Our Daily Breather: Maintaining Sanity During A Pandemic In Our Daily Breather, we ask artists to recommend ways to find calm in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Davóne Tines has been reconnecting with family and enjoying the ritual of making coffee.
NPR logo Our Daily Breather: Make The Perfect Cup Of Quarantine Coffee With Davóne Tines

Our Daily Breather: Make The Perfect Cup Of Quarantine Coffee With Davóne Tines

Davóne Tines Bowie Verschuuren/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Bowie Verschuuren/Courtesy of the artist

Davóne Tines

Bowie Verschuuren/Courtesy of the artist

Our Daily Breather is a series where we ask writers and artists to recommend one thing that's helping them get through the days of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who: Davóne Tines

Where: Raleigh, N.C.

Recommendation: Reconnecting through daily rituals and learning to make the perfect cup of coffee


I've spent the past few years endlessly traveling for my work as an "entrepreneurial opera singer" of sorts. After the world shut down and my work as a performer was put on hold until further notice, I decided to take my brother up on his invitation to become his roommate. I gathered all my stuff that had been strewn between friends' places in New York, a storage unit in Baltimore and my grandparents' archive of a garage in Virginia, and moved into my brother's two bedroom townhouse in Raleigh, N.C.

For the first time in over a decade, my brother and I are sharing a home. Our lives, since his finishing high school and my finishing college, have set us off on divergent roller coaster paths of change. Our paths have collided at intervals, regular for their timing (like holidays and family vacations) yet irregular for their context (like post-breakup or pre-new job). I didn't realize — until the past few weeks, after gratefully watching the dust begin to settle on, or transition into, roommate-hood — that in our adulthood, we had never spent real time together as our "regular day-to-day selves." Not rushing to go Christmas shopping, or trying to explain three months of our lives in three meals; but actually just living as ourselves in a place we both call home.

I noticed this mainly by the now regular occurrence of conversations that actually have time to breathe — time to grow. Where our past encounters seemed like lighting a match, our current extended encounters allow time for the spark of a subject to catch fire, blaze up, then cook down into embers that we can revisit day after day.

One place this shows up is in the ritual of making coffee. Before I moved in, my brother made drip coffee and I used a French press. After disagreements on whether the press was efficient enough or easy enough to clean, we reconciled by getting a Chemex glass coffeemaker for making pour-overs. Slower than both a drip and a press, the Chemex now forces me to stand — present and attentive— in the kitchen while my brother sits in the adjoining dining-area-turned-office.

There is no way to rush this process and I'm beginning to see the magic in it. For the 20 minutes or so it takes to complete the whole process, we're both held in space together not distracted by food or TV, just simple ritual. There is nothing else to do but hold space together in a way we just haven't been able to before. For that, especially in these times and because of these times, I am thankful.


Davóne Tines' Recommendation

Davóne Tines recommends taking time to slowly make a perfect cup of coffee. Here's how he makes his daily coffee in a pour-over coffee brewer:

  1. Populate the counter with one Chemex glass coffee maker, a small electric coffee grinder, a gooseneck tea kettle, a very large mason jar filled with this week's choice of locally grown and roasted beans, a smaller mason jar and a spoon.
  2. Fill the electric coffee grinder to the MAX line with beans, select "fine grind," and press power.
  3. Empty grounds into the smaller mason jar to store for the coming week.
  4. Dump 2 to 4 scoops of grounds into the Chemex depending on how much help you need that day.
  5. Fill kettle with water to the MAX line, press power and wait for the sizzle.
  6. Now the time suspension part: Pour the water from the gooseneck of the kettle into the Chemex in the smallest and steadiest stream. Watch the miniature volcanic show unfold before your eyes. Watch the beans sift the water and breath themselves up into an iridescent foam. Look deep into the foam's fractal of bubbles as they quietly pop and hiss and rise and fall. Smell the intoxicating earth-chocolate as it wafts and hints at what's to come. All the while, feel the presence of your brother. Appreciate his just being there, sharing the air with you. Don't take it for granted.
  7. Once the tectonic pile of grounds settles, pour the muddy gold into a mug. Add organic half and half, and sugar if that's your thing. Lift the mug. Sip. Feel. Exhale. Clean up.

Davóne Tines is an opera singer who recently co-created The Black Clown, a music theater experience inspired by Langston Hughes' poem of the same name, which premiered in 2018. He recently had to cancel and postpone performances due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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