Gathering around a fire creates a sense of warmth between people both figuratively and literally. Fireside chats call back to the ancestral roots of cultures around the world. As we begin to plan our spring and summer adventures outside, many of us begin to daydream about the evening spent around a fire. Is there another way to create a sense of openness? When fire isn’t possible due to weather or regulation, could holding a warm drink offer up some of the same feelings? According to research published back in 2008, holding a warm cup of coffee could offer some of the same feelings of connection as sitting by a fire.
There is a group of people I know who meet up in the Rocky Mountains every summer in August. Their route, the individuals participating, and the length of the trip vary from year to year; but the general goal is the same. Disappear from the rigors and obligations of daily life into the mountains. The ages and abilities of all who participate vary greatly, and the group often breaks up into smaller groups throughout the day. Destinations are often deep into the wilderness, or perched high into the alpine, and evening fires are scarcely supplied if not entirely irresponsible in the August high country. At the end of the day however, when the sun kisses the horizon, and cinched hoods shield from attacking mountain mosquitos; the group gathers around their camp stoves to share a warm drink. For some this is tea, others it is decaf, and for a few it is black coffee. Camp pads or rocks serve as chairs as informal conversation warms the rapidly cooling night air; and the day's events, observations, and achievements are shared. A true backpackers night cap, it ends almost as quickly as it begins, for everyone to retreat to their tents a bit warmer from the time shared with a warm drink.
Both the trip and evening nightcap ritual among friends and children of friends has continued on for decades. After a quick internet search, it didn’t take long for me to find some scientific backing as to why this ritual might have so much staying power. Research published back in 2008 points to a connection between holding something warm, and experiencing feelings of trust and tenderness towards others. If that isn’t an invitation to grab a cup of coffee during our next conversation with someone, we don't know what is!
We hope there is a warm drink and good conversation for you near in the future!