PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – As many Utahns know, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adhere to certain rules and mandates that may appear strange to outsiders.
One set of these commandments is called the Word of Wisdom, which prohibits the consumption of certain substances including illegal drugs, alcohol, tea, and coffee.
But why is coffee considered a banned substance for members of the church?
“We don’t know the exact reason why we’re asked to not drink coffee, but we are asked to obey the prophet,” says Cayler Simpson, referring to the current leader and president of the Church, Russell M. Nelson, as well as past presidents as the living prophet. “That is something that is important to most members of the church if at all of us. We believe that the Prophet knows more.”
The reasoning doesn’t matter as much as the adherence to the guidelines. As such, getting the kind of fix that coffee can provide, both in taste and jittery effects, is a major obstacle for members. Joining the church and going cold turkey from some or a lot of coffee to none at all can feel like an insurmountable hurdle for many new converts.
Simpson’s best friend, Michael Draper, knows exactly what that’s like. Growing up in North Carolina, Draper was known to drink a caramel frappuccino nearly every day. When he and his sister, Ruthie, converted to the Church as teenagers, giving up coffee was his biggest challenge.
“I had a lot of headaches, I mean it’s it’s kind of a drug, and it was hard to give it up,” Draper remembers. “And honestly, it was hard to join the Church, I had to really be convinced.”
While remaining a faithful member of the Church and still craving that unique coffee taste, Draper, who his sister and Simpson refer to as a “mad genius,” spent months searching for the best possible alternative that would still taste like the frappes he loved before his conversion.
According to Draper, he researched and tried every coffee alternative on the market before finding something so authentic, he even fooled himself upon trying it.
The secret to cracking the code, he says, came from a brewing technique he created using the Maya nut, which also is known as capomo. After some time refining his preparation of the herb, which is derived in Mexico and Central America, Draper knew he arrived at the perfect solution when after tasting his concoction, he spit it out, thinking he had accidentally taken a sip of coffee.
Finding the perfect substitute for coffee felt like a jolt of inspiration, he recalls thinking.
“I really think there was some divine intervention in it.”
With the product nailed down, the Drapers and Simpson have opened a coffee shop that doesn’t serve coffee in the center of the Church’s universe in Provo. The shop leans heavily into its faith-filled roots and the culture that surrounds it. Latter Day Cafe, whose logo shows an imagining of the Angel Moroni replacing his signature trumpet with a mug of non-coffee coffee, is still in its infancy, but the rave reviews have already been pouring in.
“So far the reception has been very welcome,” Ruthie describes. “People have said we’re an answer to prayer and it’s very moving and really encouraging.”
And sure, the trio admits their idea came from a place of wanting to be obedient to their faith, but they also feel it was good business savvy as well. Whatever the reason, there was a demand for the drink, and they’ve brought it to the table.
“We exist to serve a need that we found in this in this marketplace,” Ruthie continues. “We don’t judge why people make that personal choice, and to me, it’s clear that it’s healthier than coffee it’s full of antioxidants and vitamins.”
Eventually, Ruthie hopes Latter Day Cafes can fill the area, and serve as community gathering spaces where folks of all walks of life can enjoy a drink – with as little or as much caffeine as desired – with no fear of violating their personal beliefs.
“It should be a welcoming place where everyone can just hang out and socialize and maybe have their minds open to what other people in the community are thinking.”