Thinking about my coffee
I’m suffering from a case of over thinking, so I thought I’d share.
I made myself a cup of coffee this morning. The beans are a light roast. I find myself surprised by the qualities of a light roast at about the same frequency that I’m comforted by the familiar qualities of more traditional, darker roasts. I bought the beans Whole Foods. Here’s the description of their origin:
At the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, 423 small-holder farmers tend gardens that border the larger Machare Coffee Estate, which provides them assistance and advice. Grown in rich volcanic soil, their coffees boast deep undertones of black cherry, black currant and black tea.
As I sip my coffee, the tea/berry undertones are quite clear (also, it’s black like all of those descriptors), but I have to take Allegro Coffee’s word for the rest of the details. Specific details like 423 small-holder scream veracity whereas “provides them assistance and advice” feel like euphemisms for the less idyllic relationships large agricultural entities have historically imposed upon their smaller neighbors. I’ve been reading Undocumented and the exploitation of indigenous populations in the production of coffee is firmly in my mind. Hopefully Allegro is true to their mission statement (sustainable from SEED TO CUP) and “provides them assistance and advice” is not the sinister scenario I so easily extrapolate.
The undertones are supposedly a result of the coffee plants having grown in “rich volcanic soil,” which brings to mind the opening story in the July/August issue of F&SF. Palm Strike’s Last Case by Charlie Jane Anders is an impressive mashup of a hyper-violent superhero story and a survival tale set on a newly colonized distant planet. The connection between the coffee and the story is the soil (issues with terraforming in the case of the story), but there’s also a connection to the darker thoughts I keep coming back to. Be it migrant labor or drug culture, our modern society has managed to retain (or devise) a myriad of ways to retain the class structures that clearly delineate the privileged.
And none of that was the over thinking I was doing when I sat down to drink a cup of coffee and write this. One of the reasons I’m drawn to a light roast is that my ex-wife hates it. I had 2 experiences of minor glee at her discomfort yesterday. One was the face she made when I handed her a freshly brewed light roast to try. The other was pointing out, “the gore of that clone getting punctured with rebar doesn’t bother you until you think about it as a very thick needle.” I didn’t plan to be watching Orphan Black with my ex-wife or waking her with confusing coffee this weekend, but life is strange.
The bag my coffee beans came in has a little valve on it that lets the beans release carbon dioxide without the bag exploding. It’s one of the many random bits of tech that accompany my cup of coffee. The hand cranked bur grinder, the plastic cone and paper filter I put the ground coffee into, the burner on the gas stove, and the kettle with a steam powered whistle and lever actuated spout – all of these simple bits of tech lay the foundation of my morning caffeine fix.
Likewise, as I browse facebook or the wider internet – or use wordpress or google docs if I’m composing instead of consuming – I constantly find myself contemplating the underlying tech. A system of layered standards implemented on devices of all shapes and sizes deliver data to and fro. Complex bits of software, built using powerful multi-purpose languages, constrained by simple patterns, enabled by ingenious tools, tell me how my friends and family are spending their weekend – connect me with the rest of the world. I work with these underlying tools on a daily basis.
It’s easy to wrap a neat little box around the details and pretend it just works. That’s mostly what I do with my car. However, be it facebook or the writing/publication process of the media I enjoy or the global supply chain that brought me my coffee beans, sometimes those details are worth pondering. Not as often as I ponder them, but worthy nonetheless.
There are affiliate links in this post, which I think I’m legally bound to tell you for some reason.