Coffee Meditations

Coffee really is a marvellous thing.

In the 16th century, Sheik Abd-al-Kadir wrote:

Coffee is the common man’s gold, and like gold it brings to every man the feeling of luxury and nobility….Take time in your preparations of coffee and God will be with you and bless you and your table. 

Since visiting coffee shops wasn’t an option during the pandemic lockdown, I have become very devoted to, and appreciative of, my dependable espresso machine at home. Making a daily flat-white has taken on an almost sacred significance that I’m reluctant to set aside.

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First up, when’s the best time for a coffee? Coffee is unquestionably a morning ritual right? But not too early – making it before 10am feels too greedy and needy. Plus it merges the significance of the coffee ceremony with the accoutrements of breakfast. No, 11am is the proper time for coffee I’ve decided.

Whether you make your coffee in an espresso machine, a stove top Moka Pot or a French Press, there is an art to it. Like cooking anything, there are nuances to every step – how fresh the beans are, how coarsely or finely you grind the beans, the water temperature, the water pressure, how much coffee you pack in to the filter basket, the length of time you extract the coffee for, whether you warm your cup…..

As a coffee devotee, you pay attention to how all the variables make a difference and then you decide which differences make a difference that YOU care about. All of this comes from your own experience. You take responsibility, and your energy, curiosity and wholehearted involvement in the process adds meaning and significance to that delicious first sip.

And so to the sip…. the flavour and the taste of coffee are not the same thing. Coffee tastes bitter, often a little acidic, hopefully with hints of sweetness. The full flavour takes into account aroma and also the body, or viscosity, of the espresso. Coffee therefore is experienced not just as bitter but perhaps fruity, or nutty or chocolaty, and also silky or velvety. It’s almost impossible to pin down. The taste is just “like this”; different on different parts of the tongue, and like the sensations of a breath, never just one thing.

And then to the marvellous effect it has on our minds! Like a narcotic it brightens the mind, and if we take too much, it can make us jittery or anxious. All basic reasons we don’t give espresso to children. All of this adds to it’s mysterious seductive allure.

IMG_2716Drinking my one cup of coffee, alone, remains one of my daily rituals. If possible I savour it sat in the garden, with only sounds of the birds and the wind in the trees for company. Definitely no device in hand. It really is a moment of meditation in the sense that my attention is focused in the moment. The ritual begins with the preparation of all the apparatus and concludes with the cleaning and care of the machine.

When we came out of strict lockdown, reportedly a luxurious cup of barista-made coffee was one of the small yet noble pleasures that New Zealanders most looked forward to, for good reason.

Soon enough, all the cafes will fully re-open and once more friends will be able to meet for a coffee and to discuss the important matters of the day, as they have done for centuries.

My 2 best friends and I have three favourite cafes in our local area (Akarua, Bespoke Kitchen, and Chop Shop), and our weekly tradition of a coffee meet up is so valuable to all of us that we only half-jokingly refer to these places as Boardroom A, B and C. There’s no doubt that the caffeine enlivens the conversation of course, which is also a wonderful thing. Laughing with friends is something I have missed so much lately.

Sheik Abd-al-Kadir’s poem in praise of coffee concludes:

Where coffee is served there is grace and splendour and friendship and happiness.

All cares vanish as the coffee cup is raised to the lips. Coffee flows through your body as freely as your life’s blood, refreshing all that it touches: look you at the youth and vigour of those who drink it.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you a good morning or good night!

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