Before about 6 years ago, I was never really a coffee drinker. In college I didn't go near it - and if I did, I don't remember. In high school I drank my first and last large Frappuccino to get through my senior exams. I was up until 5am studying. I don't think that experience positively impacted my grades. :) But for as long as I can remember I've always loved the smell of roasted coffee. My grandfather, Grump, drank it every morning and I sat on the bamboo stool in their kitchen, spinning around, as my grandmother brewed it. It marked the beginning of each day and time spent with two of the most important people in my life. That same stool sits in my art studio today. I still spin around on it, now drinking my own cup of coffee nearly 35 years later.
It wasn't until I went to help capture the work of our partner organization, Health in Harmony, did I fully become introduced to coffee. With every interview a small cup of coffee was placed in front of me, as we all sat on the tile, wood, or matted floors. I tried to ask questions in Indonesian only to abort and use one of my translators, all the while sipping a thickly brewed coffee heavy with sugar. From house to house, meeting to meeting, with one after another small gift of caffeine. Looking back, I honestly think that's why that trip was so productive for me.
From the back of the motorcycle I rode on, I watches as rows and rows of coffee beans lying out on woven mats, drying in the relentless Borneo sun for days.
Then one evening the founder, Kinari, had me over for dinner and learned the art of burning green coffee beans. After a few attempts I then learned the art of roasting them. Over an iron skillet on a small gas stove, where they would crack on and pop, their thin brown outer layers, slowly coming over like that of a snake sheading it's skin.
I honestly think that's why I was so productive on that trip. It was about diving deep into a culture that was surprisingly rooted in coffee.
Years later, it's not that I'm hooked on caffeine or coffee for that matter. But I love the ritual of it. Although I did roast my own beans when I first returned from Indonesia, I don't anymore. I do love a couple of scorching hot cups, especially now.
Each and every time I sit down to dedicate my time to learning about a new species, their habits, what they eat, where they live, how they live, I spend hours going down a rabbit hole of websites and books learning what makes this specific species so incredible, what threatens them and why we need to protect them. That requires some serious caffeine.