an open archway, photo by Geoffrey A Stemp

Musings from Jenell            See previous Musings list

What's Your Cup of Coffee?

Do you love coffee like I love my coffee? I know, I know, it’s addicting and it keeps me awake at night but there’s just something about a cup of coffee for me. Maybe you have something else that is your cup of coffee. There are some other favourite brews? Chai? Green tea?  Smoothies?

Whether your favourite brew is coffee or not, what does a coffee break represent for us?  Do you associate the warm attractive mug, the aroma, the rest, the cozy, comforting feeling, the time with a friend……… a break?!!

We get desperate for a break from the work, the grind, the mundane.  Maybe for you it’s a walk in the fresh air, or putting on music. Maybe it’s taking up your knitting or your paintbrush.

But all of these things in some way shape or form are a refresher for us. We are hoping to restore energy and motivation, not just to carry on, or slug through, but actually find enjoyment and enthusiasm once again by pulling back and taking a break.

We got interested in coffee growing when we were in Ecuador because they grew it there and we would see the groves of coffee trees growing and then at certain seasons we would see the beans all spread out on the edge of the paved highways drying in the sun, gradually, gradually, turning from green to yellow. I really don’t know how the growers managed to keep the beans from being drowned in the torrential rains that came almost daily in the afternoons but somehow they managed that.

man with basket of coffee cherriesI’ve discovered that coffee growing and roasting is one of the most exacting and hands-on processes compared to almost every other food product. Coffee trees take 5 to 6 years before they produce their first crop. The trees can grow up to 20 ft. but they are pruned to 8-10 ft. because the “cherries” (which contain two beans each) ripen at different times and must be picked by hand. It takes 20,000 cherries (or 40,000 beans) to make up one pound of roasted coffee! And on average one tree will produce only 1-2 lbs. of beans per year.

There are three types of coffee grown: Robusta, Liberica (African) and Arabica. The most flavourful and gourmet coffees are the Arabica type grown only in high altitudes. They are susceptible to disease and frost and difficult to cultivate. The Robusta and Liberica coffees grow at lower altitudes and are quite disease resistant but the flavour is harsh and usually used for lower grade and instant coffees.

The cherries are harvested by hand and then dried in the sun or dried by machine. The beans are then separated by a mechanical husker or by hand then selected, graded and sorted by hand. Then they are shipped off to local roasting locations.

The roasting must be done with great care. If the beans are roasted too dark it will destroy the flavour and be bitter. The most well-known gourmet coffees like Java, Kenya, Hawaiian Kona, Jamaican Blue Mtn. etc. are all lightly roasted to maintain their unique flavours.

This interesting information about coffee-making (and I love my coffee!) has made me think about how little I appreciate the incredible effort and care that has gone into my cup of coffee. And it’s made me wonder if that’s how I treat my “coffee break”. I take it for granted, I either rush through it and it hasn’t been refreshing at all, or I crash and feel paralyzed and less motivated to get up again. Like sitting in front of the T.V. or watching movies to escape reality. I end up having less energy than I did before. Has it been a break, a restoration at all?

And then I got to thinking about how desperately we  need time to think and reflect in peace. This constitutes the true “break” for restoration and refreshment. But how can reflection happen unless we have some solitude and space, and a moment to reflect back on how am I? Who am I in this moment of my life? How are my relationships with my husband, my kids, my family, my friends? How am I growing and changing? What should I being doing more of..or less of? How am I reflecting my true core values and living out of them and my God-given strengths?

It’s made me think that taking planned, productive breaks is really important to our wellness and our growth and maturity. Taking planned times for reflection and solitude can be very life-giving and refreshing. It would be easy to get discouraged if the day (or week!) has been really rough. I think we can take a lesson about the Arabica coffee that takes the most care, is finicky and fragile and NOT easy to cultivate, but makes the very best coffee. We are tending our lives like Arabica coffee beans, and even in the difficult seasons, it’s a very worthwhile investment.

The story of making coffee and the time, care and investment to make it flavourful and good is like us, building in a balanced routine of work and breaks (or retreats if you like)to help you become all of who God has made you to be and become. Remember that in that solitude you have the Creator with you, who knows you inside and out, and loves you and wants to give you all you need to be the person that He’s created you to be. So take a gourmet coffee break.

See previous Musings from Jenell:

Life Balance
Here I Am
Preparing the Way for the Lord