January 10, 2017

The Yoga of Coffee.

As a part-time yoga instructor, oftentimes specialty coffee professional and (more importantly) full-time wanderer searching for purpose within a community, I find myself struggling as I constantly straddle two seemingly contradictory worlds: yoga and coffee.

Yeah, I know, the cultures of the two industries don’t lend themselves to many obvious commonalities. We use coffee to speed up and yoga to slow down; with coffee we take in and with yoga we let go.

Yet, for the past several years, a morning coffee ritual has been the most meditative and grounding part of my day. I light a fire and then take time to stretch and breathe while water approaches a slow boil. I grind the coffee beans by hand and appreciate the fragrance of the dry grounds, as well and their aroma as they come in contact with a slow stream of water.

Once the brewing is complete, I find a cozy spot to sip and contemplate the beverage’s unique flavor, texture, warmth and aftertaste. I sometimes draw, write or read during this time, but often sit without thoughts, occasionally noticing how the qualities of the cup change as the coffee slowly cools.

Obviously, plenty of folks in the coffee field practice yoga and meditation. We do so openly and shamelessly, without feeling a sense of discord while taking a few minutes to fold forward and breathe throughout the day.

So, here is my issue: Why is it that, within spiritually-inspired communities, we feel the need to excuse coffee as a guilty pleasure, a hypocritical practice or a bad habit that needs to be overcome?

If you’re the least bit apologetic of your love for coffee, please take a moment to consider the care, devotion and meditative practices present throughout the specialty supply chain.

• Coffee is brewed from the seed of the fruit of a beautiful, flowering plant that grows at high altitudes, often on steeply-sloped terrain. To yield a high quality coffee, each cherry must be picked ripe by a discerning hand. Each plant contains cherries of various phases of maturity, so a proper harvest requires multiple collections.

• Before processing a washed coffee, it is common to go through a selection for obvious defects by removing the cherries that float in water. The coffee is then de-pulped to remove its skin, washed and fermented to remove its fruit or “honey,” dried in the sun and finally hulled from its parchment before yielding what we (may) recognize as green coffee.

• Further selections take place to ensure that under-ripe, over-mature, diseased, insect-bitten, machine-chipped, or otherwise lower-quality “beans” don’t make it in to your cup. In many cultures, this grain-by-grain sorting process is performed in a social, communal setting.

• Specialty coffee is roasted in small batches according to a profile that was determined based on its origin, botanical variety and characteristics. The roaster (a human, not a machine) monitors time, temperature, color and fragrance during each roast, attempting to best showcase a coffee’s flavor, body, acidity and sweetness.

• Whether preparing brewed coffee or extracting espresso, infinite factors will affect the taste of your cup. Beyond the characteristics of the coffee and its method of preparation, these variables include freshness (of harvest, roast and grind), particle size and uniformity, water quality and temperature and the amount of time and manner in which the water and coffee contact each other.

In attempt to defend mindful coffee consumption without researching health claims, denying the ayurvedic qualities of caffeine or debating its effects on meditation: Energy is energy—and the numerous species and varieties of the coffee plant has affected humans in a unique way throughout our history. No, I’m not advocating an espresso before asana practice (although, it might boost your physical strength a bit!); what I am asking, fellow yogis, is for you to consider two questions:

If pride, diligent work and passion all contribute to the creation of a beverage whose traceable journey spans time, culture and geographic and political barriers, is enjoying a cup with gratitude and moderation something to be ashamed of?

And—when it comes down to a well-selected, well-roasted, well-prepared cup of coffee versus a yoga practice—how can one be more balanced than the other?




Author: Rachel Markowitz

Image: Author’s Own, Featured Image: Experiencia Cafetera, used with permission

Editor: Travis May

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