There are many reasons to like coffee. You probably don’t need me to enumerate them, but I will. Many of us drink coffee for the taste — that dark, bitter blend of richness that both bites at your tastebuds and soothes them simultaneously. That nutty sweetness that if grown, roasted or brewed incorrectly could leave an unsatisfactory acidic coating on your tongue, or a burnt feeling in your nostrils. Maybe you liked coffee the first time you tried it, but if you’re anything like me, it was an acquired taste (probably due to desperation).
Because a second reason to like coffee is the caffeine. I grew into my coffee addiction in the last year of college whilst student teaching, because teaching music to 300 elementary students is not for the faint of heart, nor for the sleepy. Whether it’s due to the caffeine or the psychosomatic benefit of habit, 4 years later my morning coffee perks me up and gets me ready for my day.
One of the reasons I continued to drink coffee after graduating and moving on to office life is because coffee is… beautiful, frankly. A highlight of my day was watching the opaque white cream cloud and swirl in the translucent deep amber brew. There’s an art to the brewing; the science can be perfected, yet somehow one person’s coffee can just taste better than someone else’s, even if they brew it exactly the same way, with all the same tools. Latte art is popular and growing cliche, but there’s no denying its beauty. I think we all gravitate toward temporary beauty: latte art was created to be destroyed. Flowers are killed in order to be enjoyed. We appreciate the wave on the ocean that barely blips into existence before it is gone again. It speaks to our inner knowledge that this life is not forever, but we can enjoy it while it lasts.
But perhaps what I enjoy most about coffee is that it unifies. Every culture in the world has a version of coffee. Coffee is understood by the middle-aged businessman and by the homeless woman across the street. It is as familiar to the soccer mom rushing about her day as to her teenage son hanging out with friends. A dinner engagement may feel formal and your behavior depends on the choice of venue, but “Let’s do coffee” is always an invitation to talk.
There are many ways in which to enjoy coffee. Hot or iced (or if you’re BFF#2, perfectly room temperature), black or with sweetener, with milk or cream, plain or flavored. It takes a good cup for me to like the coffee black, but I’ve enjoyed my fair share of lattes, cortados, breves, mochas, macchiatos, cappuccinos, frappuccinos (yes, I Starbucks), espressos and more. With each cup it’s the same: there’s the moment of excitement when you receive your beautifully-crafted artwork in which you probably pause to take a picture (guilty). There’s that first sip of glorious goodness. Then the second sip gets you past the foam. The very last moment when you drain your mug (probably also handcrafted by a local artisan) is one of both contentment and disappointment, and you seriously consider standing up to order another.
Those are all beautiful moments, to be sure, but the moment I live for is when that coffee is half gone. Because by the midway point, the invitation to talk gets to real talk. We’ve covered the niceties of “how’s your day?” “how’s the weather?” and “how’s the coffee?” and halfway through the cup the caffeine and company begin to mesh and you can ask those tough questions.
“How is your life?”
“What are your goals?”
“What are you excited about?”
“What are you scared of?”
“Can I do anything to help?”
And somewhere between that second sip and the last, you allow yourself the space to answer those questions for yourself. Over coffee I’ve admitted obsessions; I’ve gotten answers to questions; I’ve been encouraged and rebuked; I’ve formed plans and allowed myself to dream. Sometimes it all happens even without a companion: it’s just me and a notebook with my coffee in a shop surrounded by strangers.
Coffee is not the cause of my vulnerability, it’s the catalyst. But it’s one I’m going to continue using, both for myself and with my friends. And every once in a while I’ll pause and take a picture of my half-empty mug to remind myself that “Let’s do coffee” feeds not just my stomach, but my soul.