blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Empty Cup

On Sunday, Carl and I were going through some old papers of his. We found one from August 1978 entitled "The Empty Cup". Arabica, the first coffee company that he founded here in Cleveland, Ohio, would have only been two years old when he wrote this.

It seems that Carl thought there were four aspects to the Empty Cup.
Reading... the mind understands what happens in a cup of coffee from seed to cup.
Sensing... the body ingests the beverage itself
Feeling... the emotions have a non-sentimental awareness of the coffee
The Whole... awareness of all elements would allow one to be filled from an empty cup.

Earth, Air, Fire, Water... Human reason manipulates all four of these elements and uses them as part of a craft, a craft which is really a state of being.

The empty cup is a way for us to establish for ourselves a ritual or practice, in which we begin to realize our inability to control events, yet we actively particpate in the events of our own lives. This craft is a practice for seeing... no results... Every individual is a craftsman, an artist, a genius.

This particular craft begins in the morning, which is a good time to begin something. The craftsman must first recognize the activity as a craft, and must choose the implements of his or her craft accordingly. For example, a particular brewing method, like a French Press, or an espresso pot, and a particular cup. Take time to choose these items. Include oneself in as many steps as possible. The key is awareness of each step and activity and one's relationship to each step and each activity.

On another piece of paper we found:

"We, as human beings, need to make an attempt at perfection, no matter how small. It is absolutely so in this time. Accepting as a task, for instance, brewing a perfect cup of coffee, this establishes the conditions that perfection is a condition that I may know. This is very important to establish this understanding in our psyche, for it helps the eventual creation of the bridge between wish and action."

I found this particular section very meaningful. Actually, I found the whole thing very meaningful. I am working at our Lee Road store full-time right now, as a stand-in-manager. I am really enjoying my time there, it is refreshing to see my business again from the inside-out. There is a sort of mental weariness that had set in, staring down at the Phoenix empire, all the moving pieces: stores, employees, money, resources, transactions, customers, equipment, systems, policies, financial statements... ahhh...and reality just never matched my ideal. But from my perspective at Lee, there's just me, the coffee & the customer. I love it. My cup can be empty and I am fulfilled.