I start every morning the same way:
Around 5:30am, the initial fanfare of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” sounds through my cell phone. I silence it and pull myself out of bed. Throwing on my bathrobe and setting the kitchen dimmer switch to its lowest setting, I fill up the electric kettle and wait for its contents to boil. I might wash a few dishes during this time; if Cowbell is already awake and begging, I’ll put breakfast in her bowl; or I might just go back to bed and wait to hear the click of the kettle finishing its job.
Once the hot water is ready, I place a filter into the beaker-like chemex coffeemaker (splashing in a little hot water so the filter sticks in place), and pour in my coffee grounds. Jessi and I aren’t all that picky with our coffee, so unless someone’s gifted us some Ugly Mug or Maple Street, the $6 IKEA medium roast is the staple of the Lewis household. With grounds in the filter up to the line, I drizzle in just enough water to soak the top of the grounds, releasing a thin layer of lightly colored foam called the crema; this is known as “letting the coffee bloom,” and it’s a crucial part of the process for reasons I could probably google.
Once this foam settles back down (about 30 seconds later), I slowly pour hot water across the grounds and watch the fresh coffee slowly trickle into the bottom of the chemex. As I meticulously pour in more water, I watch the grounds closely: once they’re smooth, they’re spent, and that means this batch is done. Jessi’s coffee goes in a tumbler with creamer up to the third line. Mine goes into a large mug with about 1/3 tsp of brown sugar and a splash of almond milk.
This entire process —from Europe’s first C# to the first cups of coffee— takes about ten to fifteen minutes, and once this is accomplished, it’s time to check emails, walk the dog, and do whatever else Jessi and I need to do to start the day. I try to let this first ten to fifteen minutes be screen-free, and while there are certainly faster and less involved ways to make coffee, this method ensures a calm and reflective start to my day.
I wasn’t always a morning person.
As little as three years ago, I was still waking up half an hour before work and rushing to get there on time. When I noticed my high-stress youth ministry job was enabling some bad eating habits (causing my weight to climb back up to pre-college levels), I decided to start running. By the end of most workdays, I was too tired for anything more strenuous than eating a burrito, so the only way to fit running into my schedule was to set an early alarm and force myself out of bed. The first month or so was rough, but I soon started to enjoy my daily run; it was one of the few times of day where no one was hassling me. Soon my two-mile run to the duckpond and back became a five-mile run to San Marco Square and back, and I even started adding a ten-mile run to Hemming Plaza and back on my days off. The run started my day with an hour of peace, and I discovered this one peaceful hour made the next 23 a little more enjoyable as well.
Unfortunately, the running didn’t last. A faulty pair of New Balance running shoes threw off my gait, which in turn damaged my knee, so by March of 2016, distance running was out of the question. A month later, I started a year of internships with overnight hours, completely throwing off my concept of what a “morning” even was. But during this time, I started drinking coffee, and once my schedule started to return to predictable hours, my new morning coffee routine became possible. With my teaching and brewery events, it’s still hard to predict whether I’ll finish a workday at 5pm or 11pm, but I always know my 5:30am coffee routine will be there, and this starts my day on a peaceful note.
How do you start your morning? What rituals do you have in place to help ensure a good day? If you don’t have a morning routine that helps you relax and focus on the day ahead, I can’t recommend one strongly enough.