Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thinking Deeply About Coffee

This week I had a wonderful conversation about coffee. It wasn't with another coffee drinker, my wife, or a barista, but with a curious 8th grade boy. I know, adolescents really shouldn't be drinking coffee, and I told him this right off the bat. He acknowledged the issue with a smile, told me he only drinks coffee on occasion, but continued on with his points anyway. He was excited to tell me about his analysis of two different well-known coffees - Peet's and Starbucks - and give me some insight about their "power." Unequivocally, he stated Peet's had more punch due to it's higher concentration of caffeine in each cup. I asked how he knew this to be, and he went into a hilarious description of how he felt after drinking a cup of Peet's vs. Starbucks. There was no real quantitative data, just typical adolescent-based emotional evidence derived directly from experience. As he recalled his experiment, he used lots of outrageous facial expressions and over the top descriptions of what happens when you drink the two coffees. It was amusing and enlightening to watch. I noted his opinions, thanked him for giving me the head's up, and then steered the conversation over to more middle school appropriate topics. 

This morning when I went to get an Americano at a trendy cafe in town, I got involved in another talk about coffee with two baristas about the origins of my drink. Apparently, the Caffe Americano can be traced back to WWII. The first Americano is known to have come from Europe after American GI's wanted to find a way to make their espresso appear and taste more like their home brewed drip coffee. To assist the Americans, the European baristas decided to dilute the shots with hot water, helping create a great coffee substitute. The young man who made my drink went on to talk in great detail about the variety of tastes and attributes within the Americano, which makes it a beloved drink for many coffee  aficionados even today. As he spoke, I noticed he communicated with that same curiosity, humor, and interest of the 8th grade boy I met earlier in the week.

There is some commonality in these two conversations. Yes, they were both about coffee, but the real similarity was how the 8th grader and the barista showed a deep desire to learn. They were curious - and I bet are curious about many things - and probably find all types of subjects and topics fascinating. This curiosity leads to exploration and discovery, two things that are required for real, deep learning to occur and are key characteristics in all future problem solvers. 

Don't worry parents. Coffee - though studies show is helpful for focus, pain reduction, and weight loss - is not required. 

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