Sunday, February 13, 2011

... On A Very Dark Brew

Woke up much earlier than my normal later-than-most hour, this morning. It's unheard of, most days, to be padding around before 9:00 a.m.

No matter what the time, my routine demands coffee. Taking note that I'm down to my last dollop of Trader Joe's soy creamer (the only one worth drinking), I brew a deep, strong, and mighty 12 ounces. That first sip is a pleasure of our contemporary life, with a long and romantic history. Tracing it back is a worthy exercise in Sunday morning appreciation.

Personal brewing styles aside, this cup came to me through the efforts of a large number of faceless strangers. From TJ's shelf-stockers to the truckers, growers, roasters, and packagers dependent upon international shipping regulations, organic certification, and a community of growers around the world. The simple act of enjoying your morning java is as complex as anything you can imagine: country of origin, growing practices, growers' co-ops, organic certification. There are also clean water and electricity to consider. See what I mean?

So, thanks everyone. I am now wide awake and grateful.

Here's an excerpt from an earlier meditation on the subject:

August 30, 2010

The Culture Of Coffee: A Short History

An Ethiopian goatherd is credited with the discovery of coffee's stimulant effects, thanks to an especially frisky goat that piqued his curiosity. Romantic and unverifiable, the story is befitting of a subject steeped in mythos. The truth is: coffee drinking had to start somewhere, and since all of civilization begins in Africa, it seems right that coffee drinking should have begun there, too.

The development of European coffeehouses as gathering places for people of all classes is credited with being the source of the French Enlightenment, as well as the French and American Revolutions. No longer drinking themselves into stupors from nonstop consumption of fermented grains and fruits, the only safe liquids to drink in those particular good old days, they needed something to do with their excess mental energies.

Not to be overlooked in this short treatise on coffee are the coffee-loving Italians, who gave us espresso and coffee houses in Greenwich Village and San Francisco's North Beach, which spawned the still-influential Beat Generation. This revolution in thought moved up the western flank of the U.S. to Portland and Seattle, seats of the Pacific Northwest's counterculture of the 60s.

Our contemporary reputation for great coffee and avid coffee drinkers is well known. Portland, as many may remember, had a thriving coffeehouse, folk music, and visual arts scene in the 50s and 60s. Too young for most of it, I recall longing to be part of it as an adolescent and have vivid recollections of its effects on American culture: folk music, Zen meditation, Jazz, obscure free-form poetry, Abstract Expressionism, and funky jug bands. (Does anyone remember The Holy Model Rounders?)

Today, aside from the staunchly independent purveyors of caffeine and culture that Portland is home to, we're stuck with the non-culture of a certain nameless coffee chain on nearly every corner. Pity.

These somewhat rare, independent roasters are the antidote to the numbing conformity that is served in every steaming paper cup. No matter where or how you get your morning jolt, a moment of reflection and a touch of gratitude will sweeten the bitter and addictive brew.

Not Coffee ...

Viburnum Berries ©2010 Lora R Fisher | flairCreativ

 Yew Glow ©2010 Lora R Fisher | flairCreativ

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