Lima Bean Coffee
1. 1 cup, finely ground frozen lima beans
2. 6 cups tap water
3. 1 Drip coffee maker
4. Percolate and serve
A few years back, as I reached to the back of my freezer for a bag of Viennese dark roast to appease my six-cup-a-day coffee habit, I found myself inexplicably drawn to a box of frozen lima beans leaning against my favorite grind. As I stood there, still in my morning fog, the gears began to turn, “Coffee is a bean and lima beans are most certainly beans. They’re both frozen. What could it hurt?” And with that, I scrapped my plans for my traditional morning brew and set out to pioneer what I imagined would be a culinary first: lima bean coffee.
I judiciously meted out a cup of frozen lima beans, an icy mist wafting from each pile of beans as I poured them into the measuring cup. I placed the beans into my coffee grinder and pressed the on button. As the grinder whirred to life, it occurred to me that frozen lima beans don’t make the same staccato “pop” coffee beans do when they first make contact with a grinding blade. Instead, lima beans emit a soft “whump,” more akin to a wet bar of soap being whipped by the back end of a toothbrush.
The differences didn’t end there. As I poured the ground lima beans into the coffee filter, it was clear lima bean powder doesn’t willingly jump out of the grinder like coffee bean detritus does. In fact, at that point of the process, I wondered if maybe I’d stumbled onto a peanut butter alternative rather than one for coffee. Undeterred, I smooshed the ground lima beans into the coffee filter, closed the lid, poured in six cups of tap water, threw the switch, and waited.
Sure enough, within seconds, my coffee maker began its familiar gurgle, as if slurping the last stanzas of a milkshake from the bottom of a McDonald’s cup. Certainly not the heavy-body aroma I’ve come to expect from my morning roast, I thought to myself.
As the craft began to fill, it became apparent that lima beans maintain their light-green color throughout the brewing process, as the liquid pooled below. As the percolations grew silent, I poured the steaming hot liquid into my coffee cup. As I raised it toward my lips, I resigned myself to the revelation it would never match the sweet aroma a cup of joe tantalizes your nose with before taking the first sip. Nonetheless, I habitually waved the cup beneath my nose as I pulled the cup to my lips and inhaled my—and perhaps humankind’s—first ever sip of lima bean coffee. And it was gawd awful. Perhaps the worst concoction I’ve ever tasted.
Now, you may see this as a rather predictable failure, which it most certainly was. But it is also perfectly illustrative of the creative process. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to come up with something really good without first creating and discarding dozens of things that are really bad.
After all, the only way to create something that has never been done before is to do something that has never been done before. But, as the lima bean coffee venture so aptly showed, it’s not enough to simply create work that has never been done before—it also has to be good.
Sadly, as flipping through the pages of any magazine or the channels on any TV will attest, quite a few marketers never get beyond the lima bean coffee-stage of the creative process. While their creative may go places never gone before and achieve many of the strategic goals of their creative strategy, they often fail to ask the one question that should override every other:
Is it good?