Article 71: Coffee and the concept of life


Digging deep into the different rituals of cooking, brewing and enjoying coffee, from the past to the present, from East to West, we will find that there are always concepts about life, about the role of people to heaven and earth and to themselves.

"Only good people, coffee drinkers know the truth" - Sheikh Abd el-Kader (1808-1883)

“Only good people, coffee drinkers know the truth” – Sheikh Abd el-Kader (1808-1883)

Culinary culture is a way of life and behavior, closely related to the fields of psychology, consciousness and spirituality. Therefore, brewing coffee is not simply crafting a drink, but whether we like it or not, it has created a way of expressing the way of thinking and the way of life of each person, each people.

Coffee is a will to live

The oldest way to prepare coffee is the Ottoman coffee civilization, popular in the Ottoman Empire, the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Originating from a belief dating back to ancient times: God gave birth to the universe of all things and human beings, humans must obey God’s will, in all daily living activities.

The Ottoman coffee civilization took shape in the palaces of the Ottoman Empire, where the kitchen (Matbah-ı Şerif) was considered a “religious school” that educated Islamic moral and spiritual ideals through the process and principles of cooking – eating. Selected foods and cooking techniques were always associated with spiritual symbols.

Muslims believe that the Archangel Gabriel revealed to the great prophet Mohammed how to use coffee in a passage of the Koran. And there are many legends about “loyal people” to God who were saved by drinking coffee. Regardless of the myth, the origin of coffee is connected with the divine world. Therefore, the preparation and enjoyment of the Ottoman coffee civilization became a spiritual ritual expressing devotion to God, vowing blessings, and being closer to heaven.

Coffee has been projected by people's wishes and prayers into the mysterious universe to be close to the extraordinary world.

Coffee has been projected by people’s wishes and prayers into the mysterious universe to be close to the extraordinary world.

In the Ottoman coffee brewing ritual, fresh coffee beans are lightly roasted just to a bright golden color, pounded or ground very finely. Coffee will then be put into a special tool called ibrik (or cezve), the water used must be pure and cold, sugar can be added for sweet taste, stirred until the ingredients become homogeneous and cooked over hot sand or embers. The boiling temperature is not too high, ideally 70 degrees Celsius. With this temperature, the time for the coffee to bubble is just enough to extract the essential essence of the coffee. Every time the coffee froth covers the surface of the water, the ibrik must be removed from the stove and put back to cook a bit later on. This happens normally three times, the first time to let the effervescent bubbles settle, the second time to pour a little into a cup, the last time to pour the coffee out to the cup slowly from high to low, so that the golden foam is fully formed in the cup.

In the Islamic faith, God is omnipotent knowing all past and future, the final fate of each soul is determined by God. Therefore, when enjoying coffee, people’s minds arise a will to live, sending a wish about their own future. After drinking almost all of the coffee, people turn the cup of coffee upside down on the plate, from the shape made of coffee grounds that prophesies fate and guides to the desired future.

Coffee is a life aspiration

The Roman coffee civilization was born in Europe during the Enlightenment age, a universal age where the concept of human destiny must be based on a way of life guided by reason. Man aspired to master his destiny, dominated nature, asserted his central position over the rest of things. This concept is rooted in the industrial advances of the Renaissance, especially the industrial revolutions that began in Western Europe and later spread to North America, scientific discoveries and technological applications have completely changed the way people behave with nature and with their own lives.

Steam power was the invention that started the first industrial revolution; scientists all over Europe studied the use of steam in the preparation of coffee. In 1884, the “Steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage” of Italian inventor Angelo Moriondo was patented, which is considered the pioneering espresso machine using both water and steam. In the early years of the 20th century, the Espresso machine continued to be improved by scientists with the mechanism of steam operation. Until 1938, Milanese Achille Gaggia (1895 – 1961) combined the principle of operation of the piston to create the first pressurized espresso machine, ushering in the era of modern Espresso

Espresso brewing technology brought the coffee drinker the mindset of transcendence, affirming man’s role of mastering all things.

Espresso brewing technology brought the coffee drinker the mindset of transcendence, affirming man’s role of mastering all things.

The Roman coffee civilization placed great emphasis on human involvement in the biochemical processes of creation. With Espresso coffee, the time the water penetrates through the coffee powder is very fast (in just a few seconds) but still enough to extract the most magical of coffee. The water is forced through the coffee under great pressure to create a form of energy that breaks down the coffee oil to a microscopic size dispersed in water, combines with the carbon dioxide gas contained in the coffee cell structure, re-shaped into crema. Only the Espresso brewing technique has a large enough energy source to create a the lingering fine foamy layer of crema on the top of the cup. So crema is the hallmark of espresso coffee compared to all other brewing techniques, making it a representative of the industrial Roman coffee civilization.

Technology has brought people a transcendental mindset, a sense of “outstanding” with other species, with nature and with the universe. In the case of Espresso coffee, innovation in coffee brewing technology contributes to the process of promoting the quality of life, affirming the role and position of people. People, from their own creative power, from their own intellectual power, without relying on any external supernatural force, can now improve the world towards a better future on earth.

One thing can be affirmed, from the spiritual dimension or the philosophical depth, in the connotation of the way a cup of coffee is made, there is a whole way of man dealing with life, things and the universe. Coffee has been the heart of life, the moral of life, evoking a clear direction about the mission of being a human.


Source: “The Philosophical Way of Coffee” – copyright by Trung Nguyen Legend