I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was in university. My friend, Matt, introduced me to it. He used to have a Bodum, and not only would he make coffee in the Bodum, but he would grind his own beans. There’s a skill to grinding beans correctly: not too fine that they get sucked up in the water and not too course that they don’t release the flavour. Coffee with Matt was always a learning opportunity. It wasn’t just any coffee either: Irish Cream from Second Cup was a favourite, and of course, Starbucks Christmas Blend during the holiday season. As the years went on in university, we both used to come back from the Winter Break with multiple packages of these favourite coffees to enjoy. In North Bay at the time, neither Starbucks nor Second Cup was available anywhere nearby, so it was always worth the suitcase room.
Coffee quickly became about more than just the drink. It was about the opportunity to connect around the drink. I remember many nights, far past times going out and doing school work, that we would sit around and talk over a Bodum of coffee. Sometimes, with evening classes, a Tim Horton’s coffee from campus became what we sipped as we chatted at the bus stop. Sugar, no sugar, cream (never milk), or black all became different ways that we might take our coffee, but the one thing that remained the same, was the conversations. Now Matt might have introduced me to coffee, but my coffee memories continued past these university days.
I’m convinced that my mom brews the perfect cup of coffee: neither too strong nor too weak. I’ve tried to figure out her secret. She’s shown me many times, and yet, no cup of coffee that I make is ever the same. For us, sometimes coffee time is a chance for silence. A chance to just sit there, enjoy a cup of perfection, and just be. Sometimes it’s when we talk the most. Maybe it’s about current events, weeks at school, vacation news (when we used to be able to take trips), or upcoming plans.
I don’t just talk to my mom around coffee. As many people know, I love meeting friends for brunch. Most of my friends tend to drink tea instead of coffee, but it always seems to be over this second cup of a hot beverage that we chat the most. It’s after the eating is over and as the end comes near that we stop, slow down, and share that little bit more.
There’s a place for coffee at school too. At our most recent school, my teaching partner, Paula, and I forged our friendship with our caretaker, Matt, over coffee. He’s a fan of some strong brews, and in the days before COVID, always had extra coffee around for if you needed an afternoon treat. Paula and I are also coffee fans, and while I start my day at home with coffee, I also pick some up for school. We always spend a few minutes before school starts enjoying a coffee together. This is when we might reflect once again on our plans for the day or even chat for a few minutes about home life, evening plans, and future events. There’s something incredibly calming to me about this opportunity to connect while enjoying a rich and satisfying cup of coffee.
I realize that coffee and tea are caffeinated beverages and viewing them as being “calming” to anyone almost seems like an oxymoron, but it’s not the drink but the memories, the discussions, and the people that make a difference for me. I might not remember every conference that I’ve ever attended, but I can recall a shocking number of coffee tweets, Starbucks line-ups, and coffee catch ups that I’ve had at all of them.
Allow me to veer from the topic of coffee for a moment before I bring it back. Like many Ontario educators, I think that I’m anxious to hear about our government’s back-to-school plans, and think about what this will mean for us in the classroom. I anticipate the moments of uncertainty and the stress that have almost become a reality these days. But my hope is that it’s the coffee times — whether it’s with coffee, tea, fruit juice, or any other beverage of choice — that allow us to catch up, reminisce, plan, reflect, problem solve, and find some pockets of joy in the days and weeks ahead. No matter what this upcoming school year might bring, I will not be giving up my coffee time. What about you?