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I get up before anyone else in the morning, while the day is still new. The sun is just creeping over the horizon and I’m looking forward to my morning cup of coffee.
I can already taste it. The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans as I visualize the rich delightful scent curling up towards my nose. Like the s-shaped scent trails from stewpots in old Disney cartoons.
How do you describe the smell of coffee?
If you ask someone they’re most likely to say, “Well, it smells like coffee”. They know what you mean but there’s nothing to compare it to. Is it like the ground after rain? Roasted almonds? Chocolate? Velvet, rich, dark, brown, or smooth.
When I was newly pregnant, I went off coffee. The smell, which I had previously so enjoyed, made me feel nauseous. Along with perfume, petrol, cooking and the musty smell of old carpets at the back of our house.
Having a cup of hot water with mint or lemon just wasn’t the same. I wondered if I’d enjoy the first cup of coffee after birth.
A week into motherhood, exhausted from lack of sleep, I stumbled into the kitchen, took the kettle out of the fridge and unearthed a clean mug from the laundry basket. Without any thought, I revisited a familiar routine. A thread of continuity to the habits of my former self.
The coffee preparations helped to clear the fog that inhabited my brain and calmed the new-parent panic of, “I’m entirely responsible for the survival of this tiny little human?!”. Yes! I can do this… I can make coffee.
It tasted great.
I roll myself out of bed and get ready for the day. I have an hour to myself before the school day starts. As I sit and sip my coffee, it warms my stomach. This day will be a good one.
Home education for us takes place wherever we happen to be. At home, out camping, or somewhere else. The coffee ritual stays the same, a reassuring start to the day.
When we’re out camping, we boil water in a soot-blackened metal pot over an open fire. Followed by careful measuring. Teaspoons of light brown instant or dark heaped tablespoons of ground coffee into the cafetiere. The final crescendo being pouring steaming liquid into tin cups or ceramic mugs.
My best coffee has a flavour of woodsmoke out in the cool and quiet of the early morning.
Coffee Catch ups
The coffee ritual is often shared. It is a precursor to social interactions, dates, or business meetings.
“Let’s have coffee”, sometimes means, “we need to talk”. It could be the beginning or end of a relationship.
Have you ever had anyone make you a cup of coffee that you didn’t like? Maybe they put too much milk or too much sugar or not enough.
If you’re with a good friend, you can ask for another cup, or even make a mock-gagging face and say, “Don’t you think I need sweetening up this morning?”.
In a formal situation, you must sit and sip it politely even if it feels like it’s stripping the enamel from your teeth. If your host pops out to the kitchen, a nearby plant pot or patch of earth can come in handy for these situations.
Once this backfired. “I see your cup is empty”, my host said brightly. “Let me pour you another one”. My mug was instantly refilled with the acrid-tasting brown slurry of filter coffee that’s been left to boil for too long.
People enjoy their coffee in different ways; perhaps we should all take our own mugs and coffee ingredients with us. But then we wouldn’t try to understand the coffee preferences of others.
A Family Affair
My family have been coffee drinkers for as far back as I can remember.
My grandparents sipped their filter coffee after dinner, dark and strong, out of tiny gold-rimmed china cups.
My parents prefer instant coffee and have an eclectic collection of mugs of differing shapes and sizes. Some left by visitors, others given as presents. A cup commemorating a long-ago royal wedding, and a joke mug with a ceramic roach at the bottom. More recent additions are decorated with wobbly drawings by grandchildren. Their coffee container is a cylindrical ceramic made by my brother in a pottery class when he was ten.
On my desk, I have a chunky hand-painted mug, which sturdily occupies its appointed place, as much a part of the workspace as my computer mouse. I always leave a bit of liquid, so it doesn’t look empty. Unwashed, empty mugs seem a little forlorn. When I have finished my work, I will reward myself with a fresh, steaming mugful of my favourite coffee.
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