I want to know who first had the idea for coffee.
A quick internet search tells me about the legend of the goat herder, Kalbi, and his high energy, coffee-fruit-nibbling goats. The same search tells me that coffee in its current form has been around for almost 1,000 years. Coffee beans and water. So simple and so brilliant. So, who was it that thought, ‘Hmm, maybe I should take the little pit out of this fruit, roast it, grind it up, soak it in hot water, and drink the result?’
Maybe it was a tired mom?
In 2008 after my first year of teaching Spanish, a colleague and I took some high school students to Costa Rica for a week. In between prayers that our tour bus wouldn’t lose a game of Chicken on the single-lane mountainside roads, I took in the lush landscapes that included acres upon acres of coffee plants. At one point, our tour guide pulled over and showed us what coffee beans looked like up close. I was surprised to see him holding a marble-sized green berry between his thumb and index finger. He explained that this was the coffee fruit, or cherry, and the “bean” was the pit inside. It was the first time I considered the origins of the caffeinated beverages I drank, from the appearance of the beans to the people who harvested them to the long distances they traveled before my local barista worked their magic. To be fair, I also didn’t appreciate coffee at that time in my life; anything I ordered that contained coffee was ninety percent milk, sugary syrups, and whipped cream. Early mornings teaching teenagers how to conjugate verbs in Spanish somehow hadn’t turned me into a regular coffee drinker or cured me of my caramel-macchiato-mocha-latte-always-say-yes-to-whipped-cream ways.
Motherhood did that.
Days spent in a small apartment with a newborn and toddler forced me out of the house on walks, to the park, visiting friends, and, on most days, to the coffee shop for a large latte. No more automatic yeses to whipped cream, but I never turned down an extra shot of espresso. I didn’t need or want the sickeningly sweet syrups anymore; just hand it over and let these these magic beans do their thing. Iced, hot, in a friend’s living room, while pushing a kid on the swings or in a stroller–there was no wrong way to enjoy a cup, but my daily habit was proving expensive. When my secondborn was two, I invested in an espresso machine so I could make my own drinks and enjoy them at home. Four years later, the sounds of the grunting pump and steaming streams of espresso still cause my shoulders to relax, and the first-sip-froth-on-my-lip puts me at ease in the middle of daily chaos.
Prior to my family’s recent move, I had a regular baby-sitter come watch my youngest child once-a-week so I could get away and have some alone time–usually to write, sometimes to read or catch up on the tedium of answering emails and scheduling appointments. Even though I could make a latte at home, I chose to spend my weekly alone time at a local coffee shop where I forked over almost six dollars for a large iced latte with half and half. I didn’t need the energy boost or the ritual to escape the circus of small children I’m raising, but I wanted the whole package: A comforting drink to ground me. The scent of roasted beans floating around me. Chatter and laughter, interesting characters coming in the door every few minutes. Time and space alone with my thoughts, a chance to create something new by stringing some letters into words and words into stories that might mean something to someone one day.
A simple fruit. Some hyper goats. Curiosity. Experimentation. Creativity. A humble pit, roasted, becomes the embodiment of globalization. From coffee beans and water to people watching at the corner cafe, catching up with old friends over a warm cuppa, and a mom at the table in the back, sipping her latte between keystrokes. Curiosity. Experimentation. Creativity. Taking her own simple ingredients and seeing what comes of them.
This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Ordinary Inspiration.”
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