Friday, July 16, 2021

A Ritual of the Soul

 Now that I have my espresso machine out and working, it is time for a good cup of coffee, cappuccino in this case. I had forgotten that just preparing the drink is a ritual. Not a burden, but the process itself is part of the enjoyment. First is the fragrance of the coffee grinds either out of the jar or the grinder, depending on which I use on any given morning.

After filling the filter, tamping it down, and attaching it to the machine I am ready to go. Turning on the switch (yes, the one I could not find!) I select the 2 cup button. Keep in mind an espresso cup is only 2 ounces, 3 at most, as opposed to a standard cup of coffee at 6 to 8 ounces. Espresso is very strong and complex, as opposed to a regular cup of coffee.

Next comes the aroma of the coffee as it is pressed through the grounds. Here is where the sensory experience really takes hold. The very dark brew fills the cup with a thin line of caramel colored foam on top. 

If I am making cappuccino, at this point, I turn the machine from brewing to the steam setting and put the stainless steel cup of cold 2% milk under the steam wand (real cream does make a good froth). This is where the signature "screaming"or "hissing" as the milk is steamed. Once the foamy milk reaches the top of the stainless cup, I turn off the machine and gently spoon the foam onto the top of my espresso and then add just a bit of the hot milk.

Voila! A perfect cappuccino.  

Come to think about it, making espresso in the morning is akin to 5 of the 7 rites of the Church.

There is the Baptism, that first time one enjoys a perfect up of coffee.This usually is served by a professional barista or a host that knows what they are doing. 

Then there is the Confirmation - the first time one attempts to make that "perfect"cup.This initial attempt is usually followed by a succession of failed efforts for perfection until the ritual is learned. When perfected, that deep dark rich smooth cup of espresso is produced with the ideal creama (that, aromatic, reddish-brown froth that rests on top).

The Eucharist is the enjoyment of that perfect cup, savoring the fruits of your labors, that effects all five senses of one's soul.

Often this is followed by the Confession or Penance, asking oneself if the 2 ounce cup is really worth the emotional toll,  successive failed attempts, and moments of self doubt that the production required.

But then, all is worth it with the Anointing, the connection of God and the body with that first sip.

And, yes, I realize that using a Kurig would have been a simple quick process of inserting a pod and pressing a button. But, in my case, the preparation of espresso or cappuccino is almost a religious experience. Each step builds the expectation of the first sip of the final product. My senses are a piqued with the smell of the grounds and the incredible scent of the java as it is pours into the cup. The process is truly a sacrament,  a ritual of the soul.

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