Zen In The Art of Making Coffee

It’s not just coffee you know! The vital importance of taking your time to make a good cup of coffee (or anything else for that matter)

Image of a cafetiere on a stove for article by Larry G. Maguire

Photo by Izzy Rivi on Unsplash

It’s not just coffee you know! The vital importance of taking your time to make a good cup of coffee (or anything else for that matter)

This morning I was making coffee in the usual manner in my stainless steel thermos cafetiére. (Thermos is good — it keeps the coffee hot for longer). I have a process and I like to execute it, in the same way, every time.

  • I’ll boil the kettle.

  • Clean out the coffee pot — because I never clean it the day before.

  • Scald the coffee pot to pre-warm it.

  • Add two, and a half heaped tablespoons of strong coffee. Lavazza is good, but it can’t be the fine-grain espresso stuff because the filter in the cafetiére is not good for that.

  • Add water just off the boil, put the lid on and leave stand for a few minutes.

  • Scald the mug to pre-heat, plunge, then pour.

I’ll usually give the coffee a quick stir before plunging. I like it strong as possible, you see. I’ve got a particular spoon I like to use too. I won’t use any old spoon you know — I’m a bit picky like that. Then I’ll add milk, no sugar, and nuke it for about 15 seconds if it’s not warm enough.

The only ‘trouble’ I find is that it takes considerable effort to make the cup of coffee at the right temperature. In fact, the entire process is a little laboured, isn’t it?

I mean, wouldn’t I be better off taking a shortcut and just going with instant coffee?

I could buy the expensive instant stuff, surely that would do? I’d get it done quickly and I could get on with my business instead of flapping about the kitchen doing my stupid coffee pot dance that irritates my wife so much.

I’d be far better off, right?

Nah. I wouldn’t.

(Full disclosure: I have a tin of the “good” instant stuff in the kitchen press — in case of emergencies of course. I wouldn’t dream of using it under normal circumstances. Unless someone I don’t like calls 😬)

That’s the more significant trouble with which we human beings seem to suffer — we can’t bear to take our time, to go the slow road, to endure the task. We want a quick and easy solution. We want to get there fast.

And then when we arrive, we want to leave as fast as possible. We want to get on the road again because there’s somewhere else to go, more things to do, more money to make. Because if we don’t keep moving, someone else is going to take what’s ours.

So we sacrifice the right-now experience of life for the sake of anticipation of the future. We sacrifice what we have in our hands for the sake of something we don’t have and can never have.

This is what it all amounts to.

Even if that is not the conscious surface-level thought that crosses our minds, it is a powerful feature of what lies beneath our behaviour. There is an urgency in us, an underlying disturbance that cannot seem to be settled.

We don’t want to take the time necessary to make something worthwhile. We don’t want to engage in the activity solely for its enjoyment. It’s too much hassle. We’ve always got something else more urgent to do.

And the result is we miss out on the very thing that we’re trying to catch. We miss out on the pleasure of the work, of making things for the sake of it and our lives become a series of urgencies.

We’re moving too fast.

I used to live this way. I did it for 15 years or more.

Now, I’m certainly not perfect; I’m no Zen master. But I’m definitely in better shape than I used to be, and as a result, so is everyone else close to me. The irony of it all is that it was necessary so that I understood my folly.

I take my time more now. I don’t pack my days with too many things and those things in which I am engaged, receive more of my attention. It’s far more productive, you know.

The old adage of less-is-more is so very true.

To sum up, there’s value in doing less, in taking our time. Moments will arrive when it’s right to go fast, and we should take advantage of those times. But it’s not supposed to be full-speed ahead all the time.

We’ll burn out.

So let everyone else run around like madmen and women. Take your time today, use the good coffee and afford it the respect of making it well.

…no, it’s not for me to want for time to pass, for there is no better place for my spirit to last, than this universe, the one mind has gifted, to one part of the whole let my heart be lifted, to the heights of the sky and to the heavens and say, there is no time, just my thoughts this day.

Poem: There Is No Time

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