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November 1999 Issue
by Chris Schaefer
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Is perfection really something to be obtained, achieved? Is it possible to be perfect?


But does this negate the pursuit of perfection? Again, no. If one were to say that perfection is impossible for an individual or even a society as a whole, should we cease to make the ends a possibility of awarding the means? By saying it is unobtainable, does it make it unworthy to pursue? Does saying it's impossible make perfection something, then, undesirable and bad? Something entirely what it truly is not? Does perfection not exist because it can not be achieved?


In our own lives we tend to allow ourselves, and others for us, the substitution of something merely adequate for something that could be more. We suffice with the mediocre instead on expecting the best. We cloud our eyes and look for the middle of the road, wandering away from the prize. We defeat ourselves into thinking that we should not, nor can not, expect better. Have we abolished the idealism of perfection and replaced it with a complacent average?

"Perfection is impossible and is bad."
Without saying that all things are relative, I would lean against the idea that one should, at all times, seek for perfection. And while I'm not afforded the space to define what "perfect" is, I do think it applies quite aptly to our lives both on a personal and private level.

When something I consider is "private," I mean that is something not to be shared with the outside populace; something that is reserved for existence between only myself and my immediates. "Persona," on the other hand, is something that, instead, I wish to openly share and means a great deal to me. A quest for perfection can be both private and personal; arguing that when made personal, the perfection has an all greater meaning to the individual and whole.

How does perfection plays its role in your life? For me, I strive to win the likeness of a model which I consider perfect. In such, the pursuit becomes the example I live daily and that I personally expect others to see. One part of this is an appreciation for the achievement or quest for perfection in those things that surround me. My contemporary audience knows of my strong passion for coffee. And this article is meant to display an appreciation for perfection and how it relates to a perfection-oriented character.

Coffee is not a sole-defining facet of my life; nor should it be. My passion for it is part of my character. Becoming perfect, or at least pursuing perfection, is not directly tied in with this passion but instead is a result of how I wish to daily pursue perfection. Coffee alone can't make my pursuit any clearer or easier. But the passion for it stems immediately from my belief that perfection is worthy to be sought after.

How exactly do I pursue this? By eliminating the "less thans" of life and finding the "could be mores." Then focusing on them. In regards to coffee -- because that is what this article was supposed to pay attention to -- I've learned to always challenge myself and focus on what could be better. And I think that in all culinary pursuits, one recognizes the potential and seeks to find the most perfect -- restaurant selection, cooking/nutritional philosophies or cutlery preferences -- whatever makes it more whole and perfect; more worthwhile and appreciable.

Not too long ago I made a new friend. His is a world where a sense of perfection constituted the pursuits in such interests as sports and relationships. Already having developed a sense of appreciative qualities, his new experiences with what was previously considered a foul and dreadful elixir -- coffee -- were challenged. In time (and short, I might add), he learned subtle nuances and how he, as an individual, can appreciate something new. Biases stripped away and forgotten, he opened his eyes, took a sip, and found that the world was more than what it was; this had potential! Coffee has, to him, become a symbol of the value to pursuing perfection. Like it had for me so many years ago. It was exciting to see a new appreciation born.

If one wishes to move forward, and learn a greater sense of appreciation or advance their pursuit of perfection, they need only learn to differentiate the good from the bad. In Specialty Coffee, we use something called "cupping." Cupping is the method by which comparative samples of a coffee are roasted, ground, and steeped under certain specifications, then tasted blindly so as any biases are left out. The purpose of this somewhat scientific and reputable process, is to weed out the bad characteristics of a bean and to expose the fine elements that make the coffee unique. Coffees are cupped against themselves (from different lots, pickings, processings, and even roast styles), against others from a similar region, and individually. One person might cup six different Mexican coffees from one region but different farms in order to find the best tasting bean for the best price. A broker or importer/exporter, might test for defects and shipment quality. A farmer for determining the quality of a particular crop. For a roastmaster in determining which beans are best for blending purposes. And, by you.

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