Let’s talk about coffee. When I talk about coffee, what I’m really talking about is community. It’s my observation that there is a clear divide in caffeine quoffing. It’s coffee drinkers versus tea drinkers. Of course, this is a huge generalisation, but stick with me. Until five years ago, I was solely a tea drinker; however, sooner or later – when you reach a certain age – tea is no longer strong enough to keep you
awake alert. Alertness calls for something stronger. I’m not talking anything illegal; I’m talking coffee – specifically three double-shot espressos a day. Suddenly, coffee is nigh on a religious experience for me.
My husband and I are both introverts. We don’t socialise much. Nevertheless, we have found that somehow coffee has a way of bringing people together. As a tea drinker who has switched to coffee, I’ve really noticed the extra pulling power of coffee. I’m not trying to denigrate tea, no way. I can appreciate the allure of tea ceremonies and high teas, but they’re really only for special occasions, right? No-one queues to buy a cup of tea. But, there is community in coffee. Picture standing in a queue at the local café having a little chit-chat with 30 of your workmates, who are all waiting for their first coffee of the day. Meanwhile, the tea drinkers are in the staff kitchen getting their first cuppa – sniffing timidly at the milk to see if it has gone off – before hurrying back to their desk. I know it; that was me once. And as for caffeinated energy drinks – oh please! They are consumed furtively in one’s office at lunchtime to help get you through the rest of the day (or at least they should be; consumed furtively that is). There’s no community in that.
There is bravery in coffee. Take my friends, Col and Wanda, from Café 27. They set up their photo gallery/framing business and café at my local unloved suburban shops. The centre really was a bit derelict, with most of the businesses and shops having closed down. You could have fired a cannon at the shops and not hit anyone. What a breath of fresh air! There are businesses in every premise now and there are people, lots of them. I’ve also met quite a few local residents. So when there was great coffee, they came. Col and Wanda keep giving back to the community who welcomed them with open arms. Just recently, Col and Wanda’s friends, Ian and Suzanne from Just Duet, came to the café to entertain us. I might have had a little dance. Wanda also gave my son his first job and for that I will always be truly thankful.
There is inclusiveness and shared values in coffee. Melbourne is often touted as the coffee capital of the world, but trust me, I’ve had some exceptional coffee in some of our regional towns. Take my friends, Daniel, Toni, Sophie and all the crew that work with them at Trader & Co in Yass. Small town, big heart. This is my home-away-from-home café. Trader & Co is a collective of like-minded businesses that serve/sell coffee, food and local crafts with heart. Their focus is on sustainability, community-engagement, compassion, as well as locally-and ethically sourced products. I’ve got strange dietary requirements and Soph always looks after me, while award-winning coffee roasters, Daniel and Toni, supply me with my daily supply of ethically-sourced beans. The coffee industry is unfortunately known for its exploitation of workers and growers in developing countries, but if you truly love coffee, then you’ll care about where your coffee comes from. And, don’t think your customers won’t notice if you treat your staff poorly. I went to a café that treated their staff appallingly. I didn’t go back. That café closed down recently. I’ll leave the last word to Daniel on this:
“[conducting an ethical and sustainable business goes further than one area] it needs to be holistic. This includes how we pay bills, to treating staff and dealing with suppliers and customers – there’s no point in stopping exploitation overseas if our behaviour at home is different.” Yass Tribune, 15 Sept 2017
But there’s more. There is kindness and a helping hand in coffee. Take my friend, Nancy, from Food Lovers. My husband and I first met Nancy when she was selling coffee from a coffee cart. She now has her own shop selling gourmet food products, many of which she hand-makes herself. She is also our alternate coffee bean supplier. You can never have enough coffee I say! Nancy fusses over me. It’s a nice fuss. When I go hypo (low blood glucose), Nancy will cut up a brownie for me; just enough so I recover but not enough so that I will go ‘high’ afterwards. Now this kindness probably has nothing to do with coffee, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Finally, coffee is about friendship and love. I want to pay tribute to my regular (anonymous) coffee buddies who, when I’m weary and feeling blue, drag me out for brunch and espresso, because that’s (apparently) what normal people do. Those friendships mean the world to me. And then there is my love, who grinds the coffee beans every morning and puts them in the Aeropress for me, ready to go. Picture a teabag in a cup on the kitchen counter – nah, it’s not quite the same.
As 2017 draws to a close – and everyone, except me and the fam, heads to the beaches and bustling cafés down the coast, and my regular coffee haunts close down for a well-earned break – I say thank you to my coffee community. My love and I have stocked up on coffee beans, so we’ll be fine, but it won’t be as fun without our favourite coffee people. To them I say, have a safe holiday and see you next year.
Do you have a coffee community too?
Note: I have no pecuniary interests in the businesses mentioned in this post. Nor has any dosh been exchanged for my glowing praise – except of course, the money I spent on coffee beans and espressos at my fave cafes.