The Happy Hypocrite or Earning Your Keep in Coffee

The Happy Hypocrite or Earning Your Keep in Coffee

First, a couple things to know about the man I married:

1) He loves his coffee. He grew up in a coffee family, one that drinks strong, black coffee in the morning and decaf after dinner. I learned early in our marriage that mornings are not his ideal time of engagement, but a quiet time for his coffee ritual.

2) He is a bit of a vintage romantic. By this, I mean he will do things like buy a straight edge razor not just because the inserts are abundantly cheaper than disposable razors, but because he is kind of in love with the old-school idea of using a straight edge. He prefers vinyl. He shops at thrift stores. He says things like, “I just wish the world would slow down a little bit,” and then try to find ways to support our lives slowing down. Sometimes that means investing in new technology. Sometimes that means investing in older, purer, higher quality things.

3) He loves to research. Before making a purchase, he will do extensive research on options. He’ll read reviews and think about quality, integrity, cost and necessity before pulling the trigger.

I love these things about him and benefit from them on a regular basis. Ok, now we can proceed.

We buy Fair Trade Plus whole bean coffee from Lutheran World Relief in ten-pound bulk bags. Because he drinks so much coffee, what coffee we buy was an important, well thought-out decision for him. He has met some of the coffee farmers that LWR supports in Nicaragua. It’s great, affordable coffee that supports great farmers. Every morning he grinds new beans fresh and drinks his coffee black. A few weeks ago, the coffee grinder he has had for years and years stopped working. First, he tried to fix it. Then, he did extensive research on coffee grinders and decided to buy a hand crank grinder. It was much cheaper than an electric grinder, and got at that vintage romantic side of him. It was simple, quiet, and it made a mean cup of Joe. I think he loved the idea of earning his keep, putting his own elbow grease into his coffee grinding each morning.

While he was out of town, I did the hand crank grinding myself, and I was amazed at how hard it was. I had to sit down to get more leverage. It took so much longer than I imagined it would to grind enough for me to drink one cup. I’d check on my progress several times in utter astonishment of how few beans I had ground. “Is it worth it?” I’d ask myself. Every day, while grinding and chuckling at how hard it was, I would get all romantic myself, pondering the dignity of work and how I was earning my coffee and how people used to churn their own butter and get from one end of the country to the other on wagon not plane. I’d think about other times in my day when I don’t use my own sweat equity and how little I’d accomplish if I did. Then I’d laugh at myself and keep cranking. “No but seriously, why is this so hard?” I’d think. It turns out that I don’t love sweating first thing in the morning. I started dreading the morning cranking session. Before he came home from his work trip, I had stopped drinking my one cup of morning coffee because it just wasn’t worth it to me. After all, I’d married into this whole coffee thing. It wasn’t a true love of mine.

A few days ago my spouse approached me sheepishly and said, “I have to admit something to you that you.”


“I went online today and bought an electric coffee grinder.”

I started laughing. “That’s just fine. I totally understand.” And I did.

This whole coffee grinder episode, however, raised a bunch of first world questions for us both. Which battles do we choose to fight and which do we concede in our quest to earn our own keep on this earth? Where is the line between being a crabby martyr and being a joyful person striving for simplicity and sustainability? Does one small decision to go electric over old-school make the next time easier to do the same? How do we live with our own hypocrisy without being paralyzed by it?

When, oh when, do we lean on the ease of the modern world and when do we do our own cranking?