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The smell of coffee is also the scent of church.

Few Sunday services kick off right without a welcome session packed pew to pew with neighbors and community members over a cup that conjoins spirits. It’s as functional as much as ritual — in both the sense of a morning ritual and part of attending service.

It’s also worth noting that there’s historical precedent for the popular trend of having a coffee reception before church. This traditional link between services and coffee dates at least as far back as the 14th century when Sufis would brew up a batch during religious ceremonies. That tradition of coffee consumption during religious gatherings later spread throughout the Arab world and, eventually, to Enlightenment-era Europe when the beverage was ultimately given a caffeinated thumbs-up by Pope Clement VIII. It ushered in a coffeehouse culture that evolved into a by-now-familiar café culture—where minds meet.

These, the lofty beginnings of the more nostalgia-inducing batch pot next to a stack of Styrofoam cups and powdered creamer on a white-cloth-covered table.

Why to Serve Coffee in Church

There are no shortage of reasons to stock up on coffee for churches. Here are a few good ones:

  • Coffee as commonality. Attending church service is about uniting people — and nothing does that better than coffee. Most of us consume it—64% of Americans are regular coffee drinkers, according to the National Coffee Association—and have opinions and preferences to leverage the beverage to spark friendly dialogue.
  • Coffee as comfort. Coffee allows churchgoers to feel much more at ease in the church environment—not insignificant for people who might be attending church for the very first time and a little shy about getting to know their fellow parishioners. That cup of coffee in their hand will feel like a warm blanket and a kick of confidence.
  • Coffee as connection. If there’s a coffee station with volunteers, it guarantees an interaction—whether that’s asking for a cup or more creamer. This social glue might sound simple on the surface, but it’s a gateway to much broader—and hopefully, deeper—conversations to come.

Church Coffee Station Ideas

Setting up a coffee bar at church isn’t always obvious. When dealing with such a large and diverse group as a congregation, you need to account for a variety of preferences when it comes to their morning beverage. Here are some tips for setting up a coffee station at church that will please everyone:

  • Make wayfinding clear. Those attending church are likely exhausted and eager for their morning pick-me-up. (Think: getting out of bed early on a weekend or wrangling the kids to get to church on time, too.) With that in mind, don’t make finding refreshments to be more of a hassle than it needs to be. Mark doorways with flyers that have directions, and in any advertisements for the service—in print or online—be sure to mention the availability of coffee. Prominently.
  • Have at least two coffee tables. Church coffee station ideas span the gamut, but there is one constant: you want more than one table for guests to linger around. Coffee preparation can be a time-consuming process of experimentation with milk and sugar; don’t leave anyone tapping their feet as they wait to grab their coffee and, importantly, move on to the mingling and discussions of the morning. Also, space out where the tables are to encourage people to spread out in the room, and make sure any refreshments are clearly labeled—especially if there’s any food made available that could contain allergens such as nuts or dairy.
  • Serve a variety of milks and sugars / sugar substitutes. Not everyone is reaching for the Half & Half anymore. If you’re looking to diversify your audience and instill life to your church refreshment ideas, start by adding to your lineup of different milks. Try adding a soy or almond milk to the table. Tip: There are “barista” varieties that can be purchased that are meant for coffee. Similarly, some people may abstain from sugar, but like a little sweetness in their coffee. For those who may be diabetic or who don’t like standard artificial sweeteners, have coffee condiments on hand like cinnamon, Stevia, or agave.
  • Keep brewing. If it’s an hours-long event, make sure to have fresh coffee prepared on the hour, with volunteers available to brew. And always be sure to check the levels of the pots. There’s no worse church nightmare than an empty coffee container and minutes to go until a full pot can be finished and poured in a cup.
  • Pick an agreeable coffee. Invest in quality coffee, to be sure, but also don’t go too wild with light or acidic roasts, as most church goers will be in search of a roast that pairs well with a little color. Look for a fresh, tasty medium roast.

Serving coffee at church can be made easier with Victor Allen’s Coffee, offering customizable coffee subscriptions that are ideal for church services. Subscriptions are flexible, allowing you to receive as much coffee as you need as your church attendance fluctuates. Batches with single flavors and assortments are available.

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