The art of planning a coffee

This week is our last week of classes for my first semester of university but I am discovering that most of the classes in the last week are “wrap up” classes and today I just couldn’t convince myself to go to the one class I had today in the midst of what Germans are calling a “storm.”  In Oregon we would call this a Monday in winter…pretty darn rainy and dark.  I did however then agree to meet up with a neighbor and friend at the cafe just down the block for morning coffee. Lena and I met up to catch up and to drink coffee together in our favorite cafe, Hom.  When I walked in, the owner immediately started making my coffee order because she just knows how I take my coffee.  We all should have places like this in our lives.

After an hour and 45 minutes of sipping coffee, checking in, telling stories and scheming together we both looked up to the clock and exclaimed, “Oh gosh, we should get going!” We paid for our coffees, got to try the new sourdough foccacia the owner was trying out, gave our ratings, gave each other and the owner of the cafe hugs and promises to meet again soon and headed out the door.  Lena to her flat two blocks away and me to my flat just a block away.  Hom indeed.

On the way to my home from Hom I thought about how wonderful it is to have space to have a long coffee with a friend and not freak out about time and how that kind of time span for “having a coffee” with someone is much more expected here.  If we were in Portland it seems like the unspoken rule is going to coffee with someone will be an hour.  As if there is an alarm that goes off, usually both parties get pretty antsy as the magical end of the hour approaches.  I usually could guarantee that if someone wanted to have coffee with me an hour of scheduling would be plenty. It was not unheard of for me in the course of a morning as a pastor to have 4 coffee meetings in the course of a morning. If I was super lucky, I would just have people come to me in whatever coffee shop an hour at a time to avoid the driving time as well.  Well coffee ed and feeling productive with such meetings, there would be points made and things done but did I really get a feel about how the person was doing? Maybe.

Here, in Berlin, I take great care to not schedule anything that may cut into coffee time when I schedule with people. The default seems to be at least an hour and a half but most likely if someone is having coffee with you…you best rely on a two hour timeframe to block out in your calendar.  There is much more of the expectation that we take our time, check in with stories and really get to know how the other is doing. It would almost be rude to only be at the table for an hour unless you really have a pressing appointment or you met before class and its time for class or you are going in the same direction for the second hour. I often meet up at school with my friend Eva on Thursdays and we coffee at school for an hour or a little more and then catch public transit back to our neighborhood (she lives over here too) and that takes us 45 minutes to get here.  And while it seems as though I don’t get as much done in those moments, I am starting to really prefer the intentional time with another person and taking that time to really be present.  There isn’t constant checking of phones just in case you miss the hour mark, there isn’t a rush or even the same sort of guilt if I am running a few minutes late, and I walk away feeling as though we had some chit chat but also some deeper conversation.

And while the rain beat down outside, Lena and I talked about our lives on deeper level because we didn’t have to rush off to the next thing quite yet.

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