A tribute to Decaf by our badass roaster, Riley Fields, who recently won a Golden Bean Award with our Sugarcane Process Decaf Colombia.
It’s seven p.m. I’ve just gotten home after a long day spent roasting, packaging, and delivering several hundred pounds of, in my biased opinion, the best coffee this side of the Mackinac Bridge. Your girl is tired. This is the time of day that many people relax with stiff drink, maybe a glass of wine or a favored cocktail. I put the kettle on.
Being in the coffee industry for the last decade I’ve observed some pretty wild cultural aphorisms around America’s favorite hot bean juice. You can’t stroll through your local Target without passing pithy coffee themed apparel, drinkware, and decorative pillows. When the big box stores are merchandizing hash-tagable slogans one has to conclude coffee is an integral part of the cultural identity. For the most part that’s fine. I have no qualms with Becky’s shirt letting me know she’s “Strong Like My Coffee”. There’s only one line I find to be a particular bummer and that’s, “Death Before Decaf”.
I weigh out the beans before putting them through the grinder. Turning to check the progress of the water, I hear the kettle start to sing.
Decaf has been the traditional target of mainstream mockery. Just ask around and it becomes obvious the general consensus is that decaf should really only be sold to the geriatric. There’s some weird idea that caffeine is… tougher? That “real” coffee drinkers drink the “hard stuff”. I sometimes feel the collective gasp that follows my declaration of decaf loyalty stems from the “rise and grind” mentality permeating our culture. I see it all the time on social media. Go-getters going out there and getting it, all the while posting curated photos of the gallons of coffee they’re dumping down their gullets. I have to wonder, has coffee become a symbolic way to signal just how busy we are? Is our aversion to decaf rooted in the hustle-culture? Because if it is, I’d really encourage us all to take several seats. The busyness culture hands out no bonus prizes.
My timer rings and I drain my carefully brewed coffee into a favorite mug. Today I’ve had two shots of espresso, three cups of coffee, and eleven gulps of various brews while cupping everything I’ve roasted this week. I, for sure, don’t need the caffeine. I don’t need anything from this cup but what every good cup of coffee offers: warmth, comfort, the familiar communion around a centuries-old habit. This is why, at home, I drink more decaf than anything else. I love coffee. Like, my dudes, I LOVE coffee. But as in any good love affair, I love it for itself, not what it gives me. Decaf allows me to keep the cups coming without worrying about being too wired. I breathe deep the soft steam coming from my cup. I’m here for this ritual.
Because it’s the ritual of coffee that keeps us coming back, not the caffeine kick. The slow cadence of putting a kettle on, waiting for water to boil, smelling the familiar aroma as it brews. We feel the warmth radiating from our cup and pull it close. Truly, this is what I want from a cup of coffee.
This is what sets decaf drinkers apart. We lean into the experience, not the effects. What a bunch of badasses.