Q: When was coffee first mentioned in the Bible?
A: In He-brews!
My guess is that most of us have heard this joke before (one too many times, probably); it is joke that attempts to make sense of two “loves” that many of us have in this world: God and coffee.
Think about God and coffee. Maybe what comes to mind is the solitude of having devotional time in nice cafe. Fellowship and food with friends. Good conversation, community. Coffee-stained prayer journals. These are all very good, but could there be more to the relationship between God and coffee?
Recently, I’ve taken a bit more of an interest in this black, bitter beverage that I find in my cup far too often.
Apart from experimenting with different brewing methods, I’ve also researched on how and where beans are grown, cultivated, processed, washed, roasted; how each type (“varietal”, if you want to pretend you know what you’re talking about) of coffee bean carries different characteristics and notes, and how they are eventually extracted through different brewing methods to produce different cups of coffee, even for the same bean.
The differences and variables in this process go down even to the altitude at which the coffee fruit is grown, and the temperature or type of water used during extraction. And I’m barely scratching the surface here.
The more I read, the deeper I was struck by the level of commitment and degree of thought put into each cup put before me – whether or not I realise it or appreciate it. Suddenly, the question of “with or without milk”, or complaints about whether my latte art was “good or great” mattered very little compared to the amount of consideration given by each coffee purveyor/roaster, café owner or barista in selecting the beans to be used, as well as the methods of extraction to draw out the inherent qualities in those coffee beans for my enjoyment.
This sudden enlightenment culminated with me wanting to try a more uncommon brewing method for myself, so I could experience first-hand if my seemingly small decisions do in fact make for a better or worse cup of coffee.
He knows how to extract the fullness of flavour that I was meant to give to Him and to the World.
So I opted for what is known as the Japanese “cold-drip” method of brewing. It uses slow extraction as its main process: Iced-water dripped over ground coffee for an extended period of time (from 2 to 8 hours, or more), with the expectation that this would draw out and capture a different dimension of the flavour in the coffee beans compared to the espresso method – which is basically close-to-boiling-hot-water being pressured and pushed through tightly-packed ground coffee beans in slightly less than a minute.
The experience was totally gratifying.
With my inner geek activated, I found it exhilarating to be able to participate in a coffee-making process I thought I would otherwise only be able to observe. I had a choice to make at each point: From the selection of beans, to the coarseness of the grind, to picking the right filter, deciding on the right amount of water and time for extraction, and even how to serve it … you get the idea.
For the first time, I could taste flavours in my coffee which I had previously only been able to vaguely smell if it had gone through a different extraction method. It was paradigm-shifting to discover that the cold water actually helped to lock in those flavours inherent in the coffee beans, only to release them – explosively! – when the coffee is warmed up while going down your throat.
It was a rewarding experience, but also a process that taught me more than just a new skill. I saw parallels in how God might share that same measure of delight in walking me through different events in different seasons, to draw out what He knows is inherent in me. He knows me.
He knows where I’ve been planted – the altitudes and places where the seeds of my life have been sown and given room to grow, my appointed times (Acts 17:26). He knows how best to “process” me, and how to extract the fullness of flavour that I was meant to give to Him and to the World.
He knows the temperatures and pressures at which my impurities will be burned away, and watches it closely lest the “good stuff” be lost in the process too (James 1:2-4).
Where need be, He steeps me in deeper, colder waters for longer periods so that the fullness of flavour which I was created to give can be drawn out of me.
Indeed, He brews – and what He brews is always good.
At times, He “blends” me together with others, taking us through process as a community, that we too may produce a cup that brings joy to Him (Matthew 5:16).
I may not always understand the reason for the process, or why it takes so long at times, but I trust that He does this to bless and delight those who will eventually get to “taste” God, hopefully with me as the cup, the vessel bearing His fragrance.
When God Himself – the Master Barista (can I say that?) – sees His completed His work in me, the pleasing aroma of the “good beverage” I am, I hope I bring Him a deep and great delight. That I am who He has created me to be in Christ, and I have accomplished what He has created me to do through Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15-17).
From this perspective, the level of passion, dedication, commitment, knowledge, familiarity and love for coffee that I observe in any good coffee farmer/roaster/barista is only but a shadow of that same passion and love that I believe God has for each of us.
So, the next time you pop by and order a cuppa from the cool hipster café joint or kopitiam you frequent, take a whiff of your fragrant coffee, sip of its goodness, and give thanks to God, for what He is doing in you, and for what He will do through you.
For indeed, He brews – and what He brews is always good.