I remember my first cup of coffee.
I was seventeen and a camp counselor in the mountains of North Carolina. The week before the campers arrived for their four-week stay at Camp Rockbrook, we gathered together in the mornings to plan for the summer activities that lay ahead.
Although it was June, the mountain air was chilly, and as I entered the dining hall each day I would pour myself a hot cup of coffee from the old-style percolator just to keep my hands warm. I didn’t intend to drink it—just to enjoy the hot steam that drifted to my nose and face.
One cold morning, however, I took a sip, and—to my surprise—it wasn’t bad. I quickly “warmed up” to the taste of coffee, and soon I was drinking a cup each morning with my co-counselor. Although she took hers with a heaping spoonful of sweetener, for some reason, I never added sugar or cream. To this day, I still drink my coffee black.
My husband James’s first taste of coffee was a bit more dramatic.
He had never tasted coffee until he experienced his first sip in Italy at forty-eight years old. The two of us were nearing the end of a five-day stay in Rome and were trying to accomplish some final sightseeing in the beautiful ancient city when we found ourselves in the middle of a torrential downpour. We ran to the nearest cafe and made a futile attempt to dry our soaked clothes.
And we discovered that we were at one of the oldest cafes in Rome: Sant’Eustachio Caffe, near the Piazza Navona.
We found a marble-covered table in the corner and sat down to wait out the rain. James ordered a cannoli and I ordered “Un caffe, por favor.”
As soon as the waiter returned with the tiny cup of dark coffee I realized that I had forgotten a basic Italian distinction. In Italy when you ask for “un caffe,” you are asking for an espresso. The bitter espresso was too much for me, and I wanted to ask the waiter for a little milk (“latte”). Before I could do so, James stopped me, and said he wanted to try it.
Surprised, I handed him the petite cup of espresso and sat back to watch.
For those old enough to remember the Life cereal commercial in which “Mikey likes it!” and shocks the other children at the table, you can imagine the scenario at the little table shared by my husband and I at this Italian cafe. James liked it!
And a new coffee-lover was born.
Little did I know that I would continue to be surprised by my husband’s newly-discovered taste for coffee. In fact, I was truly shocked when he became an even greater coffee-enthusiast than I was.
What started out as a sip of espresso in an old cafe in Rome is now a love of coffee evidenced by our three roasters and the pleasing aroma that wafts from the back room of our Catholic Coffee warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Before we started roasting our own coffee, we sourced it from a nearby roaster in Greensboro. As we learned more, we decided to try our own hands at roasting the beans, so we sent a team from The Catholic Company to roasting school in Boone, NC. (Not far from where I had my first cup of coffee.)
We then purchased our first San Franciscan Roaster. We discovered that one of our employees had been a barista for ten years before coming to work for us. So she became our chief roaster.
Then we bought a second roaster. And a third.
I love to see the huge sacks of green unroasted beans in our warehouse, and to watch as our 30-kilo roaster churns out the deep, smoky aroma of the darkened coffee beans.
But my excitement for great coffee goes beyond taste and aesthetics. Our trip to Rome so many years ago was inspired by love for the Catholic Church and its rich heritage. In establishing Catholic Coffee, we wanted to blend our love for the Church with our love for coffee.
So we name each roast for a special saint. In doing so, we hope to honor these holy men and women, share a little about them, and rejoice in the amazing heritage that is our Catholic faith.
And there is more!
We have teamed up with the Archdiocese for the Military Services through our longtime friend, Bishop Joe Coffey. (Yes, that’s his real name!) Through our special partnership with the AMS, Catholic Coffee will donate a portion of the profits from each sale to support Catholic military chaplains.
This cause has special meaning for our family. As I write this, we are awaiting a flight to El Paso, Texas, where we will meet our son’s plane as it returns from a 10-month deployment in the Middle East. He is one of three of our sons who are military officers. Sadly, during his deployment, Mass was only available a few times. This is not uncommon for those who are deployed throughout the world.
Military members and their families make countless sacrifices for our nation—yet they are spiritually under-served. The number of Catholic chaplains has declined by 75% over the last twenty years. Part of the reason is lack of funding for seminary training. Deployed soldiers and sailors can go months (and sometimes their entire deployment) without access to Mass or the sacraments.
With only 208 Catholic chaplains serving 1.8 million military personnel throughout the world—often in dangerous or hard-to-access areas—the military needs more priests.
We can all pray for vocations! And each time you brew a pot of Catholic Coffee, know that you are helping Catholic soldiers throughout the world receive the sacraments—and the spiritual graces of which they are in need.
In the meantime, you get to enjoy GREAT coffee while supporting a GREAT cause!