For me, there’s not much that tops an hour or two sitting in a coffee house reading, chatting or writing. Oh, and people-watching. I’m not the only one, either, with research indicating that while coffee consumption per capita has not increased in the UK, the amount of time spent in coffee shops has.
Part of this stems from a growing phenomenon known as the ‘third wave’ of coffee. The ‘first wave’ was introduced at the turn of the 20th century with the arrival of instant coffee to UK households – and churches. Following this was the ‘second wave’ – AKA the fast growth of coffee shops on our high street, such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee.
The ‘third wave’ treats coffee more as an experience than a commodity. Like a fine wine, coffee making is seen as a craft, with different origins, processes and methods all contributing to an array of intricate tastes. While the coffee market remains dominated by the ‘big three’ – Costa, Starbucks and Caffé Nero – coffee’s ‘third wave’ has inspired a marked growth in the amount of independent, speciality coffee houses that seek to provide customers with coffee more varied and delicate in taste.
True to intent, these outlets are providing an experience.
In a recent visit to the excellent Colonna & Smalls in Bath, the barista explained to me the different methods a filter coffee could be produced, with some better than others. Bringing over my filter coffee, she then suggested I let the coffee cool for a few minutes before drinking to enhance the taste. The outlet also has a guide outlining the complex journey their coffee making involves, along with a list of helpful recommendations, including the reasons why they advise against drinking an Americano and why milk is not ideal with a filter coffee – both impair the taste of coffee.
The ‘third wave’ phenomena is well under way. Further testament to this are the many coffee enthusiasts seeking to add craft and variety to their homemade offerings, not to mention the beautiful offering of #latteart pictures that regularly descend on our Instagram feeds (guilty).
“Taste and see that the coffee is good…”
It’s a line that would grace the artisan chalkboard sitting outside many a coffee house. Justifiably so, too. And yet, this selection of words were once used by a psalmist who had tasted something far better.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good,” David penned way back in Psalm 34:8.
But sadly, so many people have yet to experience this goodness, with a whole plethora of things seemingly more tasteful. That is not to say that Jesus – or the idea of Jesus – does not hold some kind of affection for people. For example, many will point to Jesus being a kind man and a good teacher. This may well leave a nice and familiar taste – much like the first and second wave of coffee – but too often people think that is all there is to him.
Whatever taste people have of Jesus – if at all – the amazing reality is that there is a far intricate and wondrous taste to him than many have come to experience or expect; it’s our job to bring that taste through.
The appreciation outlets such as Colonna & Smalls have for coffee, and the ways they are enthusiastically, creatively and diligently seeking to bring out the very best taste in coffee, reveals just how good coffee can be. This inspires me in regards to my faith. It reminds me that while coffee can taste truly delightful, it’s nothing compared to the delight of knowing Jesus. And with that, I’m challenged to more enthusiastically, creatively and diligently seek out ways to more fully bring out the goodness of Jesus in my life and witness.
I recognise the coffee analogy goes so far and is not quite to everyone’s taste (pardon the pun). There are many among us that don’t like coffee or can’t drink it, while others happily enjoy and savour their caffeine fix without the detail and craft of coffee’s ‘third wave’. That said, the artisan approach to coffee is a helpful reminder to us all that there are some things in life that are far more flavoursome than many have come to experience or expect, and all that is needed sometimes is a little more care and craft to bring it through.
As we venture into this new year, let’s learn from the coffee aficionados doing their best to bring about the many wonderful tastes of coffee, and work with even greater enthusiasm, creativity and diligence to bring out every ounce of goodness found in Christ Jesus, image of the invisible God; the sweetest taste of all.