What's in your coffee?

On Coffee, Culture, and Necessary Curiosity

Last week I went through the Starbucks drive-through for breakfast and there was a long line, but I’d been about one other time in six months so I thought perhaps this was new traffic thanks to the ever-present pandemic altering reality. When I got to the speaker, a very cheerful-sounding barista greeted me and promptly informed me that their espresso machines were down while rattling off categories of drinks that meant I couldn’t get. 

“No worries,” I said, “I just wanted a black coffee and a breakfast sandwich anyway.” 

When I got to the window, I complimented her on remaining so cheerful despite having to tell a long line of people they couldn’t have what they want today. She said people hadn’t been mean for the most part, but also that “People don’t know what’s in their drinks so they ask for something else, and I have to be all, no, that has espresso in it too.”

She handed me my coffee and sandwich and I drove away thinking about Starbucks regulars that don’t know what was in their regular drink order. What does this lack of curiosity tell us about ourselves? We are so willing to consume what’s handed out the window to us: knowing we like the taste but knowing nothing else about it. 

Reader, this frightens me. What else are we consuming because the flavor seems right? In my own life, I discovered I was regularly imbibing white supremacy, classism, and homophobia but thought it tasted okay because it was wrapped in the flavorings of American Christianity and it’s what I had been raised with. I was taught this was “biblical” and “counter-cultural.” It didn’t start tasting off to me until I went to seminary and there in an Old Testament class I sat staring at the two creation accounts in Genesis like I’d been smacked over the head. Two creation accounts from two authors. And then I started asking, if this was true, and if accepting this wasn’t a faith-ending reality, what other things had I been taught that were only not unnecessary, but often diametrically opposed to the gospel story being told through the pages of Scripture? 

It turns out, quite a bit. 

I started in that moment to take nothing for granted and began a process that continues to this day, a process of questioning, examining, sifting, dismantling and rebuilding. 

And it’s not just with faith that we need to have a healthy curiosity, it’s really any belief system we say we subscribe to. That could be a political party, the general mythos of the United States story, the bias in our media sources, the “casual” supremacies in our entertainment, and so on. 

What’s in your coffee? Do we really know the ingredients of what we believe and imbibe on a daily basis and why? Because not knowing our coffee order will only result in extra sugar consumption most likely, but not knowing all the pieces of a worldview we’ve adopted almost definitely leads to collusion with oppression. And I don’t think any of us want to be a part of that.

It’s time to get curious and stay curious, and commit to constant examination of, well, everything.


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