Community Through Coffee

It’s no surprise that throughout time, people have created community through coffee. In my youth, and I’m now dangerously nearing my 40’s, I enjoyed Sundays on the farm with my grandparents. Whenever people came “visiting,” my grandparents would put on coffee.

Now, the best my memory serves, my grandma would use about two teaspoons of coffee grounds to make an entire ten cup pot of coffee. Even then, I didn’t think I was supposed to be able to see the rose painted at the bottom of her china mug.

But, I guess that wasn’t the point. Even in their lack of resources, they were hospitable. It was at the dining room table, over coffee, which people came together. Over coffee, secrets were shared. And, over coffee, decisions are hatched.

So growing up, I saw how we, as a society, develop community through coffee. Since I neither drank coffee as a child nor was I a morning person, I didn’t understand why we had to go to church early every week for coffee time. Especially since my parents first made coffee at home. Not to mention, there was water for the children. Shockingly, the adults in charge didn’t seem to feel the need to load us up with sugar before Sunday School. Then again, I seem to recall sneaking sugar cubes.

As I got a bit older, I noticed that “coffee” was becoming more of an activity. When I lived in Seattle during part of my extended college career, I DID coffee. Coffee wasn’t, and increasingly isn’t, something just to drink – it’s something to DO.

Granted, everything in Seattle revolves around coffee (and Engineers).

During the summer I spent in Portland, I continued further down the path of creating community through coffee. I could easily connect with a friend over coffee before work. After all, my only friends were baristas so that just came naturally. Multiple times per week, one of my co-workers would bring in coffee to the office, so we’d congregate around the little brown box. In the evening, there was a trendy little coffee shop (formerly an auto repair garage) where we’d gather to talk about the cares of our day.

After another three shots of espresso in some frothy, highly caloric form (because that’s what I drank back in the day), I’d head home and go to sleep. Until a couple hours later, when someone would be found standing over me, whispering: “Do you want to go swimming?”

But, that’s just another thing I’ll never understand – purposely waking someone up, quietly. I was twenty years old – I didn’t need sleep. I taught swimming lessons, and as a lame attempt to plan ahead, and get up as late as possible (ironically) I slept in my Speedo.

Now that I’m out of college and in the working world (though I refuse to be stuffy about it), I see more and more that coffee is still a means of building community.

Meetings are held over coffee – a lot!

Interviews are being conducted at coffee houses.

Internet daters grab a coffee as a meet and greet.

Instead of working from home offices, people transform coffee shop tables into makeshift administrative centers.

Etc. You know what I’m talking about because there’s a good chance you do this, too. Perhaps you’re reading this over coffee. If not, maybe you should be.

How does coffee develop community?

You can already see that together we (either intentionally or inadvertently) build community relations through coffee. The question remains: How do we, then, use coffee as a means of collaboration?

Leave it to the young, recent college kids to give it an out-of-the-box approach! Within the next few weeks, Patrick Mixis, David Kobreek, Alex Heckaman, and Caleb Callahan will be opening Feed The World Café in Kalamazoo MI.

Apparently, these four guys are currently finishing up specs on a revamping of a coffee shop they bought and operated during 2014. Now, expanding this into a restaurant, they’ll be running a restaurant/coffee shop in a social entrepreneurship model similar to Toms Shoes.

The business model for Feed The World Café? With each meal sold, they’ll provide a meal for someone in need. Whether it’s through Loaves & Fishes, the South Central Michigan Food Bank or to Ministry with Community, these young men will be pouring themselves, literally, into improving the community through coffee. And, it sounds like they can’t wait to get up and running again with their new business model so they can impact those around them.

So, that’s one way to provide a service and need to multiple people at once. Kudos to these guys!

What about the Peace Kawomera Cooperative in Uganda? Introduced to North America by the Thanksgiving Coffee Company, there is peace being formed through this coffee co-op. Jews, Christians, and Muslims work together for the greater good, bringing their crops and services together in one place.

For Thanksgiving Coffee, the tagline summarizes their company well: Not Just A Cup, But A Just Cup.

Pretty sweet for a small family-run company in Northern California. As a buyer from other farms/collectives as well, Thanksgiving sells their coffees online as well as in a variety of stores throughout the US (check their website for details).

What can we do?

So what about me, and what about you? We drink our coffee, and we desire community. What can we do to create a tightly-knit community? What are we doing to make a difference?

With the world getting smaller daily, and connections made easier, we need to start thinking outside the cup to bring people back together: in person, in ways that matter. We need to enter into some serious dialog about how, together, we can establish more community through coffee. Just like Feed The World Café and Peace Kawomera Cooperative, we can work to make a difference, and it’s always better with coffee.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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