© 2010 Photo by Genevieve Violette
I have a vice, like most people, I love coffee. I mean, it’s more than mere affection for a hot beverage, it’s an adoration that borders on obsession. Inside my romantic notions, I’ve elevated coffee to the rank of elixir for artists, intellectuals, “busy important” people, and those of us who just need to get things done. It’s the brew of productivity, and don’t we love this sense of being useful? Doesn’t it strengthened the belief that the more we DO, the more we ARE as human beings. I mean, Dolly Parton couldn’t have said it better in her song 9 to 5, “it’s a cup of ambition!” But do we ever pay attention to where it comes from, the journey it undertakes, and the process of transformation it undergoes in order to fill our cups. Also, what is it about such a tiny thing that can make us feel so alive?
The coffee bean is a delicate little treasure. It begins as a seed in a fruit tree, and is tremendously sensitive to soil and climate change. Who knew such a tiny cluster could hold within itself an ingredient so coveted? Ironically, this fragile little berry hides the potency to wake up the whole world and make it want to conquer itself.
My ambition never was to become a barista, let alone a waitress, (we’ll get to that one some other time) but never say never. I’ve always perceived espresso-making as an elaborate and complex task nearly impossible to master. It’s by accident that I learned how to pretend to know how to make a coffee, but it’s here, at the Blue Lotus, that I am learning the delicate process of extracting the “mojo” out of a coffee bean.
One day, as me and D were doing dishes, she blatantly pointed out: “You know, you’re lucky Lou even let’s you alone with Aurelia! (that’s how our espresso machine is called) I mean, she watches that machine like a hawk. I guess you must have done something right for her to let you alone at the coffee station!” I keep my eyes open, when Lou is brewing those caffeinated drinks, in order to capture every detail to mimic later on. I must say I ask a lot of stupid questions, and she always patiently points out what I could improve. But I must confess, there are certain aspects of the process that I still struggle with, like the dreaded decaffeinated bean. The sight of a shot being poured into a cup is nothing short of sensual. The smoothness of the espresso is a characteristic attributed to the caffeine contained within the bean. Once that is removed it’s like robbing the bean of its essence. I understand some people might need their fix without actually wanting the inevitable coffee buzz but there’s nothing as bland as extracting a decaf shot of espresso. Because a decaf bean is a bean that’s lost its purpose and there’s nothing romantic about that!