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The holy sacrament of coffee communion

  • 15 August 2016


Within the first 20 minutes of my morning, without fail, I perform a sacred ritual. Be it French pressed or filtered, percolated or plunged, machined or dunked, I pay homage to life by partaking in that glorious gift to humanity, coffee.

While I've waved poetical at Eureka Street in the past, in a piece appropriately named 'Sun rituals', I want to publicly thank Kaldi, an 11th century Ethiopian goatherd, who is said to have observed the lively conduct of his charges after munching on coffea arabica.

Although some of my European ancestors were subsequently slow adapters to my drug of choice (coffee was dubbed the 'bitter invention of Satan' and condemned by some clerics), coffee gradually gained a breakfast foothold alongside the morning cup of tea, usurping beer and wine as the wake-up tipples de jour.

I am by no means alone in my usage. For many Australians, a morning coffee at work or with friends is a daily habit. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011–12, revised in 2014) found that 46 per cent of us consumed coffee, and 38 per cent sipped tea every day. (A lifelong addict and equal opportunity imbiber, for me, tea — my gateway drug to strong blacks — is the methadone to coffee's heroin.)

And significantly, of the 16.3 million cups of coffees we drink on any given day, about a third were 'real' (from ground coffee beans) and two-thirds were instant, from powdered pretenders.

I note that because the sharing of coffee is a largely unrecognised communal sacrament of sorts; that ABS statistic suggests the patronage of cafes across the nation.

I should declare, in penning this paean, that I receive no murky kickbacks from Lavazza, Vittoria or Grinders, nor am I on a gravy (latte) train with any baristas or café proprietors. I am, however, partially indebted to that cup of kindness for my social health.

Moderation, as is said, is at play in everything, and three daily cappuccinos is my limit, as I would be bankrupt if I walked out the door to purchase every caffeinated beverage I pursued. But without that social communion with friends and baristas I would be the poorer spiritually.


"I'm not suggesting that all would have been rosy for those lab rats if given a double espresso and a chat. But I reckon it would have ceased the torture."


But as well as the contested space around coffee's possible physical health benefits (impacting diabetes, Parkinson's