Theology of Coffee

This is a guest post by Jacqueline Shrader.


starbucks red cupWhen I was still a youngster in high school, my gaggle of gal pals and I loved to bring each other Starbucks in the morning. Nothing was better than the sugary winter drink of a white chocolate mocha, under the guise as a coffee. Nothing made me feel better than my cup of ‘joe’ in hand, flaunting the red holiday cups and demonstrating my maturity as a coffee drinker. A few years passed, and I moved to Seattle to go to college. There, I soon became acquainted with real coffee. My flirting with real coffee quickly escalated into a full on relationship. I tried to learn more about the history, the roasting styles, the economics, and growing patterns—even going so far as to spend a summer in Costa Rica volunteering on a farm that grew coffee. Now, in my post-grad life, I am a Jesuit Volunteer outside of Cusco, Peru. Here my budget really only allots for Nescafé or other brands that do not offer the top tier coffee in regards to business practices and ethics. But this drop in quality does not necessarily suspend my relationship with coffee in the morning.

I have heard used the phrase, either giving or receiving the comment, “Looks like someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” I’m usually too tired to fire back a snappy comment, but it would be something along the lines of, “My bed is fine! My coffee maker just isn’t working today!” Is it a bit of an addiction? Easily. But is coffee something more? Yes. Would I even say that it is a spiritual, sensory experience that creates a space for me to greet the morning, myself, others, and God? Yes.

drawing coffee mugIgnatian spirituality suggests invoking our senses and imagination to encounter God and ourselves. When I am holding a cup of coffee, the warmth radiates through my hands, forearms, and shoulders. The smell wafts through the air from the dark caramel color, almost black. The whole experience is sensual, and helps my sleepy self wake up to greet the day with gratitude and a tranquility that I feel from this warmth. It induces a peaceful demeanor, which invites me to meet God and my own thoughts. In these moments, I review the previous and forthcoming days, reflecting on both the harder and easier parts in order to create my hopes for the new day.

Coffee helps facilitate my conversation with God and myself in the morning, therefore making it quite literally a vessel in which I see, taste, feel, and talk to God. Dorothy Day was once quoted saying that “My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms.” She identified this as a way to ready herself for the day and her work through simple practices. With the work that Day committed her life towards, the act of finding daily practices that facilitated conversations between herself and God was vital. What are our daily rituals that help us encounter ourselves in the morning? Is it the comfort of a mug, a morning stroll, the dog scratching at the door? By finding God in the daily habits and becoming mindful towards what could be mundane, I have found some of my most precious moments throughout the day. Here’s to a cup of steaming coffee and rich conversations: may the silence be rich in conversation.

Jacqueline Shrader was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She was introduced to Ignatian spirituality through her Jesuit high school and university and became interested in the call to live into the magis and a faith that does justice. Jacqueline is now living those values out as a Jesuit Volunteer outside of Cusco, Peru learning how to play soccer and eat guinea pig.

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20 replies

  1. Excellent post. My morning coffee is now a spiritual encounter.

    ☀️Sandy Schading☀️ Sent from my iPad

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  2. I have always been jealous of several of my close friends who take 10 minutes each morning to savor their cup of coffee. I tend to rush around each morning with coffee in hand. Your post definitely encourages me to try to change my routine.

  3. This is also my morning routine… mug in hand…I can then start my prayer, reflection and my conversation with God for the day. I cannot count the conversations with friends sharing our “God moments” over a cup of coffee as well.

  4. You had had me at “The Theology of Coffee”!

    Being in Peru I wonder if you have gotten use to the idea of Cafe con leche, where you have 5oz of milk, 2.75 oz of sugar and a drop of coffee to color the milk? That’s what they call coffee in neighboring Ecuador!

  5. Reblogged this on Jeremy D. Johnson and commented:
    You mean there’s actually a theology of coffee? I practice this implicitly, but it’s good to get the words on the page.

  6. Wonderful to indulge in God first thing in the morning with my hot cup of tea. Praise God

  7. How blessed we are to be able to indulge like this with a leisurely cup of coffee (tea for me) in the morning as we dedicate our day to our Lord. As I read this I thought of the millions of people who don’t have that luxury – let’s keep them in our prayers. Thank you for this post and blessings to you, Jacqueline, as you serve God and God’s people in Peru.

  8. I absolutely love this reflection. Here in my house, coffee is practically a sacrament. My husband roasts it himself at home and his coffee is the best I’ve ever tasted. It is such a grounding (hmm — pun not intended!) and centering experience to savor it each morning. The fact that he puts so much effort into producing each pot makes it all the more enjoyable, and something we don’t take for granted. Thanks for writing this beautiful piece.

  9. Wonderful! I once read a commentary in the Philadelphia Inquirer entitled, “Coffee, ONe of the Great Perks of Life” – I always remembered that as I will your commentary – and true as some of the comments said – it is a blessing when we can greet the day with the word of God and the coffee – something we have to find a way to “offer up” in prayer for those who by whatever reason – cannot do this. Sobering. (no pun intended) 🙂

  10. allergic to caffeine also don’t drink coffee… however, useful reminder to view all God’s gifts to us as sacraments… #GodInAllThings

  11. Although I don’t subscribe to an organized religion, I do think of myself as a rather spiritual person. Connecting with menial, often overlooked things, I think, is what connects me to spirituality – like you, said coffee. I love coffee as well, and it also has that ritualistic element that is common in many spiritualities and religions.

    It’s like the classic walking barefoot through the woods and connecting yourself to nature through the soles of your feet.

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