The Magic Bean
rendered on a Starbuck's napkin
Today ends a three-week coffee fast (it tastes different than I remember). Coffee, the earthly pleasure I enjoy most, was my choice for 'Between the Straits' (בין המצרים)- a three-week period of fasts, lament and prayer. Traditional Jewish observances include bathing abstinence, avoiding 'freshly laundered' clothing, the absence of music, food, celebrations and dancing. I'm not Jewish but I felt compelled to participate. So, for three-weeks I chose to not drink coffee. Almost immediately my body let me know how important coffee had become. There was much prayer. As I now look into my cup, I ponder, "What a strange thing, this black elixir whose grip rivals illegal narcotics."
I have friends who roast coffee. The process is thus:
When the inside of the bean reaches 200C (392F) internal moisture is released as steam. The steam releases aroma and an audible crack is heard. This stage is sometimes called City Roast. The temperature causes oils to migrate, expanding and darkening the bean. If the roasting continues, a second crack is heard (Vienna Roast). This 'second' crack is more volatile, sending coffee shrapnel flying. As the roasting continues the aroma becomes pungent, the sugars burn and the bean begins to break down (French Roast). The bean undergoes change- chemically and physically. As moisture is released, the bean decreases in weight and increases in volume.
The spiritual path is somewhat like the 'roasting' process. We traverse this life as one passing through fire, often between the straits, and The Lord God controls the temperature. Some of us, it seems, are City Roast while others are French Roast. He knows our frame. He knows our expected end.
He also knows I enjoy coffee.