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咖啡如何泄露了你的内心

The philosopher who studies the experience of coffee
咖啡如何泄露了你的内心

It’s like I’m drinking the dying embers of a log-fire – smoky and tinged with the tang of creosote. As I concentrate harder, I notice its smooth, viscous texture that seems to mask a sharper undertone – like a blade cloaked in velvet.

我仿佛在品尝炉火的余烬——丝丝青烟中掺着杂酚油的味道。我努力集中精力,终于注意到那丝滑、粘稠的质地似乎掩盖了一层更加剧烈的弦外之音——犹如隐藏在丝绒下的利刃。

I’ve never paid so much attention to a cup of coffee in my life. I’m not sure I’ve grasped its secrets just yet. But if I do, I’m told it might just offer me a glimpse of some of the big questions in life.

我从来没有如此专心地喝一杯咖啡。我不确定刚刚是否领会了其中的奥妙。但如果真的做到了,我或许在刚刚那匆匆一瞥间感悟到一些人生的重大问题。

My guide on this journey is David Berman at Trinity College Dublin – a philosopher who has spent many hours studying the intricacies of the mind’s inner working and the senses. Now he’s turned his attention to his favourite drink, and the profound answers that might be lurking at the bottom of our coffee cup. The result will be a new book, The Philosophy of Coffee-tasting.

引领我进入这场旅程的是都柏林圣三一学院的大卫·伯曼(David Berman),这位哲学家花了很多时间来研究思想和意识的复杂原理。现在,他把注意力转向了自己最喜爱的饮品,而意义深远的答案或许就隐藏在咖啡杯的底部。这项研究将编撰成书,书名是《咖啡品味背后的哲学》(The Philosophy of Coffee-tasting)。

Armed with a strong Americano – and an open mind – I ask him to lead me through some of his thoughts. The conversation that follows will explore the values of introspection and why coffee and tea drinkers are fundamentally different people.

我手里拿着一杯厚重的美式咖啡,秉承着开放的思维,向他讨教这番新锐的思想。我们之间随后展开的对话将带我探索内省的价值,让我明白咖啡和茶叶爱好者为何是截然不同的两种人。

Coffee connoisseurs may devote themselves to the drink, but it might seem surprising that a philosopher would spend time brewing over its qualities. Surely they have enough on their hands pondering Plato and Hume? For Berman, however, it was a natural step. One of his interests has been considering the layers of inner experience. We all have a tendency to conceptualise the world with words, but Berman and others think that may cloud underlying sensations and prevent us from gaining better insights on the subtle workings of the mind.

咖啡鉴赏家或许会投入很多时间来品尝这种饮品,但一位哲学家专门抽时间品茗咖啡却着实令人意外。光是思考柏拉图和休谟难道还不够费神吗?但对伯曼而言,这却是非常自然的过渡。他最大的兴趣之一就是思考不同层次的内心体验。通过文字将周遭的世界概念化是所有人共有的倾向,但伯曼和其他人却认为,这有可能掩盖潜在的感受,导致我们无法更好地洞悉思维的细微动向。
 

咖啡的独特口味仅仅源自0.5%的咖啡豆

This idea is not just confined to philosophy. There’s some evidence that things like language can indeed modify perceptions – a phenomenon called “top-down processing”. And the way different senses blend to create your consciousness is known as the “hard problem” in neuroscience.

这种理念并非哲学界独有。有证据显示,像语言那样的事物的确可以改变观念,这种现象被称作“自上而下加工”(top-down processing)。而不同的感觉混合在一起塑造意识的方式,在神经科学领域被称作“难题”(Hard Problem)。

Peeling back those layers could therefore give you a better understanding of yourself and your inner world. “If you take coffee as seriously as I do – though I don’t think that’s necessary to do so – then the idea is to try to get to direct experience,” he explains. Coffee, he thinks, is particularly fruitful for this pursuit. “When we drink coffee, we are taking in caffeine, stimulating the mind, and making it more acute. You’re not in a mentally sluggish condition. You are in a state of clarity and distinctness.”

因此,拨开层层体验可以帮助你更好地了解自己和自己的内心世界。“如果像我一样认真喝咖啡——尽管我不认为一定有必要这么做——但这种方式可以让人试着获得想要的直接感受。”他解释道。他认为,咖啡与这番追求非常契合。“我们喝咖啡时会摄入咖啡因,从而刺激大脑,使之更加敏锐。这时,你的思维不会懈怠。你处在头脑清醒的状态。”

So I take a sip and try to absorb the taste. The symphony of flavours certainly does seem more vivid – as if the conductor has suddenly turned up the orchestra’s volume. I’m also conscious of the way I can pick apart the different notes – the smoke, the rustle of silk across the tongue. It is indeed a “hard problem” when I consider how the brain constructs those many distinct “qualia” – instances of subjective experience which words can never express fully – and builds our conscious experience.

所以,我尝了一口,试图品味它的滋味。各种味道合奏的交响乐似乎的确更加生动了——仿佛指挥突然调大了乐队的音量一般。我也意识到自己分辨出不同音符的方式——袅袅升起的香气,划过舌尖的点点丝滑。当我思考大脑该如何构建这许多的“感受性”(qualia——语言无法充分表达的主观体验),如何构建我们的意识经验时,我突然明白,这的确是个“难题”。

As I ponder that thought, Berman explains how his research has informed his understanding of the drink. All varieties of coffee will share a common note that comes from just one oil – caffeol. “It makes up a small portion of the bean – just 0.5%,” he tells me – yet without it, the drink would not be recognisable as coffee. In contrast, he says, there is no single “essence of tea”; tea is made from a wide variety of compounds, but no single one is essential.

正当我陷入沉思时,伯曼向我解释了他的研究如何让他对咖啡有了新的认识。所有的咖啡都有一种共同的音符,这种音符来自一滴油——咖啡油。“它在咖啡豆中占的比例很小,只有0.5%。”他对我说——然而,如果没有咖啡油,就完全尝不出咖啡的味道。相比而言,茶叶中并没有一种单一的“茶精华”。茶叶由许多种成分组成,但却没有一种是必不可少的精华。

Tea-ism versus coffee-ism

茶叶主义与咖啡主义

Berman proposes that coffee and tea therefore illustrate two different philosophical outlooks. Tea is about the way many different flavour components complement each other, he says – recalling the Eastern concept that all beings are interconnected. Coffee, by contrast, is defined by that single key ingredient caffeol, which stands apart from the other flavours – perhaps an apt metaphor for a Western tendency to draw boundaries between the body and spirit, say. I have a feeling he might not persuade everyone.

因此,伯曼认为咖啡与茶叶代表了两种不同的哲学观。茶叶是各种味道交融而成,让人想起万物相通的东方哲学。相比而言,咖啡则完全由咖啡油这样一个关键成分决定,它与其他味道截然不同——这或许恰如其分地彰显了西方人将身体与精神区分开来的理念。我认为,这番理论未必能说服所有人。

Coffee's single ingredient, however, can be deceiving. Taking a sip, I feel as though the distinctive caffeol flavour is firing up my tongue – yet this is an illusion. To explain why, Berman tells me to hold my nose as I take another sip. All I am left with is a faint ghost of the original flavour. “That’s one of the surprises in it,” he says. “You think you are tasting coffee – but if you engage in introspection, you realise it’s actually a smell that is misperceived as a taste.”

然而,咖啡的单一成分却具有欺骗性。只要品尝一小口,就会感觉咖啡油的独特味道在我的舌尖上引爆——然而,这只是一种幻觉。为了解释背后的原因,伯曼让我捏住鼻子再喝一口。这一次,最初的味道变得非常微弱。“这就是它令人惊讶的地方之一。”他说,“你认为你在品尝咖啡,但如果展开自省,就会发现你其实是把气味误当成了口味。”

As coffee connoisseurs will tell you, that central motif doesn’t prevent baristas from composing many different variations around the theme. A light roast will allow the coffee’s acids to shine through, giving a “brighter” quality. In contrast, a longer, darker roast leads to the build-up of new proteins and enzymes inside the bean. These chemicals constitute the “body” of a coffee; they can make it feel heavier, more viscous, and they blunt the edges of the acid.

咖啡鉴赏家会告诉你,尽管咖啡拥有这种中心化的风味特质,但咖啡师们还是可以围绕这一核心风味调制出不同种类的咖啡。轻微的烘烤可以让咖啡里的酸味表现出来,为其赋予“更爽快”的品质。相比而言,时间更长、火力更大的烘烤则会在咖啡豆里生成新的蛋白质和酶。这些化学物质组成了咖啡的“身体”,让它感觉更醇厚、更粘稠,弱化了酸度。

Berman says that the pendulum of our taste has swung between sour and light, or dark and bitter, over the decades. Earlier coffees were the full-bodied dark-roasted kind, before the first wave of industrially-produced coffees favoured a sourer, more acidic taste (“the tinned supermarket coffee of my youth”). Then came the second wave, introduced by coffee shops like Starbucks and Costa, that returned to more bitter tastes, before the artisan shops of the third wave again favoured a more acidic and aromatic blend.

伯曼表示,数十年来,我们的口味总是在酸爽和苦涩之间反复。早期的咖啡都经过浓重的烘烤。后来,第一波工业化生产的咖啡更偏好酸爽的口味(“你年轻时在超市买到的罐装咖啡”)。之后到了第二波,星巴克和Costa的咖啡又重新开始偏重苦味,而第三波手工咖啡店再次开始推广更加酸爽而芳香的口味。

This see-saw between two extremes might illustrate something deeper about human personality more generally, he thinks. He suspects that a taste for bitter versus aromatic coffee represents a fundamental mental “type” – you are either in one camp or the other, and you will find it very difficult to understand the other’s viewpoint. “What you find in coffee tasting shows in a number of important ways how people disagree about fundamental matters,” he says.

伯曼认为,这两种极端口味之间的摇摆或许凸显出了人类更深层次的共性。他怀疑,对苦涩或芳香的偏爱恰恰代表了一种最基本的心理类型——你要么属于一个阵营,要么属于另一个阵营,而且很难相互理解彼此的观点。“你会发现,咖啡的口味能够通过许多重要途径展现出人们在基本问题上的意见不一。”他说。

My conversation with Berman has certainly given me plenty of food (or drink) for thought. As I drain the last dregs from my mug, I realise that I haven’t taken so much pleasure in a cup of Joe for a long time. Even if you’re not persuaded by coffee’s value to philosophy, perhaps Berman has a point about the value of introspection and contemplation. When it comes to probing our inner experiences and open our minds to our senses, we’d all do well to wake up and smell the coffee from time to time.

与伯曼的对话的确引发了我的很多思考。喝光了杯中最后一点残渣后,我意识到,我已经很久没有从一杯咖啡中得到这么多的快乐。即便你没有被他的这番“咖啡哲学”打动,他有关自省和沉思的理论仍然发人深省。在探索自己的内心体验时,在敞开心扉、打开感官时,最好打起精神,时不时地闻闻咖啡的味道。
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