Let me tell you about of the most peaceful moments of my adult life. My daily coffee breaks.
The minutes that go by as I watch tiny drops of coffee emerge from the filter, the delicate ripples the coffee makes, as I pour the water through and finally, the fine white swirls of milk that slowly disappear into the dark and turn my coffee into a beautiful sea of honey-coloured goodness.
As a child, growing up in southern Germany I found it incredibly boring that every Sunday, every holiday (and there are a lot in these parts of the world) and really any weekday when more than one family member was home, we got summoned to the table around 3 in the afternoon for coffee (tea for us children) and more often than not, cake. I did like the cake part of course, but I didn’t get the sitting still, pausing the day aspect.
Some 25 years later, I not only understand, but cherish that time of day.
When I first moved to North America in 2012, I was very excited about drive-thru coffee. It was a novelty and all the different flavoured, overly sweet drinks offered seemed thrilling. Just placing an order made my head spin. All the different options, surely, a big part of the American Dream. Everyone can have their individualised coffee and drink it, too. Soon though, I noticed something was missing for me. Time. Time to enjoy my coffee. Simplicity. Turns out, I think good coffee doesn’t need all the extra trimmings. But mostly – togetherness.
I longed for my family and friends back home, gathering around the table in the afternoon, for a chat, a pastry, a cup of slow.
As a mother of two little ones, as well as photographer and writer, I understand why some use coffee as a quick caffeine high. Fuel – for the body. I would like to encourage you though, to use your coffee as fuel – for your mind. Not to make it go faster, but to quiet it in the middle of the day and simply relax, rejuvenate and enjoy.
Take mindful coffee breaks
At home, I re-introduced the daily ‘Kaffeepause’ or ‘Kraenzchen’ (German for coffee break) into our lives. Sometimes, I invite friends over days in advance. More often though, I spontaneously call up a neighbour, or invite them over the garden fence to come in to join me. Some days, I enjoy it in solitude to recharge while the babies are sleeping. Mostly, I enjoy it with the children. My two-year-old wakes up from her nap saying “Baeckerei gehen” – or let’s go to the bakery. She values this time of the day already, as a warm ritual and a good time to come together as a family.
And yes (a disclaimer for the health conscious), while there are sweets involved, the kids only get a tiny piece, or sometimes, we completely stick to fruit.
In Europe, we don’t have a big “snack culture”, so a treat in the afternoon is not a big deal. This spring, strawberries and fresh heavy cream have been our favourite treat.
The last three years we spent back in Europe and we welcomed a lot of different visitors from across the Atlantic in our home. When they were back home they all said they missed the same thing. Not the old buildings, the gorgeous European architecture, or the terrific sights. Everyone agreed, that they missed the afternoon coffee they had quickly gotten used to.
Share a fika coffee moment
I think there’s a good reason, why the Swedish and Finnish term ‘fika’ that basically describes the same, has been on the rise in North America lately. People long for a better work-life balance and to integrate small isles of calm into their everyday. Whether you are at home, or in the workplace – it is good for the soul to stop and just be for a moment.
Get away from thinking “I’m wasting time”, but rather treat the coffee break as an investment. Investing into the relationship with your co-workers, neighbours, partner, kids. Investing into yourself. To actually sit down and enjoy your coffee and to let your mind wander away from work for a bit, takes time, but will let you return to the tasks at hand with more motivation and rejuvenating. Look at the Danes! They know how to incorporate a decent fika into their working day, yet come out as one of the most productive countries in annual studies.
You don’t have to learn how to meditate or join a yoga class to slow down in your tracks and practice mindfulness. Just start tomorrow, by taking some time out and to prepare some fresh coffee mindfully. I encourage you to try an old fashion porcelain filter or a French press. Feel the texture of the ground coffee. Smell the intense aroma, that will meet you as soon as you open the container.
Take it all in. Don’t think about your to do list. Think about your coffee. For five minutes, watch the movements of your hands, listen to the water boiling and dripping, feel the warm steam rising from your cup. Meditate on it. Then, take it to the table and if you have the opportunity, share with others. Taste it. If you bring in all your senses, I guarantee you, that you will stop seeing coffee as just a drink, or caffeine kick.
You will appreciate it, as a mindfulness practice, as a welcome break, as a cup of slow.
Eva-Maria Smith is a lifestyle photographer, writer, mother of two and military wife. She shares her stories on the blog www.houseofsmilla.com and is in the midst of moving back from Germany to Texas. You can find her on Instagram @houseofsmilla.