Monday, June 29, 2009

An evolving relationship with coffee (part 3)

Just when I thought coffee culture couldn't reveal any more to me, I was thrown a curve ball. As a young adult seminary student and intern, the coffee klatches were merely apoplectic about my avoidance of coffee. As a pastor, elderly women of Northern European descent became outright evangelistic (though with differing techniques) about coffee consumption.

Some statements by the Coffistas created a nuanced persuasion that I somehow missed something in my earlier experiences with coffee:
"Nothing tastes as good with a pan of my turtle (or insert any type of cookie or bar) bars like a cup of coffee (watch out when you find a Coffista Food Pusher)!"

"Sure, you may have tried coffee, but you've never tried EGG coffee!

I didn't want these elderly evangelists to know that I did taste their egg coffee. I don't think the egg does a damn thing to the taste (it still tastes like crap), but for them, adding the egg makes it a special occasion--which I think is the most important aspect of this recipe. The coffee tastes like licking the bottom of a recycle bin because the ultra-cheap coffee (coffee brands with names like Butter Nut) sits for hours in their 40-year old metallic percolators. Maybe the egg knocks down the beverage toxicity around five percent.

Sometimes the coffee evangelists took on a Big Brother tone: "You'll be drinking coffee before you leave this church." This type of statement from the Coffistas of the NGP/UM annoyed me more than any other, and made my anti-coffee stance even more resolute.

There was also the side of coffee culture that made me laugh. One day at a local cafe in which I used to frequent, I inquired about the status of Oliver's day. His reply. "Oh, I've been here most of the day talking with my friends. I'm on my 7th pot of coffee."

Seventh pot of coffee?!?!?!?!?

Here I learned the lesson about coffee strength. My loved ones tend to go for deeply black coffee that looks like gas tank sludge. The darker color speaks to coffee efficiency--the beverage remains a social lubricant, but also operates as a charge for the day. No drinking seven pots here. Conversely, Oliver and his ilk use a coffee not so much concerned with efficiency, but it's warmth and drinking motion that fills the time gaps and provides space to think. This type of pregnant pause to drink and swallow allows time to prepare statements and responses that solve the problems of the church, world, and discussing "prayer concerns (aka gossip)." Drinking coffee provides a tactile motion similar to prayer. I still struggle with the arithmetic that 90-year old man can drink 7 pots of coffee in 4 hours. In this equation I discovered a new paint color or J Crew clothing fabric hue: "Old Man Lutheran Coffee." This "coffee" is almost the shade of Lipton tea, but is not quite as red. Old Man Lutheran Coffee is almost transparent; certainly one can see the bottom of the cup when the coffee is poured. I don't marvel at the weakness of the coffee, but that a 90-year-old man would be willing to urinate with the frequency necessary to consume 7 pots of coffee.

Since Oliver is now sipping coffee with the heavenly court, maybe I'll figure out the mysteries of this culture on the other side of heaven when he greets me in heaven's basement. Heaven's basement wouldn't be hell, just the place where Oliver probably prefers to be after a full day of praising God.

I served in 7 congregations throughout the NGP/UM Lutheran Holy Land, walking a wide enough circle around the Coffistas to be able to observe coffee culture with a bemused detachment. Until 2009.

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