Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Barista Jesus

It was the year 850 ad when a herder named Kaldi noticed his goats acting differently after consuming a certain kind of berry. He observed this and soon tried the berries for himself, discovering that he too, felt a heightened sense of being. Eventually nearby monks heard about this experience and used the berries to stay awake while praying for extended periods of time. As time went on, the berries were crushed and added to water creating a cold, caffeinated beverage. These findings were spread across the region as monasteries shared the knowledge and yada yada yada, here I am drinking coffee at the Mill.

This tale is the most prevalent of several stories about how coffee was discovered. Regardless of its true origin, the word "coffee" came into English usage around 1598 from the Dutch word "koffie". It was borrowed from the Turkish word "kahve". This word came from the Arabic "qahwa", a derivative of "qahhwat al-bun" which means "wine of the bean". Any of those pronunciations is better than my New Jersey cousin who says "quawffee" in his east coast accent.  I know, you're getting a history lesson from Mr. Marshall, but I figured a little research wouldn't hurt. So far the only thing that research has hurt has been my grade... but we won't talk about that right now.

I was thinking about coffee a couple months ago, probably while sipping on some and feeling very intellectual. I wondered to myself... "Why in the hell do people even like this? It can be extremely bitter and the smell is nothing like the way it tastes. And yet... it is so fantastic... *sip*. Soooo fantastic".

Most of my friends like coffee and drink it on a regular basis. We sometimes gather on Friday nights or Sabbath afternoons at StarBucks. We discuss anything from deep insights to just potty talk. Then there are the friends that can't stomach the taste or even the smell of coffee. They get water or a smoothie at StarBucks. We coffee drinkers face-palm and shake our heads, but accept them anyways. The drinks we get vary from person to person. Some of us get lattes while others get frappuccinos. Some are sweeter than others. "Foo-foo drinks" are what my mom calls mochas and such. She and my dad drink their coffee black, as many people do. I've begun to drink mine that way at times as well. Its healthier to leave out the cream and sugar and it makes me feel refined.

I couldn't help but think how strange it is that we like the bitterness of coffee. Wouldn't it make sense to only desire sweet and good things? Just like we usually don't go out and buy a trashy car if we can afford a better-running one. Or choose a house that's falling apart when something else is an option. I suppose people do buy jeans with holes in them on purpose... but I digress.

I can be a listener. I talk a lot too, but I've spent a good deal of time hearing people talk. Usually they ask to talk to me about life and things they're going through. Over the years, I've "counseled" a few regulars who just need to let things out. Most issues concern relationships or questions about God. Regardless of the specific problems, they seem to continue struggling with the same things over and over again. It was during one of these heart to heart times that I really noticed how one of my friends had grown. The troublesome topics of the past had fallen away and new matters were at hand. I thought about the development a person can undergo just by surviving a life crisis, large or small. The way a person evolves, learns, and adapts contains beauty. Internal, spiritual beauty. Like calligraphy in the story book of someone's life.

This is what I was searching for in the coffee quest. The bitterness complemented by cream and sugar. The biting edge softened by a cinnamon roll. The anguish fading into sweet relief. This contrast is what makes life beautiful. Of course, people aren't thinking these exact thoughts with ever sip of joe, but its the analogy I came up with. Before sin, everything was glorious without even trying. But now, a changed life, a broken addiction, a mended relationship are the elements of a delicious drink. This world can be like a triple shot of espresso some days, but that doesn't mean there isn't any sweetener on its way.

Realizing these things in others makes us better people. Someone may have been a mega-bitch in the past, but now they've changed positively. Give 'em a clean slate. Forgive. "Err on the side of love", as my high school religion teacher would say. Allow people that chance to add cream to their coffee where once there was a harsh taste.

Finally, give yourself some credit. You've probably come a long ways from the person you once were. I know that I'm still growing. Parts of me are bitter and yucky with coffee grounds floating around. But I like to think that other parts of me that have mellowed out and changed for the better. Maybe you're still an ass. There is hope for you too. Barista Jesus never made a bad drink. I believe that in due time and surrender, you and I can be mixed into something truly remarkable. A caffeinated (or decaf) story that has just the right amount of coffee and sweet flavoring. The perfect blend of struggle, surrender, and success.

Let's talk coffee. Post feedback to the blog^^^ and tell me your favorite coffee drink in the comments.

Also, here are the links I used to learn about coffee's history:


  1. Some very thoughtful analogies there, Josh. I liked them all! In Christ, we can all be the "perfect brew".

    I personally try to stay away from coffee and caffeine anywhere because of my blood pressure. But even before I started having problems with that, I tried to stay away from it because of its addictive nature. There are several food items that they are now discovering have addictive properties too(mostly in the "junk food" category). I may enjoy these foods now and then, but definitely try not to make them a regular food item on my plate.

    I've had too many family members and friends struggle with their addictions and I prefer to use my life energy doing other things. It's a personal decision, but I'm not kidding myself--others are affected by my lifestyle choices, whether I like it or not.

    I welcome discussion on this, my friend.

  2. Josh! I love all your thoughts in this blog! There's so much to consider. Jesus, the Perfect Barista. :-) Makes me smile.

    I love your paragraph on allowing the idea that people can change. Err on the side of love. Forgive. Give them a clean slate. Yessir. People can change. I have. I haven't "arrived", but I'm thankful for where God has led me so far. I'm not what I want to be. I'm not what I'm going to be. But thank God, I'm not what I was.

    My favorite coffee drink? I like a flavored creamer in mine. BTW, I know of someone who buys raw coffee beans and roasts them himself - in an air popcorn popper. How cool is that?

    Thanks for these beautiful thoughts and lessons. If only all of us would err on the side of love.

    hugs to you,