Category Archives: Culture

Coffee is for Closers

Three years ago, if you had told me I’d enjoy drinking coffee, I would have laughed and called you crazy. Back then, to me coffee was bitter and strong – a drink for grownups, grumpy college students, and parents in pajamas. I’ll have a cup of tea instead, please.

Cafe Latte from Blue Bottle Coffee – San Francisco, CA

Two years ago, if you had told me I’d have my own coffee maker, I would have giggled secretly about how little you knew me. I started drinking coffee with too much cream and too much sugar – I drowned out the taste with condensed milk. I never made my own coffee, but I drank it if someone else made it for me. I studied in Lyngby, Denmark for a semester, an hour outside of Copenhagen and my personal consumption ratio of Carlsberg to coffee was about 3:1.


1 – Because I am a small person with an even smaller tolerance for alcohol. Because my friends were hardcore Danes with livers of steel from their viking descendants, and they had decided that I needed to stop being an embarrassment and passing out during pre-gaming. My Danish kitchen-mate Andreas’s parents were environmental engineers overseas in South America, so he always had a unique selection of coffee beans on hand and he pumped me full of caffeine before we all went out.


2 – Because my Italian friend Stefano often forged friendships over coffee hours. He brought an old fashioned Bialetti Moka Express and a stock of coffee from home to Denmark. We all loved his company over espresso so much that he was having coffee three times a day, was constantly wired on caffeine, and had a steady stream of visitors. We loved it so much, in fact, that he had to write home to replenish his supply (and also the science behind a moka is fastinating! Yes, we went to an engineering school, go figure.)


3 – Because my Belgian friend Len loved lattes. He introduced me to cafe culture and changed my view of coffee drinkers from half asleep students drooling in 8am lectures to stylish people taking time out of their day to sit down together and enjoy a cup of coffee, wool coats hung neatly and designer handbags carefully placed next to them. People coming in off the streets to escape the cold – shaking the snow off their gloves and smiling as they wrap their hands around a cup of coffee and whispering the latest gossip. I started with hot chocolates, and after constantly admiring the beautiful designs drawn into his lattes, started slowly ordering lattes.

Charlie Brown Mocha from Charlie Brown Cafe – Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

One year ago, I bought a moka. I went on a trip throughout Europe, and stopped to visit Stefano in his hometown. I gave my travel companions (my little sister and my friend Melissa) a quick run-down of my friends and when I came to Stefano, I told them that he was the coffee master. That people would walk across campus on a snowy day just to sit in his container (he literally lived in a shipping container – the school ran out of housing and had to strap together a bunch of shipping containers and renovate them for temporary student housing) and enjoy a cup of Stefano’s coffee and his conversation. My sister has been a coffee fiend since she 12 (or some other ridiculously early age) so she was excited to meet him. One cup of coffee, and the memories started rushing back. Bliss. Our last day there, he took us to a store and between my sister and I, we bought five Bialetti Moka espresso makers. One each for both of us, and gifts for our family and friends. His family gifted us with coffee, and we’ve been drinking it on special occasions with our family ever since (we ran out a few weeks ago, tears were shed, and I immediately ordered a tin of the same coffee online).

A week after I returned to the United States, I began my first full time job. Two of my co-workers and I started making it a habit to go down to the second floor to use the “secret espresso maker” (it wasn’t really a secret, it was just less frequented by our team) and chat. We travel abroad at least once a month, and the majority of us end up in Shenzhen. We often go to Hong Kong on weekends to blow off stress, and I started taking time before going out on the town to find a new coffee spot and “caffinate myself” before the evening’s adventures. At least – that’s what I said. Secretly, I love searching out somewhere new, finding my own place to sit with my laptop and do my emails while enjoying a hot cup of coffee. After a week of being in Shenzhen with too many people, it’s nice to spend a moment alone – whether to catch up on work or zone out and people watch.

Cafe Latte from Initial Cafe TST – Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

In December, I slowly started taking my coffee black. I’m slightly lactose-intoleranct – just in the sense that I can’t drink straight milk. I’ve never enjoyed creamer that much in coffee in the first place, and I noticed that on days that I drank coffee I was feeling bloated for the whole day, especially on trips to China. Once I realized it was the milk, I started taking it with just sugar, and now, black. I eat the sugar cubes separately =)

But even though I take my coffee black, that still doesn’t stop me from enjoying a cappuccino, or mocha, or a latte now and again. It doesn’t stop me from searching out fun new cafes and coffee stands in San Francisco and trying out their specials, especially when they are conveniently located on my walk from my home to the company shuttle.

And I’ve found that coffee is something that I not only enjoy with a close friend, but on my own. While tea and dinner and drinks are fun with at least another one or more, I look forward to escaping from my life and sitting down in the corner of a cafe, slowly enjoying a flavorful cup, surrounded by people I don’t know. I’m a person who is constantly in motion; I get bored easily, but when I go to a cafe I can sit for hours on end. Though, in retrospect, it might not be the atmosphere but more the caffeine. (More research required).

So why this post now? Because I am in Hong Kong and I have 10 hours to kill before my 1:00am flight to Seoul. I am temporarily homeless, as I had to check out of the Sheraton at 4:00pm, so I’m setting up shop in cafes scattered through Tsim Sha Tsui. This is my third cafe of the day, and my second cup of coffee (I was content with a lemonade at one earlier). So why not write a post on my generally dormant blog? At least – why not draft one? I don’t have any internet, so this will sit on my desktop until I get somewhere with wi-fi.

Till next time,
<3 Tiff

P.S. If you click on the links, you’ll see they go to my Everplaces account, a website that has been called “Pintrest for the real world” on online reviews. It’s great! If you’re interested in seeing more coffee locations I’ve saved (still building up the collection!) you can see it here – Coffee is for Closers.

Singapore Slings

Hello everyone! This post has been sitting in the drafts box and has been ready to go for a long time coming! So, without further ado – the Singapore Sling!

In March of 2011, my good friend Dirdo and I went to Singapore to visit our friend Heather, who was studying at NTU. Amongst all of our adventures traipsing through the city and taking a million touristy pictures (okay, maybe mostly just me!), one place we made sure to stop was Raffles Hotel for their signature Singapore Slings.

Singapore Slings at the Raffles Hotel

A quick bit of history: the first Singapore Sling was created at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel around 1915 by Ngiam Tong Boon (嚴崇文). The original recipe has since been lost, but the current version is still tropical, still gorgeous, and still a delectable drink!

We plunked ourselves down at the outdoor bar at Raffles after a long day of exploring the city and decided that we had to treat ourselves to a Singapore Sling. Even though it was 25 SGD + 5 tip. The wallet hurt a little bit, but oh, it was so worth it!

No mixes or any of that nonsense – good fruit juices and liquor, then shake, shake, shake, shake!

Us with our Singapore Slings!

I can’t remember the exact recipe followed by the bartender, but here’s one of the best I’ve found:

Glass: Sling (or Collins, if you’re not fully stocked =D)
Garnish: Maraschino cherry, pineapple

1 oz Gin (Sapphire)
1/2 oz Cherry Brandy (Heering cherry liqueur)
3 oz Pineapple juice (fresh, if possible)
1/4 oz Benedictine
1/4 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Grenadine (I like homemade =D)
Fill with club soda

Shake all ingredients (except soda) with ice then strain into glass with crushed ice – fill with club soda and garnish with fruit!

Use the good shit. It’ll be better. I promise =)


Pop Culture Knowledge Gaps, for future reference

We were watching James Bond earlier this evening, and it occurred to me (as it has many times before) that I have a huge gap in my knowledge when it comes to pop culture references. It’s one thing to be lacking in cult classics, but it’s another to be someone who has only seen one James Bond movie (make it two as of earlier today!), one and a half Star Wars episodes, never seen Jurassic Park, and the list goes on! So here’s a list that I will constantly be updating for future reference of things (in no particular order) I should probably watch:

– Top Gun
– James Bond
– The Godfather
– Star Wars
– Terminator
– Jurassic Park

– Mad Men
– Firelfy

I’m sure I am missing a ton, but that’s all I have for now.

Awesome European Music!

Here’s some really awesome music that I’ve been introduced to since I’ve been here! Enjoy =)

Sidney Samson – Riverside

Sidney Samson’s a Dutch DJ and this song samples a line from Tupac in Juice. Awesome, awesome song to dance to, and the video is so funny!!

Hej Matematik – Party i provinsen

Hej Matematik (or “Hi Mathematics”) is a Danish pop group. Fun fact: one of the guys in Hej Matematik is from Aqua, and the other one is his nephew! (By the way, I didn’t know until I came here that both ToyBox and Aqua are Danish bands!)

Skub Til Taget – Morten Hampenberg & Alexander Brown feat. Yepha

Hampenberg is a Danish DJ and he’s really good! He had a concert at DTU with ToyBox and another group two weeks ago, and tickets sold out within a couple of hours! CRAZYYY. Anyways, I hear this song at… basically every party/club that I go to!

Fagget Fairys – Feed The Horse

Fagget Fairys is consisted of two lesbian chicks and they’re really really bad and nobody likes them. They have one really famous song though, called “Feed the Horse” and the lyrics are really terrible, but the beat is really distinctive. Just warning you now, this song and video is really freaking weird, and it’s not very good, but it’s on here because they had a concert last week and we all went for kicks. I mean – dance beats, even if the lyrics suck – still good!

Italobrothers – Stamp on the Ground

God this song is so much fun to dance to. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not Italian – they’re German! I need to get more of their work!

Amy MacDonald – This is the Life

She’s a Scottish artist, and really really huge in Europe. I’ve never heard this song before, but everyone here (including the internationals) LOVE it. They played it at a dinner party once, and everyone started singing, and I had no idea what it was. Len made so much fun of me =(

That’s all for today! Have a great weekend, everyone!

<3 Tiff

Love and some choice verses, from DTU!

Studying? What’s that? Plus some tidbits on Danish culture!

For those of you (like German Alex) that think my blog posts are too long and wordy, I have made subheadings, so you can choose what you want to read! (For everyone else, the post is meant to be read as a whole, so if you’re reading the whole thing just ignore the subtitles as they sound kind of awkward)

Transportation: Thieving international students!

Three bikes in my room!

I guess the number one thing to do in Denmark if you’re an international student is go on a bike stealing spree! At the end of every semester, the administration ask students to tag their bikes. The untagged bikes are generally bikes that people have left around and aren’t using, and are therefore taking up space. These bikes are then gathered up, chained together, and put in the middle of Kampsax (my housing complex) for the police to take and auction off. Because it’s been snowing like crazy, the police haven’t gotten around to it, so they’ve been sitting around for months. About two weeks ago, somebody cut the chain and since then, the number of bikes has rapidly decreased.I mean, it’s not really like we’re stealing form anybody, since the bikes are unclaimed. And really, are we going to let the police make money off us by selling things that didn’t belong to them in the first place? I don’t think so!

(I did, however, run into two Russian girls a couple weeks back when I was “bike shopping” in the Kampsax bike graveyard. They were running around and cutting locks off bikes that actually BELONGED to people. Danggggg!)

This is actually an old photo – I still have three bikes in my room, but they’re not the same. The one furthest back was given to me by one of my international friends because he found a better one. That one is missing a pedal, so I “borrowed” the one in the middle from the graveyard to steal a pedal. However, Johannas’s bike got stolen, so I let him have that one. The nice one in the front was actually found by another international student as well, but it’s missing a pedal. Now, the third bike I have is actually the same as the Greenfield one in front with suspension, just that it actually has pedals. However, it’s missing a seat and a back wheel. I’m going to try and piece them together to make one working bike!

When it stops snowing (…April) I’ll probably ride around a lot more. Right now, it’s just been so cold that I’ve been taking a lot of public transportation. I’ve spent over $200 on clip cards for the metro/bus/train since I’ve been here… it’s crazy!

Coursework: Interesting differences between courses at DTU and RPI

This week, I have spent about an hour on CAD, an hour on writing a lab report, and 8 hours putting off doing research for Strategy, Design, and Market. I can honestly say that that is the most time I have spent here so far on schoolwork. I also spent all day composing emails to various members of the RPI faculty to fix my CAPP report and arguing about transferring credits, but that’s a whole other story that is not nearly as interesting as it sounds!

Here are the courses that I am taking this semester:

Manufacturing Tribology: Modeling and Testing – Monday 8-12 (5 DTU credits)
Development Projects in Companies
– Monday 1-5 (5 DTU credits)
CAD/CAM – Thursday 8-12 (5 DTU credits)
Strategy, Design, and Market – Thursday 1-5 (5 DTU credits)

It’s really kind of a disaster that 5 credit courses at DTU only transfer for 3 credits at RPI. There has been a lot of confusion over what will transfer, what might not transfer, and whether or not we will still be able to graduate on time. Ah well… such is life!

I’m really enjoying half my courses, and the other two are okay, but that was pretty much what I expected. I really like what we’re learning about in Manufacturing Tribology – it’s a lot on the techniques and parameters in the metal cutting and metal forming processes. The class has 15 people, and it’s really chill. We meet at 8 in the morning, and after about an hour of lecture we all walk over to another building where his secretary has prepared fresh coffee for us. We sit around and talk with each other for about 15 minutes, then trek back to the class where he lectures for another hour. Then, we have 2 hours of lab time where we split into groups of 5 and rotate through the different labs assigned for the semester. One thing that’s really nice about the labs is that each lab group is assigned a supervisor that helps us perform the lab and goes over the theory with us after. In labs at school, we’re used to 40 students packed into one room, doing the exact same lab while a TA walks around and tries to address everyone’s problems.

CAD/CAM is also awesome. We have lecture for about 2 hours, then lab assignments for the next two hours. We’re learning Pro/E, which is a little bit of a bummer since I already know how to use it, but it will be nice to have a refresher! Also, I can’t wait until we get to the CAM section of the course! The lectures are really good (MUCH better than those videos we had to watch for CAD at RPI) and the assignments are all detailed in a manual. Man. If I had a manual like that when I was learning NX 5, life would have been so much easier!!

Developments Projects in Companies and Strategy, Design, and Market are all very large classes and we have to write group case studies/reports in both. The lectures are a lot like the STSS courses we take back at RPI – not my kind of class. However, the topics are more related to marketing than being eco-friendly, so that’s a plus.

Random culture: Other important life lessons

Aside from school, I have learned a lot here as well. Here are the top three pieces of advice that I have gotten since I’ve been here:

1. What happens in Denmark stays in Denmark. For Erasmus, if your significant other is more than one country away, anything goes
2. Anything can be solved by drinking more alcohol. Sick? Drink snaps. Tired? Drink a Cult Shaker (the Party Maker!). Happy? Celebrate with beer! Sad? More beer!
3. When encountered with a problem and the original tactic fails, show them your tits!

I’m not really sure if I agree with ANY of the aforementioned pieces of advice, but eh? XD

Johannas and Fie! They’re my kitchenmates and they’re terrible influences on me and I love them so so very much! <3

Housing: Defining Kampsax Kollegiet and “Kitchens”

The area with the roof over is for bikes! This isn’t actually my kitchen, but it’s next to Christina’s

I don’t think I’ve explained this before but I live in a dorm complex named Kampsax Kollegiet. It is a housing complex located on the Southeast side of DTU campus. While it is on DTU campus, not all of the residents go to DTU. Basically, the way student housing works in Denmark is that there are many different dorms scattered around the Copenhagen area, and students have to apply to the ones that they want to live in. For example, one of my kitchenmates (I will define this word in a moment) went to a different school and is working this semester, but has lived in Kampsax for the last couple of years because he wanted to be closer to the social life here and at the dorm across the bridge. It’s a very interesting system. Luckily, all RPI students are guaranteed a room in Kampsax. Most of the other international students have been placed in Campus Village (lovingly dubbed “The Containers”) on the Southwest side of campus. Campus Village consists of a bunch of red shipping containers labeled A-Z that have been renovated into student housing. These house about 10 students each and includes singles for all the students, a washing machine, dryer, and kitchen.

Back to Kampsax – Kampsax is divided into “kitchens” of 17 students each. Every room is a single with a private bathroom, and the kitchen is a shared area. Each “kitchen” is it’s own enclosed hallway with two doors on each end that can only be unlocked by a key from that kitchen. It’s pretty cool. I was really confused telling people that I lived in “Kitchen 27” for a while, but now it just comes without thinking! Everyone in Kitchen 27 is amazing – pretty much the coolest kitchen ever.

Jo, Michael, and Pernille!

The plus side of living in Kampsax is that you get more chances to interact with the Danes. In Tingbjerg Kollegiet (about 11km away) and Campus Village, you’re mainly living with a bunch of international students, which is still fun, but I prefer Kampsax as I want to meet Danes (I AM in Denmark!)

Cooking: Boys… cooking??! And Tiff cooking in metric!

Baking and cooking here is very different. One thing that I really admire is that everyone cooks their meals. I don’t just mean cooking as in sticking an easy dinner in the microwave or a frozen pizza in the oven – they actually take the time to make their own pizzas (some make their own crusts, others buy pre-made dough), cook dishes that consist of more than a piece of meat, create their own pasta sauces, etc etc. Half the guys in my kitchen make their own bread! I feel like in America, Alex D. would be the only one to put the time into doing something like that =D

For example, here is a picture of Andreas making hamburgers for the Superbowl. Really really delicious hamburgers…!

I’ve always been much better at telling temperature in centigrade than Fahrenheit, but when it comes to baking it’s a whole other story. In America, we’re so used to baking in Fahrenheit because that’s what recipes tell us because that’s what the ovens are set in! Here, they’re set in Celcius, which gave me a lot of problems the first time I tried to cook a potato.

Also, nobody outside of the United States has heard of “cups” or “sticks of butter.” Everything is measured in either ml or grams. This is actually true in Taiwan as well, as I now remember my Aunt teaching me to make fong li shu (pineapple shortcake) a couple years back using weights. I remember being very upset that I couldn’t make them in the states because I didn’t have an accurate enough scale! Luckily, the girl that lived in my room before was from the states and also loved to bake, so she had bought a measuring cup. However, the measuring cup is embarrassingly inaccurate, so I’ve been doing a lot of estimating. Things have turned out okay so far though, so no worries! I am, however, having an issue finding baking soda. People keep redirecting me to baking powder and yeast!

One of the funniest parts of living in Kampsax is when my kitchenmates come stumbling in at 6am. One time, I was in the kitchen because I had just gotten back, and two of my kitchenmates came in right after and we ended up making the most disgustingly-greasy (read: DELICIOUS) eggs, bacon, and cheese EVER.

Christian and ice cream at 3am!

Anyways, it’s almost 12:30 and I have class at 8am! Cheers!

<3 Tiff

Love and some ice cream, from DTU