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,
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.