It can usually be felt in October – sometimes early in the month, sometimes late – but it always comes. Change. I wait for it every fall and each year it catches my attention in a different way. At its best I will feel the change as I step out my front door on my way to work, it will greet me with a cold, dry kiss on the cheek. The trees will sound different on this morning, the leaves have been gone for a couple of weeks but now their echo seems a little more hollow as their bare branches knock against each other in the breeze.
At its worst it comes in like an angry lion, terrorizing anyone who steps outside, letting you know that it’s here to stay for a least 5 more months. The ice, deep snow, frigid winds and deadly roads always make me wonder why I live in a place where the air hurts my face. I have to remind myself that this is home, and when it’s covered in snow it can be like watching a lioness hunt down a wildebeest on Planet Earth; disturbing but beautiful. It’s a reminder that things change, time moves on – with or without my permission. Thank goodness for snowboarding.
Before we all get too depressed I should remind you that change is a good thing. While it brings darkness and ice it also brings the first day of spring. A beautiful, warm hug as if to say “I’m sorry about all that, can we still be friends?” Yes, spring, we will always be friends, I forgive you.
If anything, winter teaches us to appreciate summer even more. Here in northern Alberta we take summer seriously, within the first few weeks in May everyone is so caught up in fishing, camping, swimming, patios and bbq’s it feels as if our summer celebrations are enough to keep winter at bay forever. We celebrate summer. When we talk about summer here you’ll see our eyes light up, a smile will form and the inflection in our voice becomes a little brighter. It’s the same way we talk about puppies and baby deer. I’ve always wondered if people living in warmer climates crave summer the way we do. Somehow, I don’t think so.
I would argue that in direct contrast to summer, the brutal winters have made Canadians among the most die-hard coffee drinkers you’ll ever meet. Not because of the warm-mug-on-a-cold-day however, I believe it’s because we spend so much time out and about in summer that winter feels stagnant. Quiet. It’s on these quiet evenings that we migrate to the coffee maker, invite some friends and sit down over a cup of joe.
Winter has taught me the importance of coffee. Rarely on a sunny summer day would I wander into a coffee shop to spend the afternoon socializing, summer is for riding! But at -35c I will do just that. Coffee is engrained in us at a young age by watching our parents and their friends converse with a cup, and so we too grow up doing the same. We share stories and laughter, make plans for our futures and discuss past mistakes, we go on dates, form relationships and sometimes end relationships, which leads to more coffee as we pour out our heartaches and tears. This all happens over coffee. Coffee is important.
Since I’m drinking coffee now, a citrusy peruvian(admittedly a little under-extracted since I’m still playing with my new grinder), and since you are probably also sipping on something I’ll share with you a story:
I live about 600km away from my parents. They love their Keurig, they have loved it since it was introduced to the world many years ago. I won’t suggest you buy one, and I wont suggest that you drink those k-cups, they don’t taste good, and they can’t be good for you. How do they ‘brew’ a coffee in under a minute if it’s not witchcraft? But I love my parents all the same. They like to joke with me when I visit that I’m going to bring my own coffee and equipment so I can smugly enjoy my perfectly roasted cup while they drink their k-cups. Nope. For me, visiting with my parents and sisters has almost become synonymous with Keurig. Not because I like it, but because it represents family to me. My moms kitchen is the only place in the world where I can happily drink a k-cup because it’s the only time I ever drink them. It’s home. Roast date, flavour profile and grind size sort of float out of my mind as the intensity of Ticket to Ride (the board game) heats up or someone breaks out the Super Mario Bros.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably always say it. The proof is in the cup. In my mind that means it doesn’t always matter how it was brewed or where the beans came from (heresy, I know), what matters is that you enjoy whats in your cup. In my own kitchen I regularly brew some of the best tasting coffee I’ve ever had, but it’s usually in the morning before work and therefore I enjoy it alone.
A rich, full-bodied, aromatic, peruvian light roast on my way to work, or a ‘french roast’ k-cup sitting around the table with my family? I know what I’d choose, but since both answers include coffee I believe they are both right in their own way.
Just like summer turns to winter and winter back to summer life is also full of seasons. Growing up in Alberta has taught me to treasure the ‘summer’ moments because we know they won’t last, and when times get tough we can take comfort knowing that it will be less permanent than the melting permafrost up north (they need to change the name to long-time-frost if it’s not permanent). When life throws you into winter, use that opportunity to sit down with friends, or family, pour some coffee and ride through the blizzards together. If nothing else, an argument over Settlers of Catan is surprisingly good for the soul.
What about you? What are some ways that coffee is important to you, or has helped create something meaningful out of an otherwise insignificant winter afternoon? You can comment here or contact us using the contact page, we love to hear your stories and we’re pretty good at talking people through breakups, layoffs, or giving advice on what dog to get.
Words by Tim Friesen
Photos by Shane Wiebe