The Coffee Break

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Mural, Cafemania, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

When I was a little girl in Cajun Louisiana, my mother and aunt often chatted over French roast coffee in the afternoon. I remember my aunt’s polished red nails, as well as the occasional cigarette. It was the 1960s. Many women stayed home to raise children. Smoking was not taboo.

Forty-five years later, the smell of hot coffee or nicotine smoke often brings me back to those days. Today, Starbucks and McCafe deliver caffeine through drive-through windows. We connect through texts and social media more than face-to-face encounters.

In Honduras, at least in the capital, the coffee break is still honored. At three o’clock, capitalanos* in Tegucigalpa stop working. Men step into sidewalk cafes and relax with associates over a cup.  Women visit a relative or a neighbor, often serving crisp, unsweetened bread called rosquillos alongside thick, sweet cups of coffee.

Even though Honduras is heavily influenced by the mores of the United States, I hope this custom doesn’t change. The impromptu caffeine klatch builds a sense of community. In a country where institutions are failing, and gangs are quickly filling the void, the locals need soothing rituals more than ever before.

This week, the folks at Velvet Ashes are discussing community. Velvet Ashes is a gathering place online mainly for expat women. Come back later this week to join in the discussion here or at their site, with your comments or blog posts of your own. And bring some rosquillos, please.

Do you have memories of coffee breaks? Or do you honor the tradition in your locale? Is the after-drink cocktail somewhat the same? Let’s start a conversation.

*capital residents

7 thoughts on “The Coffee Break

  1. ALWAYS start my day with coffee – so an early coffee break. One LARGE cup a day only. We are lucky to have good beans both in Xico and here in Puerto area. I quit drinking coffee for a year and found NO CHANGE or advantage for such a boycott. VIVA CAFE!

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    1. I start my day with coffee. Always. I noted that Hondurans, at least the ones I knew, often did not drink coffee in the morning. They waited until mid-afternoon. Many Hondurans, not just the religious type, considered public drinking, i.e. in a bar or club, to be outside the norm. They might drink coffee or smoke marijuana at home, but most shunned the bar scene altogether.

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  2. While I am not yet an expat (have another 14 months until I move to Mexico) I seek sites which speak to that life and feed my soul and my thirst for knowledge of expat life. When I first learned of Velvet Ashes (here on your blog) I went to it immediately and read a dozen or more posts. Have been back three times (the third being this evening, when you wrote of it again) and read several more posts each time. For some reason it doesn’t resonate with me and I’ve tried to pinpoint why. Because I’m older (65)? Not a mother? Not a wife? The countries are not Mexico? I can’t say it’s exactly any of those things (although the writings about children, marriage, etc. don’t interest me). I do love the concept, the format, and it’s a beautiful site. Exactly what I’d love to find – only one that speaks to me. Your site does however, and for now that’s a wonderful thing and quite enough.

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  3. I start my day with coffee, but I love the idea of getting together for “coffee and” a saying my older aunts used to use. A time for conversation, a cup of coffee and….usually a little treat to eat.

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    1. Maybe if we took time for coffee and… our culture would be less fragmented. I am surprised by the levels of violence in the US, which I knew about from afar when I lived away. However, now that I am here, I see that society seems particularly fragmented and more prone to violence than I am comfortable with. If I had coffee with the neighbors, I would be less likely to shoot one, I think.

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