Senryu : coffee’s rising steam

Coffee’s rising steam
hot comfort on snowy morns
hands thankful for heat

senryu & photo by M. LaFreniere


Ironic that the best coffees come from hot places but I appreciate coffee the most on cold mornings.  Hawaii, Indonesia, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Galapagos Islands and a lot more.  Many of the places are places I’d like to visit one day too.

Which came first? Chicken or the egg?  The desire to go to places like India, Brazil and others? Or the drinking of coffee?

I’ve always wanted to and enjoyed traveling as far back as I can remember. Probably because my dad was in the Air Force so we moved a lot when I was a kid.

Coffee was, for me, a rite of passage into adulthood.  As a teen, I was allowed to drink tea but not coffee.  So as an adult, that’s what I did but I doused it with milk as most coffees I drank were bitter from the drip method.  Or they were instant like the powdered flavored coffees.  I was more addicted to the wake-me-up qualities of coffee initially, but didn’t really care for the taste.

In Japan in my thirties I visited a countryside cafe in Yufuin.  I remember the cafe was a rustic building of lovely worn wood.  Akari and I sat up in the loft which was right above the central island where they made the coffee and they sent the coffee straight up to our table in a dumbwaiter.  It was the perfect place to sit because the coffee aromas wafted up straight to you.  The chanting of Benedictine monks surrounded us, their voices resonating throughout the small building.  The countryside outside the window was a verdant mountainside. Closeby the place had a lovely rock garden: the very human rhythmic lines raked through the light grey stones a counterpoint against the chaotic greens of the mountain’s forest. The warmth of the cup in my hand, the smooth feel of the unpolished wood table. Black coffee but not bitter with no need for cream to mask the flavor because it was good, the natural chocolate and cherry flavors of the coffee playing deliciously across my tongue.

I tend to live in my head a lot but this place knocked me into the present moment because all my senses was engaged : taste, touch, sight, smell and hearing.  It was amazing.

Before then, I took coffee for granted, sometimes barely tasting it, drinking it while I did something else, just wanting the caffeine jolt.  Suddenly I was paying total attention.

In that moment, I fell in love with coffee.

Akari, my Japanese friend and a coworker at the English conversation school we both taught at, translated for me. She asked the barista what they were playing that afternoon. Wordlessly, he showed us the CD case.

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