leave its mark.
Coffee is not JUST a product. You can spend a looong time in company of a one cup or you can finish up your small espresso in two seconds, in both cases it is a ritual because it gives context and meaning to different social encounters.
Cigarettes and coffee, man. That’s a combination.
Jim Jarmusch won my heart once again with his 2003 classic starring legends like Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Bill Murray, Roberto Benigni. What he did was show the series of conversations around a table while drinking coffee. Couldn’t be simpler, but yet so complex because the range of topics is unlimited and unpredictable, just like in real life. The film embodies what I’m basically trying to say here, but in a much more coherent way.
In my country, when you want to invite someone to hang out and talk about serious stuff or just to relax, you say:
‘Let’s go and have some coffee!’
Notice the use of verb ‘have’ instead of ‘grab’ or ‘take’, it’s not about taking two coffees to go and chat while walking down a busy street like Seinfeld characters would do. No, sitting in a café bar having a cup of coffee can be a therapy session, a date, a trip through memory lane, political discussion, you name it… The point is, it can last for hours. Some say it is decadent and call it a deliberate waste of precious time due to laziness, but I call that a great time investment, a custom that needs to be preserved at all costs.