One day, two portly cows looked over a fence, a stark contrast of black and white set against the green valley below, and saw the words “pasteurised, homogenised, and vitamin A added” on a passing milk truck.
One cow said to the other, “it makes you feel a bit inadequate, does it not?”
Off they went, back to the business of grazing, shaking their head in disgust at how the inevitable burden, the curse of evolution, is betraying creation’s simple and beautiful order.
Is this how we look at life sometimes? We give it our best effort, and then critical feedback or judgement comes down on us like an icy shower on a cold winter night. It’s an unwelcome reality check shaking us to our very core, pressing scary thoughts into an already fragmented self-esteem. We tend to dance to other people’s music and form our identities in the colosseum that is life, much like the gladiators of old, waiting for the flick of a thumb to determine our miserable fate. And yet we live in hope that we can reverse this trend, this cycle of doom, and retake control of our brilliant destinies.
Imagine how coffee growers from faraway lands might feel. They gently prune their treasured beans under the glare of an unforgiving sun, lovingly plucking them to prevent bruising on their delicate skins. They dry them carefully with the help of a fragrant breeze, package them in handmade hessian bags, and bid them goodbye, dreaming of the blessings their little treasures will surely deliver to their Northern Hemisphere cousins.
Then, on the other side of the world, in a little neighbourhood coffee shop, comes this strident order with a twang: “Large latte, oat milk and two shots of caramel syrup.” As the golden beans hide in terror, submerged in unfamiliar surroundings, their exotic flavours become lost in a vast cup filled with hot eccentricity. Grown for 1407 days, transported 8516 kilometres, roasted for 27 minutes, and potentially destroyed in seven seconds.
In today’s world, accents are being dulled to be replaced by what we call ‘norm’, accepted standards of taste and performance that make us conform into today’s tribe, what we call ‘society’.
Our spirits are repressed, our minds depressed, and wings clipped. Our teeth are bleached and skins tattooed in search of that elusive quest we call happiness.
But what if, like a coffee bean’s outer skin, happiness was just a bitter illusion? What if it were a poisoned chalice disguised as a holy grail, a bland panacea to keep the tribe in a false sense of security and uniformity to maintain the derisory status quo favoured by today’s inept politicians? They allow us to acquire greater wealth, more freedom in exchange for greater control and higher taxes.
And what if, like the bean, what mattered most was the core, the heart, a place of joy where flavour lies hidden? It is a place of unique expression and extraordinary potential where a bean is free to spread its wings of creativity into an unexpecting cup.
I am one who believes, rightly or wrongly, that things must be experienced as close to their natural created form in order to be truly recognised, and then appreciated. You may add cream, chocolate, or even black pepper to a ripe strawberry, but as the fruit bursts into life and permeates your craving taste buds, it is the unmitigated flavour of sweet strawberry that overwhelms your senses. It is the strawberry that sends melodic notes through the microphone of your mind, while the other flavours play the role of a mere backing singer.
So why do people seek to obliterate the primal taste of origin? Why do they bury it under the burden of foreign particles, unwelcome intruders that disguise the true magic that lies within?
The various milks and syrups are only symptoms, a mask that disguises the real reason, the root cause of this anomaly, is that some people simply do not like the taste of coffee.
Why do people order products that they inherently do not appreciate? It is purely because they want to fit into the tribe and that coffee, at present, is deemed to be a ‘cool’ drink, like the martini of old. When it comes to presenting coffee in creative forms, the world has gone berserk hot, cold, nitro, espresso, drip, instant, capsules, chemex, canned/ready-to-drink, a zillion types of milks, and syrups. And then there is ‘bullet proof coffee’, a very cool name perhaps, but adding butter in your coffee makes you a deviant nonetheless.
Are these trends a form of greater expression to enhance an already magnificent experience, or an act of camouflage to eradicate unwanted essences and disruptive aromas?
What shall the future bring? More variety? Perhaps there will be a greater choices of milks. Fish milk must be good for you, sous vide brewing, even genetic enhancements. Why not cross a coffee bean with a vanilla bean, kryptonite spoons or plutonium cups? These are symptoms of the complex story we find ourselves living in. The argument for evolution is slowly undermining the natural rhythm of creation, increasing pace and noise, promoting a violent invasion of the senses at the expense of serendipity.
Then there is the way they do it at origin. There’s a wood burning stove, a gentle flame, an old cast iron pan, a pestle and mortar, and a bit of clean water. Wait a while. Then savour the elixir with the whole of your being. Surround yourself with good friends, the beat of distant drums, and exotic scents driving joy through the microphone of your mind – a silent backing singer that is pure joy.
At origin, two scrawny cows return to the business of random grazing. Their dusty copper coats are in harmony with the earth. Service is not required. They flick their tails in the air, trying to undermine a swarm of flies, identity, and adequacy restored. Life is good. Life is simple. Life is pure at ‘origin’.