New Internationalist

My sacred ritual

The smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts in the air. This is after a few minutes of brewing.

As soon as the heavenly sound of coffee dripping from the black machine starts, the strong aroma of the brewed drink slices into the crisp morning air.

On some days, this comes after a loud heavy sound of the grinder as it magically transforms chocolate-brown roasted beans into ground coffee.

When I have enough though, I proceed with the brewing. I’m so used to it, I can do it still in my pajamas with my brain only half-awake and eyes still closed.

When the coffee’s done, the next step is to froth the milk. It’s not a perfect cappuccino without frothed milk so that’s what I do next. There’s a technique in making a good froth, with the texture similar to a wet shaving cream or sweet meringue.

And then voilà! I now have a warm cup of cappuccino, the perfect way to start any morning.

But the morning ritual is only complete when I go up a very steep wooden staircase that leads to a small balcony.

I have to hold on tight to the steel railings of the staircase. I then enter a dark, windowless room to get to the door that leads to the balcony. I carry all of my weight so that the rickety wooden floor does not make a sound. The slightest squeak will wake the world downstairs of this age-old apartment. They are usually still in slumber when I start my coffee ritual.

Somewhere in the corner of the dark room, there is a tiny door that leads to the balcony. I have to bend to go through the door just like in the movie ‘Being John Malkovich’ or in the story ‘Alice in Wonderland.’

Every day I take five minutes off in this paradise with nothing but my freshly brewed cappuccino. The smell of the damp morning freshness greets me as soon as I open the door. I sit on the concrete slab and rest my back on a dilapidated wall. I get a perfect view of the clear blue sky.

This is what I do religiously every morning, in a little corner of the shack I live in. Sometimes, it comes even before the rising sun lights the sky. It doesn’t matter if I’ll be catching an early morning flight for an out-of-town or out-of-the-country coverage or if I’m just slackening on a lazy Sunday. Or when I’m simply doing the daily grind of chasing stories.

It is the first order of the day. Needless to say, it is sacrilege to skip this ritual, a violation of a sacred tradition. Everything else will have to wait.

I write this piece as a tribute to the local Filipino coffeemakers around the Philippines. October is Philippine coffee month. There are different kinds of local coffee available in the country – from far south to the northern part of the country. They’re exported around the globe, too. Needless to say, patronizing Philippine coffee assures local farmers that they will have sustainable income throughout the year. Here’s to a warm cup of coffee to all coffee drinkers around the globe. May you be able to have a taste of Philippine coffee, too.

Photo credit: Matt Biddulph via flickr on Creative Commons licence.

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  1. #1 dancing mama 05 Nov 10

    I am not myself without caffeine in my veinsin the morning. There is something about the aroma of coffee brewing in the morning that wafts me back to my childhood in Sampaloc, Manila. It was usually my grandfather in charge of the kitchen, brewiing the coffee, frying the eggs and preparing the sinangag. I can relate.

    Nice ritual, Iris. I envy you.

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About the author

Iris Gonzales a New Internationalist contributor

Iris Cecilia Gonzales is a Filipino journalist and blogger. At present, she covers economic news for a Manila broadsheet, but she also writes other stories here and there. She has been blogging since 2004 on various issues including women and children and human rights. She is among the winners in the TH!NK 3 global blogging competition organized by the Netherlands-based European Journalism Centre.

You may email her at [email protected]

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