By Jason Dozier
Coffee, as with wine, scotch and many other fine things has given rise to a great deal of lore intended to fuel the creation of connoisseurs. For many, it is not enough to simply enjoy the simple pleasure of a hot cup of coffee, but one must consider, analyze, and most importantly, expound upon the relative virtues and deficiencies of every minute quality of the drink’s creation. No detail of the life of the bean from its birth in the soil of some distant region to the temperature and pedigree of the water that eventually filters through its ground remnant is ignored. Sizable amounts of money and time are spent in pursuit of the perfect storm of elements that will produce a cup coffee to make the angels weep.
As with many such things, I often find myself entertaining the suspicion that a desire to make oneself appear superior and cultured is more at the root of these pursuits than is the ability to truly appreciate such minutiae of experience. There is no denying that we have large commercial enterprises that market this message to us. They are selling a superior product, and if we are willing to pay for it, we too can be superior. We can lead superior lives and feel quite satisfied with the knowledge that we are of more refined tastes than the riffraff that slurp their swill from cups not adorned with mermaids.
If that makes you happy, then great. I will always be more dilettante than connoisseur, but I understand the desire to seek out products and experiences that are a little less common. I will not deny that there are differences in quality and flavors between beans, and that different preparation techniques will produce different results. Explore, experiment, and find what you like. Enjoy your passions and share them with others. But don’t get so wrapped up with the fact that this particular coffee bean was handpicked by virgin nuns under a full moon and hand ground by Burmese Monks using rare volcanic grinding stones that you miss the whole point of the stuff.
The flavor of a good cup of coffee is a wonderful thing. Yet, in all my fond memories of drinking coffee, the taste or variety of it rarely stands in the foreground of my mind. I remember instead the bright eyes of the woman across the table from me as we shared our first cup of coffee, and our first real conversation. I remember the warmth in those same eyes as years later she brings me a hot cup to banish the chill as I come in from shoveling snow in a harsh Maine winter. I remember the camaraderie formed working late nights and early mornings in server rooms where great quantities of bitter, bitter brew was the fuel that kept us working until the job was done. And I remember quiet moments of contemplation when I sat alone sipping something scalding and dark brought forth from the glowing embers of a campfire. In those moments, coffee was something that enhanced my experience, not the experience itself. Those experiences, shared or solo, will always hold more value f or me than the mere contents of a cup, no matter how fine.
It is a good thing to enjoy the finer things in life, but a fine life to enjoy is better still.
Illustration: Café, St. Germain des Pres 12×12 Art Print – Buy From Art.com