Drink It In

If I expect a good cup of coffee in the morning, I go to bed excited for it. Everything about coffee appeals to me. The aroma of coffee is one of the most compelling I can think of, and the flavour of a really good cup lives up to that aroma. So for years it has boggle my mind that most people tend to drink coffee like this:

Tall French Roast

Congratulations, you have successfully robbed yourself of half the pleasure of coffee. It isn’t a fluke that when we raise a glass for a drink, our noses are in that glass. That’s just good evolution. If all you want is the caffeine, you can get that in a pill. Likewise, drinking beer out of a bottle is only a good idea if you don’t want to fully taste it.

Our senses are not as cleanly delineated as our language implies. The sense of taste is an overall impression made up of multiple brain processes. The taste from the taste buds is part of that impression, but the olfactory receptors play a vital role as well. Similarly, when we listen to music, the bass drum thumping in our chest and the vibrations through the bottoms of our feet contribute strongly to the experience.

This is why you cannot beat live music. To be inside a physical environment tailored for live music, to hear the music loudly, to feel the music and to see it performed in front of you – this is to experience music fully. The more nerve centers we can engage, the more sense data our brains have to build up our experience.

So-called holy sites can really evoke sacred feelings in people because these places are full of sights, smells, sounds, textures, and all the other sensory paraphernalia correlated to holiness. In places like these, brains simply have more to work with, more “food for thought” that can be used to build up a holy experience.

Of course it also helps to pay attention. Our senses and brains have evolved to extract meaningful data from a noisy environment. You can be inside that concert hall–band wailing away, laser light show twirling all around you–and remain totally oblivious because you are watching a YouTube video on your phone. And with all that noise in your environment, how deeply can you expect to be engaged by that YouTube video?

Mindfulness exercises teach us to connect with experience, to tone down distraction and stay present with the task at hand. Whatever we turn our attention to has the potential to completely fulfill our experience. A fully engaged experience doesn’t want for anything; the more fully we are engaged, the further we must be from worry, depression, and pain.

You can make an exercise in mindfulness out of your morning cup of coffee. It might change your life. Turn all your senses to your task, and drink it in – with the lid off.

Whole Foods Coffee

P.S. These days I roast my coffee from green beans on my stove, then grind the beans into a French press with filtered water I’ve heated to just shy of boiling. It makes for a great cup, but it takes time. Obviously this can only be worth my while if I know I’ll have the time to relax and enjoy the drink fully. You may wonder how much time I spend on coffee. The answer is…don’t worry about it.

4 thoughts on “Drink It In

  1. We don’t have time to roast the beans, but we do grind them and then use filtered water and a Hario VDC-02W V60 Ceramic Coffee Dripper and a Bonavita BV3825ST 1L Stovetop Kettle… I highly recommend them!

    I’d post Amazon links, but I think your blog would catch them as spam 🙂

  2. This post really hits home for me. As both a coffee-drinker and a guy that is around live music on a regular basis, I loved the pictures you painted here. I’ve been drinking coffee for probably 10-12 years now (since final year of high school), and every cup is an experience. You really need to embrace it, savour it, and let it become a part of you. Every morning, I wake up, and immediately grab coffee. If I don’t, it feels like a part of me is missing.

    The same goes for live music. I’ve been working as a photographer in the downtown scene for several years now and live music is something I come across all the time. Yes, I own an iPod and listen to it every day before-and-after my classes at the U of Windsor, but once I turn it off, the silence is deafening. If I’m in a bar (or other venue) photographing live music, it engulfs me, and that feeling doesn’t go away for a while. The atmosphere, the sounds, the vibrations that echo through the venue; it’s all part of the experience and you can’t get those through an iPod or an iPhone (I don’t have one of those, though).

    Thank you for posting this piece. It was a great read.

    • Hey, thanks.

      One of my favorite things about Windsor has always been the music scene. There’s so much of it down there you can’t avoid it. And my brother introduced me to Salute Espresso Bar on Wyandotte. Solid coffee. Always liked the coffee at Milk too. What’s weird is sometimes I just need quiet, and have no desire for music or noise of any kind. But rarely do I not want coffee.

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