N Touch
Thursday 19 July 2018
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Commentary

The coffee ritual

Coffee

Before I sit to write, or make music, the first thing that I do is make myself a hot beverage. There is something about the warmth that is soothing, relaxing. It puts the mind at ease. The ritual is in the process, this process of making a hot beverage. It is meditative. I follow the same procedure that I do every day because habit is necessary for focus. Hot the water in saucepan, grate the ginger, throw it into the boiling water, wait a few minutes. Stand around doing some Tai Chi movements or stretches with an eye on saucepan since one is prone to having overflowing saucepans. The decision to either drink the raw ginger tea, throw a decaffeinated tea bag or black tea in depending on the time of the day has already been made so I follow the appropriate procedure. And then I walk back to my desk or the floor, depending on the activity at hand, sit, take a sip and then proceed. If someone should speak to me while that ritual was taking place, then I should have to do it all over again because my thought had been broken. Even while I write this, there is a hot cup of cocoa at my side in a cup that I love. It is past 10 pm the rainfall is heavy and it throws a comforting arm around me. I write in a place in the apartment where I can hear this.

But, even before my chosen beverage became a cup of herbal tea or the spicy Indian Chai, or cocoa (when rain falls), my preferred drink of choice up until late last year, was coffee. Two cups of coffee a day. During periods of intensive work, the craving became more intense. However, acid reflux put a stop to this use and sometimes overuse in 2016. But before I came to the point where I eventually stopped there was protest: "No! Which artist does not drink coffee?" my subconscious mind cried (I didn’t know it was saying this at the time). This coffee drinking was closely associated with a creative process. It was me! It also fit the creative stereotype. (These were all private thoughts, nothing that I shared with anyone. It’s just like the tattoo I have on my arm – private because it is me). On deeper analysis, I realised, with great embarrassment, that my inability to stop, even though the coffee made me sick and my taste for it had severely declined, was really me unable to release my hold on an image of myself that I had created in my head. I had been buying into a stereotype. Shame shame!

I suspect this identification with coffee drinking as part of who one is, isn’t one that I alone possess(ed). I would hazard a guess that even though there are many people who would previously not have consumed coffee, the mere status value that it holds now – with the Rituals experience and now the Starbucks experience – has increased local coffee consumption. I would also guess that many consumers are not even aware that their "love of coffee" may very well have been groomed by moving and still images, in the way that alcohol is imagined. This statement, I make without any empirical evidence, however, I can perhaps safely say that coffee consumption has grown to be a significant social pursuit, from young to old in this society.

The expansion of Rituals and Starbucks in this island is evidence enough of the profitability of coffee, its various flavoured blends and, of course, the peripherals like herbal teas and pastries. It was, therefore, not surprising that last weekend’s coffee festival at the Green Market in Santa Cruz, was pretty well attended despite the rain. The Facebook response boasted over 3,500 people interested or attending. There was not a large variety of coffee products in my estimation but the main thing is that the festival was a meeting place for people united by their excitement about and love of coffee. If Starbucks and Rituals have done anything, it’s that they have created an awareness of coffee as fashionable. There is a huge potential now for the expansion of our local market, at least among an urban crowd.

As with most locally produced items, there is a higher cost, yet, the novelty and the artistic value attached to local coffee and cocoa production is difficult to ignore. From handcrafted chocolate bars to paintings painted with coffee, this is a happening space. People want to belong to this space and it is this sense of belonging among other factors, that we must now capitalise on in our venture to diversify.

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