By Sofia Infante
In the decade since a group of Carmelite monks living in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming set out to roast their own coffee, their popularity has steadily increased. The monks began by roasting their coffees in a cast iron skillet and selling a small selection of flavored coffee online. Today, they offer a large selection of flavored coffees, teas, as well as variety of items such as coffee mugs, chocolate covered caramels and espresso beans, and a small assortment of religious gifts.
The Carmelite monks dedicate their lives to achieving spiritual union with God by following the spiritual footsteps of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Jesus. They live strictly cloistered lives, spending their days in prayer and contemplation, and undertaking manual labor. Their rule prescribes a narrow way of pursuing sanctification. A monk might “…aspire to be a lay brother who sanctifies his day through manual labor in an agrarian way of life or a priest who celebrates the Sacraments, gives spiritual direction, and preaches retreats to the monastery's retreatants. Once mature in the spiritual life, a Carmelite monk may…become a solitary anchoritic hermit-monk in the mountains, alone with the Alone.”
In order to support the material needs of the order, the monks came up with the idea of roasting their own coffee and selling it online. Their unique coffee blends are as satisfying and creative as the inventive names given to each one. For example, Midnight Vigil appeals to the dark roast aficionado, combining the flavors of bittersweet chocolate and vanilla bean. For those seeking to indulge a sweet tooth, look no further than my personal favorite, Cinnamon Coffee Cake. There are also a variety of decaf coffee blends available, such as Butterscotch Cream and the delightfully named Snickering Monk Candy Bar. Liturgical seasons (and secular holidays) provide opportunities to try new flavors, such as the ever-popular Christmas Blend, Candy Cane, and Pumpkin Spice. For coffee enthusiasts who attest to the superior flavor of freshly ground beans, whole bean options are available in almost all flavors. For those of us who wish to limit our coffee making process to as few steps as possible, finely ground options are also abundant.
In the midst of their growing acclaim and recognition, the monks have preserved their reclusive and contemplative way of life. It seems fitting that they have settled on an expansive and isolated mountain valley in Wyoming to live out their vocation. As explained on their website: “In the mountains, often wild and remote, the soul can make a swift journey towards union with God; the beauty of the wilderness alone raises the mind and heart to the Eternal Father who created the things of this world. In the mountains the Carmelite monks will at last be in a place conducive to their life and in keeping with their Holy Rule.”
In this season of Advent, which calls for prayer and recollection, a cup of freshly brewed coffee, imbued with the prayers of holy monks, seems like the ideal way to enter into prayerful silence.