The Ritual of Coffee
Growing up, my parents didn't drink coffee often. In fact, they were and still are avid tea drinkers, so the ritual of coffee and the joy it can bring was foreign to me. It wasn't until I was a freshman in university that I began to explore coffee. I wasn't looking for a stimulant to keep me awake during late nights in the library. Rather, becoming a coffee drinker simply seemed like a mature thing to do. At first, not knowing any better, I ordered your basic drip coffee. I didn't even enjoy the taste and I added way too much cream and sugar, but I delighted in drinking my morning coffee while reviewing my notes every day before class. This familiar routine was just the beginning of my love affair with the beverage.
For me, as I'm sure many other coffee drinkers out there can attest, it was an acquired taste. During my first year as a coffee drinker, I slowly weaned myself from a double double to a regular. Slowly, the strong but sweet taste grew on me and I came to crave it. But, it wasn't until I discovered espresso that I realized what I had been missing. Cafè lattè, Cafè Americano, Cappuccino, and Cafè Ristretto were once foreign to me, but I slowly learned the language of coffee and which preparation methods best suited my palette. The culture around coffee fascinated me - it still does. I love slowing down to enjoy a cup of coffee while working or catching up with a friend. Put simply, I was hooked on coffee.
Soon, I started taking coffee even more seriously. I wanted to know barista secrets, and how to replicate them at home. I did extensive research, learning that coffee is best served with whole milk, because the fat brings out the coffee's flavours. Brewing coffee with filtered water makes the best cup of joe because minerals and additives in unfiltered water can alter your coffee's flavour. And, while I don't go to the trouble of using a thermometer, as a lattè kind of girl, I was interested to learn that most cafes heat their milk to anywhere between 160 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If milk gets much hotter than that, proteins will start to break down and burn.
Seeing how intrigued I was by the art of coffee making, my parents gifted me a fancy Breville Cafè Roma espresso machine for my 23rd birthday. That's when the ritual of coffee truly became important to me. My father, who hadn't tasted a sip of coffee in over 20 years, was suddenly intrigued, so I made him a lattè one Saturday morning. One sip and he was hooked. I've since I earned a master's degree, moved in with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, and started working full-time, but I still spend Saturday mornings with my father, chatting over coffee. So, for me, it's not the jolt of caffeine in the morning or the afternoon pick-me-up that I crave. No, it's the sense of connection that sharing a good cup of coffee with someone you love fosters.
Five years later, I've upgraded to better espresso maker, but the principles behind a good cup of joe remain the same. I now have a baby son. On weekday mornings, I make my coffee as usual. When I open the canister, I breathe in the sweet smell that I know so well. Sometimes, the baby is crying in the background, but I carry on. After all, making a good cup of coffee doesn’t take long. I’m used to the motions: grind, measure, tamper, brew, steam, repeat. Once again, it’s not the caffeine that I need. It’s some semblance of a routine amid the newborn chaos that I crave. The familiarity is a small comfort as I flounder to find my footing as a new mother.
Life is certainly more hectic now, but the ritual of coffee is a constant. My father and I still enjoy our coffee together every Saturday morning. I’ll always remember our slow mornings spent enjoying our coffee and I hope my own kids come to appreciate a good cup of coffee and everything it entails too.
Brittany Van Den Brink is a PhD Candidate and freelance writer living in small-town Ontario with her husband, baby son, and their Golden Retriever, Chevy. She founded Motherhood Her Way to collaborate with other moms as they go through the ups and downs of motherhood. Say hi on Instagram @brittanyvandenbrink.