It is the sharing part. It is not so much about the flavor, taste, beans or how thick the foam looks in my cup; it is about all these short moments when I shared a cup of coffee with somebody. I just had one cup at Trondheim airport, before boarding on my plane to Spain and it tasted exactly that: moving to Spain for a year, with all the dreams, ideas and insights it encompasses. Its flavor was about that midnight glass of wine in some dim bar accompanied by olives and ham, it included lots of hours on the playgrounds with the kids, hours under the sun on the beach and many more hours that I will work on our newly founded startup. It had it all and was just perfect. It also tasted like this year that we spent in Trondheim, Norway; it had its snow, wind, rain, northern lights, and how I froze 2 fingers, making pictures of the lights show, and how I then could not start the car and go home because my hands hurt and made it impossible to get the keys out of my pocket and to drive. It had the peach colored lights of Scandinavia midnight sun, that I enjoyed as it let me work 3 or 4 hours more per day. You never know what it is to be living 22-hour days before you have experienced it. And then you know it is great and you do not want to leave this county just because of that: because of how the light falls and changes you. This cup of coffee also had this weird landing I had in Oslo in April when the wind and the snow made it look like the land was covered by millions of white cables; thin, cold, parallel lines, an optical illusion of Nordic winds, falling snow and high plane speed 50 feet above the ground.
Each cup of coffee I drank, I enjoyed it with somebody. It was sharing, not drinking. In Spain it were people on the tables next to me, talking about their lives and me overhearing their talk. It was the French man in the Amsterdam airport who invited me for a cup of coffee and I did not know how to reject it politely, thus I accepted and listened to his French talk and drank my coffee and nodded and smiled. It were the two old men with cigars and straw hats in Portugal, that joined me on the beach terrace in Cascais and were half sleeping, half talking with the shirts half open. They told me about their daughters, sons, families and the sun was very hot, the wind was strong and their words flowed like the waves over the sand when they wash away the footprints somebody left there. And it was great. In Portugal the coffee was also about the carousels where the kids ride, with its happiness and about the love words of an old shoe storeowner to my son, when he bought his first leather sandals. Yes, that day we had to buy him sandals and I showed him different pairs of Crocs and he rejected all of them. Then later in the day walking on a narrow stone paved street under the afternoon sun he run into a small shoe store and picked his sandals. Dark blue leather sandals that cost 26 euros and I bought them for him. And the storeowner, the big old lady dressed all in black, like many Portuguese older women are dressed, hugged and kissed him and told him something about ‘amore’ and many other words in Portuguese that were all about love. And we all were happy, and couple of minutes later drinking coffee outside the shoe store, we knew it was all true and sincere and that love belonged to us like the sharp shadows on the white walls, like the blue tiles, like the sun that left its touch on our skins. And that coffee was about all that.
Then there were coffees at Doge, now café Venetia, in Palo Alto, USA. We have been going to this place for years, morning, day, and night. The coffee was always good because of the people that were around you. Because people talked to you and you talked to people and got to know some of them. I knew where the 66-year-old man standing in line behind me was born, because he just told me so. He was born in Boston, and then moved to NY, and then to Bay Area. I also knew that extravagant Russian lady, who sometimes talked to an old man with a walking stick with a lion head handle. I met there many of the people who later became my good friends. We just saw each other so many times at the cafe that it would be weird not to exchange words and smiles. This is how I met the people I love. Talking to them over a cup of coffee. And coffee acquired the tint of love. Many of my business ideas came to me when talking to somebody over a cup of coffee. When I would argue about something and then realize that I am not right, and still keep arguing but take a different perspective at the same time. This is how coffee became part of my work. And this is why I love it. It tastes like talking to people, like sharing my life with the person next to me, like listening to them and hearing them and loving absolutely all about it.
We are going to Rome in two weeks and what I am really looking forward to are all these cups of coffee I am going to drink there. In small cafes, in large restaurants, on the sunny and hot plazas, wearing shorts, jeans, dresses, heels and sunglasses. It will be about my kids chasing the doves in front of the cathedrals or 14th century churches, it will be about all these men and women I will get to know for that couple of minutes while we will be sharing our cup of espresso or Americano. And I will tell them something I have not told the people I see every day, and they will share their views, their dreams, their worries with me. And it all will have the taste of the best coffee in the world. Coffee in Rome will be about music, dusty warm pavements, fountains and words in Italian and in English or may be just smiles between people who do not know each other but share the moment. Smiles with the eyes over the rim of the cup are the truest ones; you cannot fake them. You either smile with your eyes or you do not. And this is all I know about happiness. It is somehow related to coffee and the smile over the rim of the cup.
The father of a very good friend of mine from Mallorca told me years ago that the best coffee he ever had was in Mexico. It was in a house of a very poor woman who offered him a cup of coffee and he then realized that this was the last coffee she had left for that month, and still she offered it to him instead of making it last for couple of more days for herself. And it tasted like the best coffee ever for him. And this is what coffee is about: sharing. I would be honored to share my last coffee with any of you instead of making it last for myself. It is not a physical act of drinking that enchants me. It is a purely emotional one and it is also about life and love.
June 20th 2012 (flying from Trondheim to Barcelona)