Process

I’ve long felt like there’s been an essay about coffee in me, but I’ve never actually tried to write it. I want to write about how my own coffee ritual, while shared with several fellow coffee nerds, is nothing like the broader American coffee experience. I love the process of guiding an oddly-colored, unpleasant-smelling bean from its humble origin to a rich, explosively flavorful cup of coffee. It feels like magic every time.

Most Americans do not drink their coffee this way. Coffee to them is merely fuel, a precise dosage of energy designed to keep them busy, readily available at various recharging stations from Speedway to Starbucks, easily altered by cream/sugar/caramel/chocolate/all manner of non-coffee things that artificially mask the coffee’s charred bitterness, like that lady you met one time who thought spearmint gum would cover her cigarette breath. So when people ask me why I bother roasting (or grinding immediately before brewing, or using a French Press, or storing my coffee in mason jar instead of a plastic coffee can), I usually tell them that I like coffee, not just caffeine.

So yeah, I want to write that, but this post is not going to be that attempt. Maybe someday. I am reading a book, however — Home Coffee Roasting: Romance and Revival by Kenneth Davids, and this paragraph says something approaching that idea:

By the mid-twentieth century, Americans thought of ‘coffee’ as granulated brown stuff that came from a can rather than the dried seeds of a tree requiring only a few relatively simple procedures to transform it into a beverage. As happened in the twentieth century with so many other foods and manufacturers, the actual facts about coffee’s origin (it consists of vegetable matter that has been dried, roasted, and ground by human beings) were replaced by market-driven substitute facts (coffee is brown granules produced by the complex machinery of an all-knowing corporation).

Now here comes the part where I expand an isolated comment I read into an Underlying Cultural Problem, because that’s what bloggers do. So:

We all like getting things. That’s not an “American” feeling so much as a human feeling, but it’s probably more sharply felt in the States for a variety of reasons (opulence or greed or success or whatever). Point is, it’s not just that we like receiving, but that we like receiving as quickly and conveniently as possible — one of the various ways our coffee consciousness has been shaped by American commerce.

This is just as true for those of us who cook microwave dinners as for those who brew coffee in a Keurig. Or, closer to home for me, those who come across a difficult problem in the Scriptures and open their Study Bible or erudite commentary set to solve it, rather than digging into the biblical text themselves.

This is convicting: I don’t just like coffee, I love making coffee: I embrace the whole process from raw, inedible bean to robust, steaming French Press. Yeah it takes longer, but it’s worth it — not just because the coffee is better, but because I did it. Similarly, the biblical concepts I most treasure are ones I didn’t borrow from Piper, Grudem, Carson, or any other Bible type. Those are the ideas that actually make sense in my head and not in a stale, let-me-remember-this-guy’s-argument kind of way. I feel the truth as much as a know it. I can taste it.