Mindfulness and Coffee: Is it possible? I was surprised as well.

Mindfulness and Coffee: Is it possible?

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Golden Bean coffee roasting awards in Newcastle which saw the best of the Australian coffee roasters going head to head to win the coveted Golden Bean awards. Why did I go to a coffee show? Because I really enjoy coffee and we are part of the cafe culture, but coffee doesn't love me back unfortunately so I need to moderate.

It was a great few days with some very passionate people, but it's what I learned that counted for me.

coffee and mindfulness flavour wheel

I'm not sure if any of you have seen coffee roasting judging before but all I can say is that it's intense! At Newcastle this year, over 1200 coffees were tested over three days across all sorts of categories; espresso, milk, single origin, filter, decaf... the list goes on.

And what do you see if you go to these awards? Concentration. Who would have thought there is gooseberry undertones in an espresso? That the palate is roasty, toasty, smooth, bitter, buttery, fruity, spicy, spicy-like (?), chalky, carbon... see what I mean. There is a lot going on in that cup!

So what do coffee roasting awards have to do with Mindfulness? Well, it might be handy to have a look at the definition for mindfulness:

Mindfulness - “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something

And as some of you may know, I've been a proponent of mindful living for quite some time. Getting your mind working right is paramount for everyone.

As the saying goes; the mind drives the body; fix the mind, fix the body. What else is driving your hand as it puts the donut into your mouth?

If you can detect the gooseberry undertones in a espresso, I can tell you, you need to be very conscious of what is happening in your mouth. Yes, it is a learned skill but I would ask you this, how often do we truly sit and saviour the flavours of your daily cuppa? How much do we enjoy the subtle scents of a fresh jasmine tea? Do we really notice the true flavour of what we are eating?

Try this little exercise. Next time you have your morning cuppa, try to notice what you are thinking about. Is it the cuppa, is it what you are doing when you get to work, is it what the person across the table is saying, are you just trying to wake up?

Most people are fairly unconscious to whats actually happening "at that moment" and are somewhere in the future or past. US research has our subconscious thoughts as 90% of what we think. Most people have "auto-pilot" type thoughts and they are drinking their coffee quite unaware of what is actually in the cup. Most of the time it's a habit that just happens.

What I saw at the show was people really paying attention to what was happening "right now". They were paying attention to the time and effort that had been put into the roast, the flavour, the body, the acidity versus the sweetness. They were paying attention to the skill of the Barista, the creaminess of the milk, the latte art on top. And they were really enjoying themselves! Passionate people usually do.

So what did I gain from my time at the Golden Bean Awards:

  • If you slow down and become conscious about what you do, you get the subtleties. You get the most out of what you have right now. And there is a lot going on we are not aware of.
  • You have more fun when you have passion in your life and passion lives in the moment
  • When judging coffee, spit out EVERY coffee you taste! Every person at the show did, the experts did, they explicitly tell you to do this. Why...because caffeine is strong stuff!

And lastly, when you have had a fair bit of coffee, it doesn't matter how hard you try, it's very hard to concentrate. I pushed my 80/20 rule to the limit with the coffee I sipped and was still looking at the clock at 2am trying to control my mind that night.

Moderation is everything of course. But for me, I was glad to change back to a matcha chai. Different undertones but just as enjoyable, and easier on the mind.






Alistair Schuback
Alistair Schuback