A revised perspective on coffee and philosophy inspired by the 2015-16 Evergreen program, Terroir: Chocolate, Oysters, and Other Place Flavored Foods.
The majority of our modern day experience with coffee is the on-the-go cup of joe. But when you have a moment to sit down with your cup of coffee and take a break from the busyness of daily life, what crosses your mind? Authors, scientists, and philosophers have been studying precisely that: where do our thoughts travel to when this rich and bitter drug rolls across our tongues? How does caffeine expand, inhibit, and alter consciousness?
Author and aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, “Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.” Put the two together and what do you become? Where do you go? College?
Coffee, since it exists within the realm of taste and nourishment, can be put in conversation with most anything or anyone. Since Edward Abbey said, “Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.” coffee has not ceased to be a hot-button political centerpiece. A table with coffee placed upon it makes more of a statement than a vase of flowers ever could. Coffeehouses and cafes are the homes of revolutionary conversations, and continue to be the origin of grassroots activist planning. It’s no surprise that such discussion of change is happening in a places that serve a drink that gives us energy and inspiration, and whose existence as a centerpiece of our culture, is embedded in revolution itself.
Coffee is powering the author’s fingers and brain as she writes this. The author had the privilege to get free coffee this morning for helping a friend get to work at five in the morning so that same friend could make coffee for all the other people who get up for others before others. For those who feel accomplished when they beat the sun to rising. For those still half-dreaming into the day. For the lonely who just need a reason to strike up a conversation, who find it easier to talk to someone with the bar between them. Those who find conversation flows better when caffeine flows over their tongues. There are the creatures of habit who will never order something new. Creatures unwelcome who sip life-size droplets off the floor and spend the next few days in an anxious daze of inspiration deprived of motivation.
A cup of coffee is a steaming contradiction. Hypocritical by nature. Hypocritical in nature. Coffee is a reflection of itself, its impact in growth mirrors its impact in consumption. Native lands uprooted to plant coffee trees, native people uprooted so the invaders can enjoy their invasive drink and think their paranoid invasive thoughts. What wisdom does coffee hold? What wisdom will it reveal in you? Is it wise to drink coffee? You can leave your well-thought-out and witty answers in the comments section below.
With proper attention, coffee can remind us to slow down and consider what we are tasting, what we are thinking, and what we are doing. Or, coffee can send us, nerves, mind, and all, spinning and whirring into an anxiety-infested high. Hopefully, though, you are able to find a smooth roast with a smooth high, the warm and familiar inbetween.
“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.” -Gertrude Stein