Making our way out of a solar storm that directed our route, we finally come to a stop. Dizzy and unable to lose the sense of vertigo, I step off the shuttle and find myself on the west end of Nephos station, located near the north pole of Jupiter. Nephos is a lot like most stations this far out from Earth, dirty, rundown, shades of red and orange that coat the metal interiors and match the surface of the very planet that it orbits, but that’s the least of my concerns right now. Where the heck are the bathrooms?!
After emptying myself from multiple ends, I began walking towards the layover area. If you think Nephos is like an airport on Earth, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Nephos is a city in and of itself, with dirty and rusted columns of living units packed with people from all over the solar system. It’s like 1900 New York but in space. Coming from the west end, I have to walk to the opposite end of the station. I get to look at more of Nephos than I would’ve liked. While trying to navigate towards the layover area, I find myself lost on one of the side streets, a market area.
Smoke and humidity engulf me as I become surrounded by the hustle and bustle of this hidden bazaar. Everywhere I look, there are stalls upon stalls upon stalls of sellers showcasing their goods from all across the Jovian system. The scent of spices and sulfur from Galilean goods fill my nose. Amid the aromas of Jovian society, I smell something else that catches me by surprise, a scent that I considered long forgotten.
Walking further ahead, trying to escape this side street, I notice a narrow alleyway that breaks away from the excitement that surrounds me. I realize that the nostalgic scent I smelled earlier was coming from here. With the walls of the alleyway brushing up against my shoulders, I shimmy my way to the end of the alleyway, where I find a door, a mahogany door in a sea of rusted buildings. The top of the mahogany door had a vent that allowed air in but allowed for the long-forgotten scent to creep out. With profound curiosity, I open the door.
My eyes deceive me. I cannot believe what it is that I have come across – a café on Jupiter. The floors and the bottom half of all of the walls are made of the same mahogany as the door I entered. The upper walls and ceiling are green, like old copper. There are only a dozen seats inside the café, two per table, with red and yellow Ionian flowers placed on each table. I am the only customer to be seen.
I approach the service counter and admire the ancient machine that makes up half of the bar. Espresso machines are considered antiques nowadays. The barista welcomes me in and says that I may sit anywhere I please. I decide to sit at the end of the bar, overlooking the whole café.
The barista asks me what I would like to order. I tell the barista that it’s been decades since I’ve even had a taste for coffee and that I wouldn’t have any idea what to order. The barista reassures me that it’s quite all right and recommends that I order a Callisto Cortado. I have no clue what that might be, but I take the barista’s word on it.
As the barista begins making the coffee, I can’t help but ask the barista how coffee still exists. The barista begins their story by mentioning the drastic climate shift that wiped out most plant life on Earth. Once space travel became commonplace, the coffee farmers of Earth took to space and tried to cultivate on other solar bodies but with little success, except in one location. The barista points to a photograph on the wall of a coffee farmer surrounded by trees and mentions to me that the man in the photo is one of only a handful of coffee farmers that can cultivate Coffea Ganymede, a coffee species that can grow on Ganymede. The coffee oasis as it’s sometimes called.
I am surprised by this new finding and look at the barista in a dumbfounded way. The barista sees my surprised expression and smiles. The barista gently places my Callisto Cortado in front of me and briefly mentions the meaning behind the drink’s name. I still remember a cortado being a 1:1 ratio of espresso and milk, and the barista tells me that the milk came from Callisto, providing a calmer taste to contrast the ruggedness of Ganymede coffee.
As I take my first sip, I am welcomed into a new world of coffee that I didn’t know existed. I find myself tasting the boldness of the Ganymede coffee and picture the harsh life that the farmers live, how the trees grow in an environment that challenges its sovereignty, and the journey that the beans took from cherry to cup. Keeping the flowing tide of coffee at bay, the milk from Callisto welcomes me into its domain of pleasantries. Cows from another orbital body graciously give their gift that complements coffee from a far away neighbor.
I set my glass down after having experienced a journey across space that showcases all of the intricacies that made the drink that I see placed before me. The more I drink the Callisto Cortado, the further it takes me on my journey around the worlds of Jupiter. I ride in a caffeine cruiser coasting across the clouds of Father Jupiter. The Callisto Cortado reveals the beauty that hides in Jupiter’s realm.
I try to unravel the entire journey that has taken place. I look to the barista for some sort of explanation for what I just experienced. The barista makes eye contact with me and says that I have just experienced the gift of what Jovian coffee culture gives to everyone, the Jovian Journey, as it’s commonly called.
After finishing my coffee and slowly regaining my sanity, it’s time for me to leave. I thank the barista for the experience and bid the barista a farewell. Before I leave, the barista formally welcomes me to the realm of Jupiter. I walk out of the café, and as I shimmy my way out of the alleyway, I get a sense of vertigo. I wake up and find myself feeling dizzy as the space shuttle lands on the west end of Nephos station.