From the deeper meaning behind ordering a double double to how we first got hooked on a java, Coffee Week features a fresh blend of everything you ever wanted to know about our nation’s favourite drink.
Of every book I read, before I curl up and crack the spine, I take a photograph – in part for posterity, to keep ongoing record of what I’ve read, and in part out of self-discipline, to hold me accountable to seeing each book through in a reasonable amount of time.
The pictures are simple: bird’s-eye shots of covers on my granite kitchen countertop, a mug of fresh coffee left of frame. The books change: spy thrillers, historical dramas, modernist epics, campus comedies, social satires, French roman a clefs. The cup of coffee remains the same. Why this pairing, eternally? In part it’s an aesthetic choice – that steaming mug makes the composition. But it’s also in part for the simple reason that books and coffee go together like ink and paper.
When it comes to location, I am an indiscriminate reader. I will as soon read on the morning commute, buried in a paperback on the Yonge-University line, as at the park on a weekend afternoon, sprawled lazily beneath a tree at Trinity-Bellwoods, heavy tome held aloft above my face toward the sky – and I maintain, furthermore, that few places are as suited to ploughing through an arduous book as the bar. But the bulk of my encounters with the written word have taken place over coffee. On the couch or at the breakfast table, in the greasy-spoon diner or chic café, the pages breeze by, the chapters melt away. The coffee is both inducement and accelerant: it prompts one to read, casts the necessary spell, whisks one along through the process. It has a fortifying effect. With a mug in hand, even the most daunting volume seems suddenly conquerable.
The caffeine helps. It isn’t merely revivifying; it refines attention and narrows concentration. Words seem somehow clearer through caffeinated eyes. In the morning, coffee provides the requisite jolt to lock the mind into the rhythm of prose. In the afternoon, as one’s energy flags and focus wanders, its chemicals surge into the cerebral cortex on a mission to brace and reinvigorate, rallying the brain to marshal its readerly efforts. And then, too, there are ritualistic merits. Coffee while reading becomes a kind of punctuation – each sip a pause in the action, each raising and lowering of the mug a private interlude in the literary space. That cup of coffee for the regular reader-drinker not only accompanies the book but shepherds it through the consciousness. It’s fundamental to the act, and inseparable from the delight of the experience.