A hot coffee and fresh pandesal is what I think of when I think of my grandpa. Every morning, he would bike 30 minutes to the local bakery on his tricycle, and buy fresh pandesals, ensymadas and hopia. These would then be carefully placed in a glass container by my grandma to be sold throughout the day in their convenience store.
When grandpa would get home with the baked goods, he’d take two out onto a plate, make two cups of instant coffee (with far too much cream and sugar), and call me down. I’d wake, groggily but then with energy as I knew what was waiting for me. Coffee, pandesal and my grandpa.
My grandpa and I shared coffee and pandesal most mornings that I was in the Philippines. We didn’t have much to say, due to our language barrier, but we both understood that these moments were precious.
Since then, coffee has been a part of my daily routine, or ritual, if you want to call it that. This has changed over the years. My high school years were filled with cups of bitter instant coffee, and my college years were filled with stale K-cups. Thankfully, my taste in caffeine has developed over the years. My semester abroad introduced me to the sophisticated Americano. Then, I went through a period where the Nespresso was my preferred method of consumption, but too many articles about the damaging effects of aluminium made me give that up. I enjoyed a french press for a while, until I got fed up with cleaning the damn filters. These days, I’m a fan of the pour over, yanno, so my coffee can bloom appropriately. Needless to say, coffee has grown up with me.
Coffee isn’t just a drink. It’s sacred to me (ask my husband what happened the last time we ran out of coffee beans). It is a drink that I share with others over heart felt discussions. It’s what I drink every morning as I plan my coming day. It’s something that I prepare in a ritualistic manner the night before – the grinding of the beans before bed signals to me that I have something to look forward to in the morning. It is a constant.
What makes this consumption a ritual, rather than just a routine? A routine is something you do in sequence, almost automatically without any thought. A ritual is a solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. A routine is something you don’t think about, while a ritual gives you meaning. A ritual allows you time to think and reflect. Anything can be turned from a routine into a ritual, as long as you think about it as such. Over the years, I have turned coffee from a routine into a ritual, and it has brought me so much joy.
Next time you prepare coffee, think about it. Think about the flavors you will taste, and the warmth that will fill your belly. Think about the process that brought that cup to your mouth. Imagine the conversations you can have over it, with yourself and with loved ones. Think about how handing a cup of coffee to someone can change their day.
In a world that loves automation, it’s a relief to be able to have rituals. Coffee is one of mine. The incredible thing is that all that separates routine from ritual is what you make of it. Make brushing your teeth a ritual. How about showering? Damn it, you can make throwing out the trash one too. It’s all about what it means for you.