How the smell of coffee can create a feeling of home all over the world

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“Hey, Annina, it’s half past four, the sun is about to rise.” A friendly female voice tears me out of my sleep. Half past four, is she crazy? I’m on vacation, I can still feel the hike from the previous day in my bones, and who is this woman anyway? As I slowly find my way into life, it comes back to me. The soft voice comes from Amelie, I met her the night before in the hostel, we share the room and that with the sunrise was my idea. I curse myself briefly. Meanwhile Amelie has already stepped to the large window of the dormitory.

I fight my way up. She is right: the sky is still dark, but a first ray of light can be guessed at. We quickly put on something warmer; Although the summer season is just starting on the Garden Route in South Africa, it is still quite cold in the mornings. Wrapped in fleece sweaters and with our sleeping bags under our arms, we quietly leave the room. We let the other roommates sleep in. The lucky ones, I think briefly.

Amelie and I walk in silence over a gravel path to the large wooden terrace of the hostel. The communal kitchen is also located there. Trees protrude into the open space, we sit on the wooden loungers directly on the parapet. While there is usually a lot of hustle and bustle on the terrace, Amelie and I are the only ones sitting there on that morning, which today was almost exactly two years ago. “Do you want coffee?” Amelie points to the large silver metal kettle that every hostel resident can use. Of course I want it, it’s four thirty.

The said sunrise - including evidence of the time.


The said sunrise – including evidence of the time.
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Image: Annina Metz


Amelie hands me a colorful cup, the coffee steams up my cold nose. We hear that it’s not just us both awake. There is rustling in the forest in front of us, a few birds greet us with their singing, a cat whizzes by. I sip my coffee, filter coffee without milk and sugar, nothing special in terms of taste. Maybe even a little too thin. As the proud owner of a portafilter machine, I would probably have chosen a type of coffee with a slightly chocolaty aroma at home, frothed it up like oats and mixed some cinnamon into the coffee powder – my favorite coffee combination. And yet: The well-known drink in this strange environment gives me security. The everyday scent makes me more aware of the completely unusual situation. I am sitting in the middle of the forest in southern South Africa and watch a new day dawn – madness!

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