Sweet tooth? We can get candy flavors from our black coffee. We just have to be willing to slow down.
I don’t eat caramel anymore, but I still love the taste. Yesterday, I waltzed into Trader Joe’s. It’s been a while, but I was grabbing a bottle of Monkey Shoulder for a friend (TJ’s carries my favorite basic scotch, among other things). I browsed the coffee selection and snatched some beans with this plastered on the label:
“Medium Dark Roast. Sweet, caramel flavor. Medium body.”
The label threw a few more sexy buzzwords like “Fair Trade” and “Organic” at me, but I was in this for the caramel.
I’m a French press kind of guy, and I break up my beans with a simple spice grinder every day. That was part of my experience this morning as the buzzing blades gave me my first round of scents. I was unexpectedly met by some citrus notes, more orange than lemon or lime.
There was sound, too. My water is always nearly boiling by the time I pour it over the coarse beans (I despise warm coffee). Subsequently, I got a little sizzle as the glass filled. As I waited for the flavors and aromas to come together, I connected with the steam filling the press and the color of the liquid changing from peanut butter to dark tan to brown.
When I finally tasted, I had to work for the caramel, but I got there. I realized that if I was writing, eating and drinking simultaneously (which I do often), there was no way I’d reach that…um…sensory climax. It’s such a mental exercise.
As we meander quickly through our worlds, we often blow past these sort of sensory experiences (I’m crazy guilty). They make life powerful and are worth putting effort into. From bufferapp.com:
A new environment can send a mass of information rushing to your brain – smells, sounds, people, colors, textures. Your brain has to interpret all of this. Exposing your brain to new environments regularly will give it plenty of work to do, letting you enjoy longer-seeming days.
Simply by creating a new environment around something we already do can increase the fulfillment in our days. You don’t have to create more time, just make use of what you already have. Here’s your scientific experiment.
First, pour yourself just a bit of coffee into a clear glass, just enough to coat the bottom. Really appreciate the color and the steam rising from the liquid. Move it around in your glass near some natural light and observe the colors changing.
Next, get your whole face in the glass so that you can feel the heat and inhale deeply and slowly. Seek out that caramel note (or whatever taste/smell combo you’re hunting for). I recommend trying to breathe in deeply (while still being mindful of aroma) rather than sniffing.
Finally, take the coffee into your mouth. Pause before you swallow. Let it spill over the sides of your tongue. Note the taste, how it coats your tongue. Pick out different tastes when the brew first touches your tongue and and how it changes.
If this activity feels foreign to you, even better.
Doing new stuff means you have to pay attention. Your brain is on high alert and your senses are heightened, because you’re taking in new sensations and feelings at a rapid rate.
Around here, we bounce between nutrition, training techniques, indulgences and work. The exercise of slowing down long enough to have a sensory experience is somewhere in the middle. Or perhaps it encompasses a bit of all of these areas. From any vantage point, we can all do a better job of appreciating our senses, and know that by doing so, we’re getting stronger.