Saturday, February 27, 2016

still brewing.

My life is like a cup of coffee.

Have you ever thought about the process of coffee being made? There are the beans, the grounds, the hot water, the filter. Yes, these all make a cup of coffee. But there is so much more to a cup of coffee than just the bare minimum, especially a good cup.

Before I get to my point, let me give you a glimpse into the beauty of coffee. 

The beans (which are actually the seeds of the coffee tree cherry), for example, can make the biggest difference. A beans flavor changes from each place it comes from. If the soil is water saturated, then the fruit's concentration will have a high water content and dilute the flavor of the bean. This means the flavor is less concentrated with not as high viscosity.  On the other hand, well arrogated soil makes the beans contain less water, making the flavor more poignant and high viscosity. (If you're not quite sure what viscosity is, just think of the difference in liquid thickness between milk and water. Milk contains a higher viscosity than water, just like some coffees are more full bodied than others. Does that make sense?). The altitude also changes the beans flavor. Higher altitudes and cooler temperatures lengthen the growing time of the plant and allow the beans to develop more complex and rich flavors, whereas lower altitudes and warmer temperatures allow more delicate and subtle flavors. More than just altitude and water content though, the bean can vary depending on the individual plant itself, the amount of rain or sunshine patterns in which it grows, and even the chemistry of the soil.

A myriad of factors effect just the make up of the bean, and the grower himself has no control over every single one of these elements.

The growing is only a small aspect in the art of coffee. Each region where it's grown  (North America, Central America, Africa and Asia) constitutes a different process from how the beans are harvested, processed, dried, milled and exported. Once the beans are exported, the distributors then taste and test the milled green beans and distinguish which flavor they want. The beans are then sent to the roasters, and this makes an even larger difference. Here they are transferred from their green state to different shades of brown, depending on their roast; light, medium and dark. When they are heated and constantly churned in the roaster to prevent burning, they excrete a fragrant oil called caffeol. This process brings out the true flavor of coffee and gives coffee it's distinctive and intoxicating aroma.

Even after this whole process, we still have just the bean. These beans are packaged and transferred to the coffee shops (or manufacturers) where they are then ground and brewed for the customer. But it's not so simple. Depending on what type of coffee you want to make, the grind should either be very coarse or very fine. Ideally, the water should be just the right temperature so as not to scald the grounds. This isn't including espresso and latte formation... this is just coffee in its percolated state.

Now...all of that. Just for a cup of coffee.
That's a lot of history flowing in that delicious liquid mass before you.

And this is why my life is like a cup of coffee.

There are so many factors that contribute to my makeup. Just like a plant, there are genetic factors that helped grow me before I was even aware of myself. While I can eat healthy, live an active lifestyle and take care of my mind and body, there are many factors I don't and won't have control over. Things like bad weather (injury and physical ailment), drought (depression and oppression), improper care (heart break and scarring) - they are things that I cannot control. But regardless of my inability to control them, I will still keep growing and I will still produce fruit, whether it's bountiful or minimal. I will produce something.

I cannot control my environment. High altitude or low altitude - being born into a caring family or a careless family. High water saturation or low saturation - things might force me to be more laid back and fluid or they might harden me to be more resolved. Vitamin rich soil or bland soil - perhaps I will grow from nutrient rich relationships with words of encouragement and affirmation, or perhaps I will learn to grow with the bare minimum, "living deeply and sucking the marrow of life" as Thoreau once said. Perhaps there will be a culmination of sunny days and rainy days alike. But regardless of my environment, I will grow. I will always be growing.

Just like the cherry plucked from a tree, I too have been plucked from my home, from things I knew, from the comfortable "known" and "expected". And after being plucked, a harvest of gathering began in my brain. I picked and plucked from new ideas and old alike, figuring what was good, what was bad, what I liked and what I didn't like, what I wanted to change and what I wanted to remain the same. These ideas were processed and then they were dried and refined. The refining process milled them, so that only the best, most resolute parts remained.

Then, as if to make sure that I really truly believe what I do, say what I say, do what I do and act as I act.... as if to make these pure, I am thrown in a heated pit. The pit scorches me. Not to the point where I burn, but to the point where I know that if the heat lasts any longer, I don't know if I will make it. Rolling around, being tossed to and fro, makes me question my existence, makes me question my roots, my identify, my beliefs, what I hold dear and what I hold in esteem. I'm challenged, and I change. Again, I am refined, in a purer and much more intensive form. And as I am refined, a beautiful thing happens. I create a beautiful aroma, something that I didn't think I was capable of producing. And yet, this aroma wouldn't be possible unless I had been grown in my environment, with my strengths and weaknesses, with my challenges and heart breaks, with my history and memories... so it's here in this refining moment when I savor the aroma of my existence. The aroma I smell now, is worth all the heartache.

But life isn't finished with me yet. There are still more refining processes to go through, and they will all change me in minor and major ways alike. Some days I will be ground, have hot water poured over me and I will become a simple cup of black coffee. Some may think me bitter, too strong or not to their taste preferences. Some may need to add a little cream and sugar to make me bearable. But some... some will appreciate me for what I am in my simplicity and rawness.

Other days I might be finely ground, tamped and pulled into frothy espresso. Perhaps I'll be a latte;  warm, creamy and happy. Perhaps I'll be an Americano; sassy, strong and energized. Or maybe I'll be a breve; loquacious and easy to please. Or perchance just straight espresso; to the point and bold.

I suppose everyone's life could be likened to a cup of coffee. We've all been grown in different environments, made up of eclectic components, strained from varying droughts and made stronger by contrasting nutrients. Each of us have been refined through some heated, hard process. And each of us is made differently each day. Every day we  are concocted with new flavors, different temperatures, separate creams and milks or with none at all. And this is a beautiful thing to behold, because no matter how we are made, we each exude a delightful aroma.

I have found my aroma, silently thanking my past for how it's created who I am today and my trademark identity. Every day my aroma takes a new form, still staying true to its origins, but embracing the subtle or grand differences in new preparations.

So this is why my life is like a cup of coffee.
And this is why I'm still brewing, being made differently each day.

*Next time you sit down to enjoy a cup of coffee, think about all the work and history that has gone into that cup. And in contrast, next time you sit down with a person, think about all the refining they've been through to become the person who sits before you. 

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