“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?”
– j. alfred prufrock
I am constantly in search of my next cup of coffee.
The way I drink coffee is probably the most American thing about me. I rarely leave my house without a twenty-ounce travel mug full of it, and later in the day, I’ll stop at least once into the nearest coffee shop to buy the largest size I can. Almost every paper I have written over the past six years was written exclusively at the table of a coffee shop, with a dangerously large cup of coffee sitting recklessly close to my laptop. Especially when I was working double days, often up to seventeen hours, coffee gave me the push to keep going. Aside from the caffeine and the rushing of my heartbeat, that 5:00 cold brew or latte before class or my restaurant shift was a treat to myself for the work I was putting in and served as a mental boost. It signaled a shift in the day and prepared me for whatever was next.
Americans are much more focused on the output of coffee than the experience or the art of it. We need to go, go, GO. This is evidenced by the massive sizes available, the natural assumption of a to-go cup, and the default to drip coffee rather than espresso drinks. In America, coffee is not pleasure; it is business. Upon landing in Sao Miguel on the first stop of my journey, it was around 7am their time and all I wanted was a giant cup of coffee to help me navigate our way to the hostel. After walking into the cafe, I remembered the uniqueness of the United States’ coffee culture and the fact that I could not just order a cup of coffee the size of my face. I had faced this before in Australia and Britain. I ordered a latte (un cafe con leite) and was admittedly a little surprised to have it served to me in a ceramic cup. We were forced to sit and drink our coffee for a moment before rushing off. Retrospectively, we didn’t have any where in particular that we were rushing off to anyway.
I have learned to ask for take-away cups if I need them, but I am trying to teach myself to make time to sit and drink my coffee. I am trying to build coffee drinking into the day as an independent activity rather than just an addition to what I am doing. I am working on slowing down my pace, and maybe my heart beat too. Rather than mindlessly ordering “coffee”, I have to actually think about what coffee beverage I want (and the language I am ordering it in). I have to pause.
Through coffee, I am trying to slow down and focus on the moment I am in, to taste the richness of the espresso and savor the silkiness of the milk. I am trying to remind myself that I am no longer working 85 hour work weeks, and that I can adjust my coffee drinking to reflect the moment and the culture that I am in. There is always enough time to stop to enjoy a cup of coffee, a breath of air, and my surroundings. There is always time to reflect on the day, to plan the next step, to have a conversation. If there isn’t enough time, maybe I should make some.
“And indeed there will be timeFor the yellow smoke that slides along the street,Rubbing its back upon the window panes;There will be time, there will be timeTo prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;There will be a time to murder and create,And time for all the works and days of handsThat lift and drop a question on your plate;Time for you and time for me,And time for yet a hundred indecisions,and for a hundred visions and revisions,Before the taking of a toast and tea.”– j. alfred prufrock