Lessons from Coffee…

(An espresso enjoyed along the shores of Lake Bled, Slovenia)

I have learned that ordering a large (venti) coffee “to go” from a drive-through window is a uniquely American concept. I did not realize this until I stepped outside of my own culture and entered another. Three things make this activity uniquely American and they are:

  1. 1. Driving to a coffee shop to buy your coffee.
  2. 2. Ordering coffee to take with you “on the go.”
  3. 3. Drinking more than 8oz of coffee at a time.

Since visiting Italy and Slovenia, I have come to understand that “going for coffee” is not just about the coffee. It includes three elements and they are…

  1. 1. Exercise – Europeans walk to the coffee shop! Truly, they walk everywhere they can and save the car (or train) for longer excursions.
  2. 2. Relationship – “Coffee” isn’t just about the coffee. It’s about the friendship and the conversation that takes place over coffee. It is a foreign concept to order coffee “to go.” It is expected that you will sit down and enjoy it in a real cup along with some good conversation. If you didn’t come to the coffee shop with a friend, then you would stand at the counter and drink your coffee from a ceramic cup at the counter and chat with the barista.
  3. 3. Experience – Coffee is meant to be savored, not slammed. The flavors should be enjoyed slowly, especially since the amount is so much smaller than what we are used to here in America. Europeans order either an espresso (1 inch of strong syrupy coffee in a tiny cup) or cappuccino (that same amount of espresso with steamed foamy milk incorporated into it). While an espresso or cappuccino can be slammed back rather quickly by a busy person, it is meant to be sipped and savored.

(We found a tiny coffee shop along a side alley in Venice and ordered espresso!)

(In Florence, they add flair to their cappuccinos with foamed milk designs.)

What have I learned about “coffee” from my visit to Italy and Slovenia?

  • * Walk, if it is possible. If my destination is less than 2 miles, then I should default to walking rather than driving. It is just plain good for me.
  • * Don’t be in such a hurry! Plan my time better and make wise choices. If I don’t waste my time with TV or internet, then I have more time for the people I love.
  • * Don’t be a glutton. Often less is better than more. Appreciate what you have. I need to appreciate and savor what is right here in front of me, rather than trying to get (buy or consume) as much as possible.

(The espresso served on the Vernazza harbor overlooking the Ligurian Sea was simple, yet divine!)

Here’s a funny story in conclusion…

My daughter and I needed to catch a 9:30am train in order to make our two other train connections and then a flight out of Italy to Crete. After hurriedly packing, we stopped in at our favorite breakfast place in Vernazza, Italy about 9am. We asked if it was possible to take our cappuccinos and pastries to go. One of the Sicilian twins who owned the establishment asked if we would rather sit down and enjoy our breakfast.

We replied that no, we needed to catch our train in half an hour. He cocked his head to one side and said, “Well then, why did you not come by earlier?”

I was stumped. I thought about it for a moment and all I could say was, “poor time management.”

He replied, “Ah, that is too bad! Yes, I will pack up your breakfast to take to the train.” Then with a wink, he added, “would you take my brother with you too? I am weary of him!”

Question: How can you slow down and savor the sweet moments of your life?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 at 4:58 am and is filed under Health, Homemaking, Homeschooling, Lifestyle. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • http://twitter.com/WriteShop Kim Kautzer

    Such great advice. I think the Lord is trying to tell me something! I’ve been contemplating more and more this whole “slowing down” thing. Even on the plane this past weekend, I read an article in Southwest’s magazine sharing one man’s experience turning November into “Slowvember.” He eliminated social media, incorporated more leisure time with his family, and savored more moments. Wisdom!

    And … did you take the brother? :)

    • / Terri Johnson

      Ha! No, I left the brother there! He was needed to continue making the incredible pastries that were coming out of that kitchen. :)

  • Teressa LaPrade

    Oh this is a great post. Needed to read this today, thank you!

  • Nanci Smith

    What a delightful post.
    Coming from an Italian-American family, sitting down for “coffee” was always a daily event and a time for talking. It was odd for me when I married my husband (a non-coffee drinker) because this was not part of his experience at all and he thought it was strange.
    Thankfully, he drinks coffee now (the “pressure” of living in the coffee capital of the greater Seattle area got to him :)

    I’ve always felt “out of the mainstream” because I don’t do social media…I find it too compelling (compulsive) because of the constant nature of it. I am glad I am staying away from it so I can stay focused on my family. I guess I have a more European mentality than American :)

    Thanks for something fun to think about today.

  • http://whispersofwonder.com/ Emily

    This was a great post. I love the reminders to slow down and savor! I hope you have more stories about your time in Slovenia.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alison.harris.7355 Alison Harris

    We loved Vernazza when we were there. Such a cute, tiny town. We stayed for several days and hiked the Cinque Terra. Thank you for reminding me of a quieter time.

    • / Terri Johnson

      Then you probably know who the Sicilian twins are that I refer to in my post. They own the Pirata breakfast bar up at the top of the town. We loved everything about Vernazza, even the 130 steps to get to our cozy room at the tippy-top of the town next to the castle. :)

  • stepcoach

    (a friend lead me here … thanks, friend!) What a wonderful post! You’re right, far too many people rush through a nice, sociable activity like coffee breaking. But not all of us. At my local coffee shop, we are many regulars who sit and sip and visit while watching too many vehicles zoom through past the pick up window. But there are several of us who recognize the value of leisure in a busy life. Thank you for a great reminder!

  • Ron and Bia Warkentin

    Loved this post! What has happened to us? We are always in such a hurry, running here and there. I think all of us need to take a month or two off and go experience another culture to put our lives into perspective again!
    Thank you so much for sharing!
    I shared this on facebook for my friends & family! ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/leslie.strout Leslie Strout

    Sounds like you’ve picked up some great lessons from being overseas! Americans are so good at being efficient that we’ve lost a lot of the personal touch in life. My daughter is currenty in Turkey doing her student teaching, and she was amazed that when you go to a shop it is common for the shop owner to invite you to have tea. Hospitality is as much part of business as selling is.

    • / Terri Johnson

      Yes, Leslie, that’s right! In Athens, we were invited into a shop to taste some wine from the shop owner’s vineyard. :)

  • Mrs.J

    All true for many countries and in certain contexts, but in Italy, for example, many people (especially men) stand alone at a high table in a cafe, down an espresso (or a double) in one gulp, and move on. Everybody is different!

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