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.


– 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.

My Favourite Things: Chocolate

I love chocolate. I don’t eat chocolate bars from the supermarket anymore. I go to specialty chocolate stores for my fix.

My favourites, hands down, anywhere in the world:

Chocolate makers:

Chocolate by The Shop, Phnom Penh. Who would have imagined there’s be a specialty chocolate shop in Cambodia and that it is really really really good?? It is so good that I bought boxes of them whenever I was in town to gift. The fact that it is easy on the pocket was a huge bonus. Expensive for Cambodian standard of living, but extremely reasonable for the American snob. My favourites are the dark, the white, and the passion fruit pralines. They just melt in your mouth, those chocolates, but somehow with being made in a humid climate, they don’t melt on the way home. Women talk about craving chocolate all the time; when was the last time you heard a man say so? I got my male colleagues hooked and they go for their fix as well!

Recchiuti Confections. I schedule flight layovers in San Francisco just to buy their chocolates. Pricey, but so worth every penny!! A lot of chocolate makers mix in unusual flavors- salt, pepper and cinnamon, rose, etc- but more often than not, the flavors aren’t blended into the chocolate and leaves a jarring taste in my mouth. This one has figured out how to fix that. No matter what flavour, it melts smoothly.

Hot Chocolate: 

Not to be confused with neighbouring Serendipity Cafe’s celebrity frozen hot chocolate, my favorite hot chocolate either order in or to take back home to brew myself is Dylan’s Candy Bar hot chocolate. Actual chocolate shavings melted in hot milk. Sadly, I haven’t been able to purchase any online lately. But should any be available, highly recommend you purchase some, after I have my turn..


Belgium. Hands down. Don’t bother with the brands or the pre-packaged stuff. Just go to the mom and pop shops that have their various truffles laid out for you to admire. I would stop by a store each day, a different one as there is one every single block, and get a sampling of different flavors. That would be my chocolate intake for the entire day.

Switzerland. But, like Belgium, don’t go to the mass producers. The specialty shops are pricey, but often crowded. That should tell you something.

Just Chocolate in general:

CoCo Sala is the biggest chick pit in DC. It has got to be. Every time I go, the place is packed with women. The few men there who are not staff tend to be boyfriends/husbands humoring their lady’s desire. Their chocolate-inspired menu has changed considerably since their opening, but that’s the nature of a surviving restaurant/bar/lounge.