Coffee as Religion

I drink coffee. But my coffee life is not as simple as it may sound.  My coffee life may be richer than you imagine.

I buy freshly-roasted, whole coffee beans at a local shop where I recklessly invest precious time discussing with the owner the virtues of the various beans: the distant land from whence they come, the soil of their upbringing, their method of cultivation, their roasting styles and their freshness. Thus I bring my beans home with great pride and thankfulness.

My Crucible (click)

Each morning I wake early and while my family sleeps, I begin my day by preparing my coffee.  I delicately measure out a large handful of those lovingly chosen beans and place them into the holy crucible — my unique, ceramic, Japanese hand-grinder.   I then take several awareness-filled minutes to hand-grind those sacred beans.  The sound of the grinder fills those meditative minutes as the delicate beans slowly and gently become a rich, fine, brown, fragrant powder.  My labor of love yields a sensual aromatic earth which magically transforms my kitchen into an expensive, warm, cozy cafe.

Then my church bell, the teapot, rings out to call me to the next step of the holy ritual. The hissing pot also wakes my dogs who slumber into my cafe to join me as I gently place my hand-ground alchemy into the chalice — my French-press. The stove is turned off, the water allowed to cool to the perfect temperature and the communion transformation is initiated as the attentively prepared water is gently poured into the chalice. Now, time. Time for the effort of those who graciously planted, picked, bagged, transported, roasted and sold me the trees’ offerings to become the elixir of my life.

My Chalice (click)

I won’t bore you with the details of how I actually drink my coffee (a story in itself) — for you are perhaps not sympathetic to my religion. Indeed some people tell me my religion is delusional.  They tell me that my experience is all in my head. They claim that their machine-ground, pre-packaged secular coffee tastes no different from mine — sacrilege! They have even challenged me to try a taste test, but I refuse. I would never give up the magic of my ritual. Even if somehow they momentarily tricked me into feeling their profane factory coffee is no different from my sacred brew, I know my life would lose deep flavor and meaning without my loving ritual. They can not understand — the taste is more than the components — it is the lived experience.

Conclusion: When we discuss religion with people, we often forget how the mind works and how people are served by their rituals and beliefs.  This morning I intended to read and write about the Ramayana, but this analogy came to mind during my morning ritual and the blogging muses demanded keyboard time from me.  I was unabashedly blatant about some of the parallels in the analogy but I left the rest for the reader to imagine.  Hope you enjoyed it.

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24 Comments

Filed under Philosophy & Religion

24 responses to “Coffee as Religion

  1. matheroni

    :) Greetings from a fellow coffeeist!

  2. what a lovely write up…

  3. @ Roni & Soma,
    Thank you kindly and greetings. I actually hit the “Publish” button accidentally before editing a bit more and adding the pictures. So here is the improved version.

    We want to present what is dear to us in the best way possible so others can perhaps understand, but we often mess up. [the analogy continues ...] :-)

  4. Syl

    What a great way to wake up! This is a religion I can believe in…

  5. Great post! You probably just inspired a bunch of your followers to gussy up their coffee drinking practice.

    Your post reminds me of the Japanese tea ceremony. Also, the Korean gung-fu tea ceremony goes to similar lengths. I’m a tea drinker, but I do love my freshly ground, French-pressed coffee in the morning. It takes me about 30 minutes to drink it as I watch the sun rise over the hills across the valley.

    Zen and the Art of Coffee. Why don’t you write it?

  6. I’m not alone! Coffee = God, as far as I’m concerned. The point about ritual is a very important one. People like their little rituals. Relatedly, didn’t Alan de Botton recently get in hot water for suggesting as much?

  7. Sabio said: “When we discuss religion with people, we often forget how the mind works and how people are served by their rituals and beliefs.”

    As I read I sensed you had something like this in mind before I came to the conclusion. Of course, you always have a point and purpose with each of your topics, but this one showed a bit more of a flair for creative writing.

    I drink coffee every morning, too. It’s an off-the-shelf mixture of caffeinated/decaffeinated that serves only two purposes: supporting the habit I’ve had for 40 years and giving my wife and me something to drink while we sit and talk each morning. That’s one one ritual we share.

  8. @ Syl :
    You are welcome to believe, but splinter groups are highly frowned on, so guard the doctrines carefully.

    @ Dan Gurney :
    Thank you sir. “gussy up” – wow, I learn something new every day! (here too)
    Yeah, I linked the photos for those who wish to gussy up their rituals — I love my grinder.

    I have participated in several Japanese tea ceremonies – both formal and informal. Chinese tea drinkers have yet another style I enjoy. That is more communal, though. I LOVE that also.

    One of our dreams is to do an addition on our house to allow valley views of the sunset — perhaps herbal tea for that ceremony done in the Chinese style. (are you familiar with the Chinese tiny tea cup method?)

    As for the Zen and the Art of Coffee book — the world does not need another “Zen and …” book :-)

  9. @ James :
    Yes, I saw Alain de Botton’s stuff on how atheists can learn from Religion. I am sure that pissed off some atheists and some Christians. Oh well.

    Concerning “God=Coffee”:
    Marcion of Sinope felt the there were two gods — the good NT god and the bad OT god. Likewise, there is another god besides the Coffee God: I was once deceived by the Cocaine God — same rush (actually much better), but he would just as well kill us as give us too much happiness. Whereas The Coffee God loves us. I swear, with eyes closed, after two cups of brew, I have felt her tentacles embrace me.

    @ Paul Gerhards:
    You are right, my friend. The post was only superficially about coffee — although I love that too. My main intent was to point toward the religious mind and the nature of ritual, identity and belief using my coffee ritual as a metaphor. I decided to make my intent more plain in the last paragraph just in case it wasn’t clear.

    Seeing metaphors in everything is probably why I was so religious at one point of my life. Blogging is my new outlet. :-)

    Thanks for noticing and mentioning that.

    “Creative Writing” — yeah, I am a creative-writer-wanna-be! :-(

  10. There was a whole post on one of my favorite cooking blogs about tea rituals. Yours was similar, but much more personal and lovely to read. Thanks for this. My hot drink ritual is the centerpiece of my day.

    Have you heard about the benefits to shade-grown, multi-crop coffee? It has been a wonderful learning experience for me, and supporting that type of crop can save the rainforest. Coffee is a huge import and we have some great choices in the matter.

  11. Beautiful. I think this may be my favourite post of yours. I am a fellow coffee finantic, of course, but of a different and likely rival sect. I also seriously agree with your point. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen it illustrated so well.

  12. I drink coffee and tea, but my food-based-religion involves bread. I have stubbornly refused high-tech mixers or bread machine, despite my lazier selves pushing me towards convenience.

    To me, there’s something transcendent about taking a concoction of flour, water, yeast, and salt and transforming it into bread. You feel a connection across millenniums with those same people who worked dough by hand since before recorded history. Kneading the dough, you labor knits those protein threads together; a symbolic joining of elements wrought from your own hands. Yet, there is the metaphorical phase where you just have to let go, and let the yeast do its work on its own sweet time. I’d type more, but I’ve got to go wipe the drool from my bottom lip…

  13. Thanx for the education, amelie! I love scientists reading my blog.
    I am actually more naive than my article may have let on, I have not heard of shade-grown coffee. So I found a cool explanation here, and went and ordered some here at Wicked Joe. Thank you for the intro!

  14. Wow, Christine, that was kind – thanx.

    @ TWF: Thanx for keep this thread drool free!

  15. A fellow believer! Sabio, you have embraced truth! May caffeine flow through your bloodstream and invigorate your nervous system for many years to come.

    My faith in coffee has changed my life. When I perform my daily devotions to coffee, I’m full of zest and energy. When I neglect coffee, I’m wracked with headaches and fatigue. Coincidence?

  16. @ Ahab : Some followers are deceived by the doctrine of de-caf coffee which is guarenteed to give headaches and fatigue. Be sure the likes of them are not amongst your flock. (see the Gospel of the Bean 4:15)

  17. Sabio, that was wonderful. I’ve been slipping in my dedication to the coffee ritual, mostly since trying to reduce my caffeine intake…but you have led me to see my waywardness. I am grate-ful.

  18. 50plusfinance

    I stumbled upon your post quite by accident. I never looked at coffee and its tools and activities in this way. It’s giving me something to ponder while I drink my morning coffee. I am going to agree with your view even though I don’t want to. I will admit that I have a uncomfortable love for coffee and would truly miss it if gone. This is almost a confession I suppose. But it kind of goes with the tone of the story.

  19. Hi Sabio,
    When I read your post my first thought was “Dude! You are such a tantrika!” but of course, that is my bias in perspective showing through. At any rate, I will quite happily join when you found the New Coffee Cult.

    Yours in fellow fervour of worship
    Rin’dzin

  20. Awesome, Sabio! You found a good one – Julie’s blog is great, and she is an ecologist so her posts are really informed and useful.

  21. sgl

    i must confess i’m a tea-ist, and an a-coffee-ist. however, deep down, i’m universalist, believing that all beverages that have caffeine at their root can bring salvation.

    further confession… at christmas time, i’m eggnog-stic! ;-)

  22. Boz

    Your religion is delusional. Your experience is all in your head. Coffee does not even exist! :p

  23. @ rckight : Thank you. I am glad this epistle has called you back into the fold.

    @ 50plus : Your confession is acceptable, my son.

    @ Rin’dzin Pamo : Well, from what I understand, I am tantrika – minus the weird name and they group. Well, and certainly not a significantly transformed mind. But I’ve always got coffee. ;-)
    I plan to write a post on showering some day. That may further confirm your suspicion.
    I am honored to have you in the cult!

    @ sgl : That was hilarious — “universalist”. You get it!

    @ Boz : Yeah, right! Coffee laughs at your sober sanity.

  24. Henry

    I’m an atheist……………….my religion is COFFEE

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