Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Tao of Coffee

Ok, I like coffee. I mean, really like it. Especially small, intense coffee drink with a dollop of whipped cream. But I'm not a coffee snob. Well, sort of not and sort am. I like real coffee, not the stuff long advertised on television and sold in cans in grocery stores. I haven't bought that kind of coffee in, say, nearly 30 years. And while I will drink regular restaurant coffee, I usually try to find a cafe with a barista.

Not the person who follows instructions to use the giant espresso machine on the counter behind the cash register with the row of flavorings on the shelf above the machine, but a real barista who has the experience and interest to make your cup of coffee. And yes, making a cup of coffee can be mundane and routine, but sometimes it's really personal for you, because they always, deep down inside, love their job and work.

Anyway, coffee has Tao?

Well, not coffee per se, not just the cup of coffee, but then again it could have Tao. It's also the whole universe around that one cup of coffee sitting in front of you. From the coffee plants, the collection and processing of the beans, the transportation of the sacks, to the cafe where the beans are ground and made into the cup of liquid in your cup. You relish in the moment that is the end of the road. And if you don't relish it, then you're missing the whole of the experience.

Because it's all about getting in to the making of the cup and the enjoyment of it. After that it's the grounds into the waste, hopefully to be recycled, but often dumped into a landfill, and the cup to be washed and set in the stack for the next customer, or the cardboard cup discarded in the nearest trash receptical. The sad irony of existence, enjoyed for a moment then discarded as we move on in life.

It's the human condition in the world today. It's global, and everything is just a commodity, even people as cargo to travel or sadly too often as the product of human traffikers for the human slave or sex trade or coyotes for illegal immigrants. But that's another topic. Here's it's coffee. Just those small beans which people spend lifetimes in the growing and production, in the evaluation and trade for companies, in the consumer production of the coffee and the many flavored drinks, and in the drinker.

And I've wandered, but then that's what a good cup of coffee does, offer a rich substance to let you sit and wonder, ponder and wander in thought. It's been the drink of people in cafes for centuries or longer in homes with friends and loved ones. It greets our day when we walk into the kitchen, graces our meals, sits idly on our desks, and enriches our moments of leisure and conversation.

While you can argue the health risk of excess of anything, including coffee, it's shown to be good for us. It either helps wake us up or keeps us awake. It can heighten our thinking and senses. And on and on, in moderation, it's always helful and rarely harmful. It comes in so many flavors on where it was grown in the world. It adapts to many flavorings to make a host of hot and cold drinks. Or it can be made in its simpliest form, an espresso.

How many people do you see in line at the cafe, all too often in the US a Starbucks, citing their favorite version of it with milk and maybe some flavor(s) and with a snack, put a lid on the top and either stuff a straw in the hole for sipping or just sip it through the hole? Do you know you're missing the best part of coffee?

It's the aroma. Much of our sense of food or drink is the aroma, it heightens the taste and touch in our mouth. And all the while people miss most of the greatness of coffee, the aroma rising from the top into the air and your olfactory senses. It's why the coffee tasters stuff their noses into the cup, to get a whiff of the finess of the aroma, the sense of its true flavor. Why do they describe the taste and smell of the types of coffee? For you to miss it?

So, when you order your coffee drink, at least the first time, take the lid off and stick your nose close to the liquid and smell the aromas. What's not to enjoy what you ordered? And if you're really brave and want real coffee, order an espesso, plain or with whipped creeam. A Doppio Con Panna, and find out what's to like about a simple and good cup of coffee.

And then wonder the universe behind the one small cup of coffee in your hand and the universe of your world at that moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment