Words by Liz Clayton. Top Photograph by Gentl & Hyers. Bottom Photograph by Emory Ann Kurysh. Food Styling by Camille Becerra.
Everything in your life can be coffee if you really want it to be. It just makes sense. Coffee, and its ability to somehow soothe and vivify at the same time, provides a through-line in so many of our lives. From unconsciousness into morning, it sparks creativity at work and later revitalizes us for the playtime that comes after. So why limit its gifts to those of imbibement? Coffee, whether it’s in your body, on your body or simply near it, can surround you with its comfort in so very many ways.
Beyond merely drinking this magical elixir, there are myriad ways to consume it. In fact, coffee was originally eaten rather than brewed. According to ancient legend, there was a goatherd named Kaldi whose dancing, leaping charges revealed that the source of their jubilation was grazing on the fruits of the wild coffee bushes of Ethiopia. In modern times, we’ve figured out a more bingeable, chocolate-enrobed version of this stimulant, and infusing food with coffee has only become more elegant as chefs learn more about the subtlety and variation of roasts and origins. It’s a natural fit in beer: The sweet deep tones of a sultry roasted coffee can be perfectly suited to the palates of porters or chocolatey stouts. Ground espresso has found its way into spice mixes for delectable meat rubs, combining beautifully with ingredients such as cocoa, Tellicherry pepper and sumac. Coffee and cheese also make surprisingly friendly bedfellows (you’ll find it in aromatic rinds and other mysterious places), and let’s not forget the supreme expression of coffee in any proximity to ice cream.
Coffee can be all around you in the home too. You can put it on your furniture—on purpose, even—as a gentle-tinted wood stain, or apply it with a small brush or swab as a scratch cover. Spent coffee grounds can clean and scrub your pots and pans, and what’s more, they can do the same for your skin: Moistened coffee grounds either used on their own as a skin exfoliant or incorporated into lotions as part of a stimulating coffee massage therapy treatment are credited with stimulating circulation and transmitting their anti-oxidant benefits to the skin. It also has heaps of beneficial uses in the garden from general-purpose composting to intentionally rebalancing your soil’s acidity. Want to change the color of your hydrangeas? Coffee grounds are here to help you go from white to blue.
And if coffee has awakened your artistic side after all that cooking, gardening and spa therapy, anything leftover in the pot makes a lovely watercolor-like paint. It’s a classic aid in creating an antique effect on paper—just remember, would-be historic-document forgers, that your papers will smell revealingly, deliciously like what you’ve been brewing all along.