March 6, 2014

The Healing Art of Coffee. ~ Sarah Qureshi


After graduating law school in one of the worst economies in recent memory, I found myself jobless and dumped from my first serious relationship.

I was an emotional wreck. The plans that I had worked hard for, and had been taught were the goals I should be striving for, were collapsing. I spent a few months wallowing in self pity and sadness, and then I decided to wallow and at the least make some money at a job.

I found myself scooping gelato and learning to make coffee at a shop up the street. I now realize this was my saving grace, more so than any legal job could have been.

I had always had a love of coffee and an interest in it, but I had no idea that training to become a barista would end up being such a powerful healing process.

Making espresso drinks is an art form and can be a truly meditative process.

There are so many components of making a great cappuccino or latte that take much attention and devotion.

Making an espresso drink requires the engagement of all five senses, and focused awareness. To begin the process, a barista must sample a shot of espresso to make sure it has a good, even flavor. This requires letting a shot roll over your tongue to taste for bitterness or sourness.

The senses of sound, touch, and smell are then engaged in the process of steaming the milk. A good barista can steam the perfect milk just by listening for the changes in sound that occur throughout the steaming process. But most are often aided by their sense of touch, constantly feeling the milk carafe to see when it’s hot enough. And the nose is continuously monitoring the smell of the milk to make sure that it has not been burnt.

The sense of sight is used throughout to monitor the process from start to finish.

Learning this new skill, with all of its intricacies, allowed me to focus on something outside of my grief and hurt, and to create, rather than simply wallow. It also required me to be in the present more often, as this complicated process takes quite a bit of concentration.

Coffee also provides community.

Part of what made my experience as a barista such a healing process, is the the new friends it gave me. The people I met at work quickly became close friends that gave me much needed comfort and company.

And coffee exposed me to a larger community of coffee lovers in my city. In fact, area baristas and coffee-drinkers alike gather once a month for a “Latte art competition,” at which individuals compete to create the best hearts or ferns they can in a cappuccino or a latte.

These events bring together all walks of life for a few hours each month to celebrate this thing that we all share in common, a love of coffee. And through these events, I have met many more interesting and fantastic people.

From grinding the coffee, steaming the milk, and pouring the finishing latte art, this has been a great process to learn. And it has helped me to not only grow my human connections, but also to continue to heal.

Who knew there was so much more to coffee than meets the mouth?


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Editorial Assistant: Sarah Qureshi/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Courtesy of author

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