My Favourite Things: Coffee

I am an American coffee drinker, through and through. I love my drip coffees strong and black. I can’t stand Starbucks for their burnt flavor. I refuse to order Americanos.

Travel has made my keenly aware what my coffee taste is. I had taken it for granted, until I learned the hard way that everyone drinks their coffee differently.

Chains

– Dunkin Donuts. Hands down the best ever. I grew up on DD and I acquired my taste for coffee through DD. Any New Englander knows that you just walk right into any DD shop and order a “regular” coffee. Which is hot, with cream and sugar. But you don’t need to specify all that because they already perfected the blend. None of the yuppified Starbucks “extra shot, soy milk, caramel sauce, three packs of sweet n low,  blah blah blah.” While I was living in Asia, I stocked up by the crate on DD beans whenever I was back in the States. Sadly, the franchises overseas have not replicated the perfect coffee. What a crying shame to the name.

Caribou. I am shocked, in a pleasant way, to see one in Istanbul, Turkey. First encountered in Colorado, I always associate this chain with fresh coffee beans of the hearty West. It is one of the places that don’t drown out the coffee flavor in their espresso mixes

Beans: Oddly, the most memorable beans I’ve had come from the most unexpected. And least accessible for many of us.

Saffron. We bought a couple bags while we were resting in the shade of one of their cafes on a really hot humid day of sightseeing. I am a fan of going to the local coffee shops instead of the chains, but coffee isn’t even that common in Laos. And it was such a fragrant fresh batch I had.

Yemen. Yemenis drink tea these days. But the history of coffee as a drink we know today originated in Yemen. First records of the drink was in the Sufi monasteries in Yemen. Mocha is the name of a major trading port in Yemen. So doing the math, Yemen traders played a vital part in spreading the popularity. I had a friend who was working in Sana’a for a few months and he picked up a kilo of beans for me. When I asked him how much I owed him, he said it was cheaper than the beer I would buy him. Sadly, Yemen is not a destination of choice these days, but it was such a potent pungent bag of beans that I was sad to finish.

Vietnam. Vietnam is a major bean grower in the world’s production of coffee. However, they are not known for their bean quality, often been used in blends as fillers. Their flavor tends to fall flat, and lack in that bitterness I like to jolt me awake. Then my father bought a bag off the street vendor.. and it smelt like rich dark chocolate. The secret? The beans were roasted in butter. Really, how can you beat butter?

Those Neighbourhood Gems: Every place has one of them.. a locally run, independent cafe, that might roast their own or feature a specific coffee source. As a traveler, I just wanted a good cuppa sometimes.. and I always am ecstatic when I finally do, especially if plain black coffee is hard to find.

– San Francisco. How is it possible to pick one out of a city of independent neighborhood businesses? At the end, it all comes down to where you are and what is convenient.

Kitchen & Pantry, London, UK. No matter how I try to time, pace, schedule.. I am always exhausted and thirsty when I walk around Portobello Market in London. There are many local shops to pick from, but I find myself gravitating towads K&P every single time. It’s hard to beat the selection, and the leather couches remind me of home.

Kuppa, Bangkok, Thailand. Sometimes I just want a hiatus from the chaos of a bustling changing modernizing Asian city around me. Walking into Kuppa is like an escape from the concrete high rises, into a contemporary zen, accented with old fashioned burlap sacks used for beans. Ordering plain coffee rewards you with a generous French Press to drink at your leisure.

– Chez Moi. Finally, well, I did out myself as a coffee snob. So what better place to drink it the way I like it than a home? I don’t even have fancy makers.. I have an assortment of them, but I always go back to my reliable drip machine. I tend to buy my beans whole, purchased from all over the world as I try to make a trip to the supermarket wherever I am, and ground a bag at a time.

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