• Thomas A. Wilson

Bean There, Done That

Updated: Jul 14, 2019

Omar was hungry. The townsfolk of Mocha had exiled him to a cave near Ousab. The sheik—a naturopathic healer—had fallen out of grace. Healing ministry in any faith tradition is often subject to unpredictable public reception. So, Omar sat in his desert cave and took inventory of what might be edible. A nearby bush appeared to have potential. The bush’s green cherries each held two seeds, as 90% of such cherries do. Some call these seeds beans. Omar quickly learned that the bush’s raw beans tasted bitter—so he roasted them. Cooking normally improves a dish, but in this case, the beans became hard and unappetizing. Omar decided boiling might soften the hardened seeds; it was worth a try. The roasted-then-boiled-beans didn’t soften, but the mess exuded a fragrant brown liquid. Desperate, Omar imbibed, and the miracle elixir revitalized him for days. Word about Omar’s discovery made its way back to Mocha, and the fickle tide of public opinion turned once again. With great fanfare, Omar and his potion were welcomed back into the city.

Omar’s bush was soon cultivated in Sufi monasteries in Yemen and use of the concoction began to spread. The drink eventually made its way to Europe where Pope Clement the VIII was kind enough to declare the new beverage Christian. Prior to his announcement, many felt the brew to be dangerously Muslim. The drink spread throughout Europe and eventually made its way to the Americas. Export of the live plant from the Middle East was prohibited, so beans were boiled or otherwise rendered sterile before shipment. In 1670, Sufi Baba Budan thought such exclusivity was unwarranted, so he strapped seven live beans to his chest and smuggled the seeds to Europe. Italy was one of the first non-Middle Eastern countries to embrace cultivating the Bunnu bush.

The tonic of the Bunnu bush is known by many names. Arabs called the drink qahiya. Ottoman Turks called it kahve. Italians still call it caffe. And we Anglos call it coffee. Coffeehouses soon sprang up in countries where the drink was introduced. In 1689, Procopio Cuto opened the Café Procope in Paris. The establishment became a popular meeting place where ideas were discussed and debated. (Prior to the introduction of coffee shops, meeting places primarily offered alcoholic beverages, and ensuing dialogue between patrons was predictably, well… inebriated.) The French Enlightenment was incubated in the coffee shops of Paris where Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot assembled.

America’s first coffee shop was in Boston. Later, American revolutionaries would plot rebellion in rooms full of the wafting aroma of Coffea Arabica. Coffee shops have been outlawed in various cultures and at various times precisely because they attract groups of people who talk. Talking can be dangerous.

Nowadays, coffee is as American as apple pie. The coffee break is an American workplace institution, along with coffee for breakfast, coffee after dinner, and coffee with dessert. Partly due to American demand, coffee is the 7th largest agricultural export in the world. Several national economies rise and fall with the price of coffee.

Coffee changed the world. It happened one person at a time. Someone shared a cup, had a conversation, and then decided to do it again. Interested people cultivated plantations, built coffee shops, and designed all kinds of related paraphernalia. The coffee industry enjoys a multi-billion-dollar network around the world. A simple process is at the heart of the whole enterprise: people try it, they like it, and they offer it to others.

What other good ideas are out there—just floating in the ether—waiting for someone to latch on? If one had invested $5000 in Starbucks back in 1992, he/she would be a millionaire today. When it comes to investments, wouldn’t it be awesome to foresee the future? While crystal balls are hard to come by, visionary CEO Howard Schultz didn’t need one. He crafted the Starbucks story out of his own heart and mind.

This writer wonders what world-changing ideas his readers might have—just waiting to burst through the soil and reach for the sun. If one needs a little destiny-building Miracle-Gro, a jug of Authentic Man School can be had for less than the price of 4 venti pumpkin spice lattes.


Since no one succeeds alone, an isolated network is not only an oxymoron, it’s ineffective. A hyper-connected network is also ineffective, albeit for different reasons. Men, therefore, who want to change, who are underliving their lives, who want to escape poverty, who want to be successful, must escape ineffective networks. They must organize their network in a way that facilitates healthy feedback. It’s in these groups of people that men find the essence of a life worth living.

Affirmation of the Week: I gratefully process feedback, and graciously offer friendship, as I build my personal network. I’m grateful and gracious—and I hang out with others who are the same.

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