USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘coffee’
Adulthood
Customs
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

A Ritual Of Coffee Service Employees

The informant in question is a barista with one of the most popular and well established coffee companies in Los Angeles. The ritual in question is, in the informants experience, company wide. Every employee does it.

“Working at a coffee shop with constant, bustling lines and loud talk Is really tiring. Getting really good coffee to thousands of people in one day is a difficult task. Our service line is like a manufacturing line, and we have to also retain a certain level of quality. We start at six in the morning and some of us work far, far into the day. The work is good though.

Mid shift, when the shift is halfway over, we all take a shot of water from our espresso cups. It’s something we all do, right in the middle of the day. It’s like taking a real shot, you know? To celebrate, to get you through it. It’s like ‘the day is halfway over’ and it’s a nice tradition. It helps us keep working and get over the halfway bump”

How long have you been doing it?

“Oh, ever since I’ve been at the company. Always. It’s something we came up with as a team to motivate ourselves. At first we thought, maybe a shot of beer. But there’s lots of us that shouldn’t and can’t do that so we take a shot of water instead. It’s great”

Analysis: This is a cool little ritual that must be helpful for gathering some energy. These baristas are standing all day, constantly pulling shots and servicing people. At first, the informant couldn’t think of any pieces of folklore to share with me. But he got quite excited in sharing this little ritual of theirs.

Folk Beliefs
Magic
Signs

Coffee Fortune

Original Script: “Basically he Armenian culture has this thing where they can get the fortune read through coffee…it has to be…they have a specific coffee powder that they use…usually a group of woman gather at a table and the coffee is poured. It is usually the oldest woman who reads everyone’s fortune at the table, you know ‘the wise woman.’ Who my cousin mentioned was kind of scary…Anyways, after they drink the coffee the head lady reads the fortune…it is kind of like Harry Potter at that part where the lay was reading tea leaves…kind of like that. Basically my cousin fortune was true that she got from the coffee reader. The wise woman told her she was going to get married soon…and she did! It was really cool”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Kamilah and her mother have always been spiritual people. The belief in witches, demons, and angels is strong to Kamilah’s mother however, it is even more so in her home country—Nicaragua. While Kamilah did not particularly believe in witches as her roots from Nicaragua do, the case with Rosario Murillo, really made Kamilah a strong believer in them. However, while Kamilah is not technically Armenian, her closest friends, who are like her family, are. Thus, she is very familiar with the nationality and practices of the Armenian folk.

Context of the Performance: Getting a fortune read

Thoughts about the piece: When Kamilah had told me this story about the coffee reading, my mind automatically went to the pop culture Harry Potter series before she had made the comparison herself. I knew that there were cultures that believed in the drinking of an herb (in this case coffee) could tell one’s fortune, however, hearing the process from Kamilah was a very fascinating experience. As mentioned, the connection with the pop culture phenomenon of Harry Potter, was an interesting parallel to this Armenian practice, for both have an elderly woman communicating the fortune to the individual out of a herb like substance. Additionally, I thought it was very interesting how they have a “wise woman” at the head of the table. It reminded me of the previous story I had interviewed Kamilah about (one that was about witches in Nicaragua) and that being personified as a witch is attributed to people fearing a person. In this setting, to me, it seems a that this fortune telling can be attributed to witchcraft because of the group not only being compiled of woman—and only woman—but also for the fact that there is a head “wise” witch, a woman which all the woman look up to as a leader and also fear her—personifying the woman as a witch.

Moreover, it is also interesting how it has to be a specific kind of coffee for the fortune telling to take place. With the group of woman, and the specific type of coffee, the coming together of a fortune seems almost ritualistic. Especially, the going around of the table to tell one another’s fortune as well as the wise woman being the head of the table, and also the only one to tell the fortunes—seems like it is all part of a ritual. This also brings in an interesting question, and opposition to the common American belief, in respecting elders. While America separates themselves entirely from the elderly—having specific designated homes for the elderly and having one of most developed retirement programs in the world, most foreign countries have a great respect for their elders, specifically their wisdom which is shown in this display of fortune telling among the Armenian women.

Furthermore, I think it is interesting that even though Kamilah is not Armenian, she does believe in some of the customs of the Armenian people because of her closeness to her friends. This adds the notion of culture being learned and not being something one is born with. Thus, her cousin—whom she is also close to—going to one of these fortune telling rituals, even though not Armenian, and the fortune actually becoming true, initiating the belief in both Kamilah and her cousin tells us that culture can be learned. Hence, this ritual can also be seen as an inanition to a kin group.

Foodways

Turkish coffee

My informant, a friend from Turkey, fed our group of friends some Turkish coffee in special, tiny mugs. She told us that when we were finished drinking our coffee, to hand the cup to her so she could read our coffee lines. She read the coffee grind/water sludge that stuck to the bottom of our cups and judged for us the luck/goodness of our immediate futures, or lack thereof. According to her, the more white lines there are (the mug was white on the bottom), the more happiness is ahead of you.

The informant learned this from her surroundings, just by growing up in the culture of Turkey. She enjoys sharing it because it is something unique to her culture.

Adulthood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Coffee Cup Reading

My informant learned this custom of coffee cup reading from her mother, who she says learned it from her mother. Water is boiled in a small pot called a Jezveh. A little more than a teaspoon of coffee grounds per amount of cups made is added once the water comes to a boil. Each time the mixture boils thereafter, take it off the flame and let it settle. Do this three times. Swirl around in the jezveh, and pour into the tiny cups. As the coffee is drunk, the grounds in a cup will settle to the bottom. To get an accurate reading, she tips the grounds to one side, then the other as she flips it over into the saucer. She waits a few minutes until the grounds are dry, and reads them. Symbols represent your present state, and future events.

My informant, a grandmother, “reads cups.” She is from Detroit, from Jerusalem, of Armenian descent. She’ll read your cup after after-dinner coffee, or coffee for the hell of it. Big groups or small, she’ll read them all. But in smaller groups, about six or less people, she will spend more time with each one, carefully interpreting the coffee grounds sitting at the bottom of the cup.

Some Good Symbols: birds, journeys, twins, hearts, and oceans.

Some Bad Symbols: snakes, and a clump of coffee grounds on the bottom of the cup.

However, she has a trick to undo the bad symbol of the “mud” at the bottom. She’ll ask you to stick your finger in the “mud” to break it up, therefore undoing the bad symbol.

 

[geolocation]