My Coffee

Kage Baker was a fervent proponent of coffee.

She liked tea in the proper circumstances, and loved the various rituals of the English tea ceremony, Her willingness to drink tea, however, was usually based heavily on what biscuits we had on hand. For years we had afternoon tea on Saturdays, when we could still find a plentiful supply of Alphabet  Biscuits; they were rich, square biscuits, heavily frosted with a pink and white frosting like the best enamel – but edible. They were further painted with the letters of the alphabet, and a few martial motifs like drums and wooden soldiers. Alas, they vanished into the mists of time, and I no longer even remember who made them.

Mostly, though, Kage took her caffeine (the real reason she imbibed all those brown beverages) as Coca Cola. Or coffee. The advent of Starbucks was a revelation, and we worked our way through every exotic blend they offered.  As the years went by, though, I gave my heart (and my cerebral spinal fluid, and a large portion of my blood) to the coffee we could only get Faire. That was the divine custom blend served day and night at the Teahouse of the Mullah Nazrudin’s Donkey.

The Teahouse was presided over by the Mullah, who I am still convinced was a large, amiable, devout Sufi Djinn. He gave drink to the thirsty and hung over; he fed the hungry with insane combination of lamb and chicken and lentils; he found beds for the lost. And he made the most amazing coffee – even the most standard blend, which was some kind of Arabica, did more for the drinker than most coffee houses’ espresso. He was a good and amazing man, and I will dedicate a blog to him someday, and detail the wonders he worked for Kage and many others.

It’s a splendid coffee. For the true effect, though, you need to drink it with a hint of straw and fire retardant in it, flavoured slightly with sweat and sunscreen melting off your forehead and running down on to your lips. You need to drink it way early in the morning, when the grey ceiling of fog has not yet burned off and it seems impossible that in 3 hours it will be 100 degrees and the streets will be full of people; or late at night, when the Faire is dark but for lanterns in booth windows, and all the people left are US: a crowd of murmuring shadows under the oaks, moving like mist along the dark streets. You need to drink it with the sound of flutes and drums and hurdy-gurdies and belly dancers in the background.

However … Time rolls on, and the Mullah was some time ago gathered to the afterlife. But his devoted employees, the indefatigable coffee-servers who, I suspect, slept suspended from the multi-coloured roof tent of the Teahouse, like bats. Minor djinn all of them, I am sure. And as they are all clever and scholarly djinn, they have established a virtual Teahouse online. There one can catch glimpses of the Paradisaical booth where so many of us spent so many nights, in so many fantastical worlds and altered states of consciousness … and one can purchase the coffee beans!

Kage would have been so happy …

I have the coffee shipped to me now, two pounds of pristine beans every month or so. They come in re-purposed Amazon boxes, usually, which evokes the hard-scrabble improvisation of all our days at the Renaissance Faire. And it makes me laugh. The cats like to climb into the boxes, of course, because they smell so wonderful: but as they are both Maine Coons, they hang over the edges like pie crust and purr contentedly.

And Kimberly sand Michael grind the beans fresh for every pot (because I am still an invalid), and run them through a high-tech drip system that produces my life-sustaining tana leaves.

It’s how I made it every morning for Kage and I as well, though the system was likely to add a few weird vessels along the way. And I’ve used everything from napkins to linen handkerchiefs to formed origami filters to get a clean pour. Good coffee is essential to a successful camping trip, but the filters are the trickiest part.

And so I have maundered on for hundreds of words, Dear Readers, trying to explain the peculiar world of coffee for me and Kage. It is a landscape of creativity – because without that blessed caffeine my brain would seize up entirely; little brass cogs and wheels and worm drives would expand  like an asteroid belt around my head.

And this past day has been one of the worst I’ve had since I escaped the hospital – due to the unrelenting heat, I am sure. I am a quivering mass of tremours and thirst, which has made typing this a real gas, I do assure you.

But, you know what? I have iced Mullah coffee waiting in the fridge, For all I feel like an egg frying on the pavement, I shall probably live forever. And I hope you, Dear Readers, do the same.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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4 Responses to My Coffee

  1. johnbrownson says:

    Ah, Kate, you have so stirred my memories- as you knew well you would. In my first few years at Faire, until experience taught a little wisdom, Sundays would have been intolerable without a cup of the Mullah’s coffee. I would sit on a hay bale, mulling over past (that is to say, last night’s) mistakes, glowering at the world and sipping until, bit by bit, I was ready to re-join my peers.
    I am pleased to hear that the magical beans are available, but if I can’t smell the dusty oaks in the grey morning, watching Big Red go by, I’m not sure it would have the same affect.
    Be well, love. What is remembered, lives.


    • Kate says:

      Well, Buff, you are a permanent part of my memory and my audience; I treasure your responses and always hope I am writing up to your standards. And I must agree – the scents of the Faire, the tastes on the wind, even the vibrations from the passing late night and early morning trucks … those are irreproducible. We can only rely on the theatre of the mind for those exquisite details. If I could figure out a perfume that even half-approached it, I would send it to you and DJ with a pound of Mullah coffee. And I’d spray it all over my house, too. Although – there is a turmeric and ginger tea, by Buddha Teas, that smells and tastes like the end of Witches Wood, just beyond the Gypsy Wagon Stage, where the Teahouse stood in the last clearing. I love the stuff. Sometimes I just inhale the fragrance in the cup, until the tea is cold – and even cold, it tastes like sitting on the bales under the oaks, listening to someone play a hurdy-gurdy beside you …


  2. Dina Miller says:

    It’s Aug. 18th, is the anniversary of the Mullah’s Birthday. His vibe is very much alive for me these last few days. What is remembered lives. Stay alive & healthy Kate.


    • Kate says:

      Oh, I didn’t remember that! Thank you so much, Dina – no wonder my thoughts wandered that way. And yes – what is remembered, lives. That’s one of the basic points of Kage’s Company stories.


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