Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Enchanted encounter

Hi Hi sisters ....... have you ever met someone whom you take an instant liking to and feel a special bonding between the two of you? Well, I’m not really talking about the mother sitting next to you in the PTA meeting or a fellow fan who you share a common interest for BYJ. I meant someone quite different from you – a different country, a different language, and even a different generation?

Well, I have the pleasure of meeting such a charming young lady back in summer 2007 while visiting Tokyo. Since then, we passed by each other a few more times in Gosireh after I moved here. But every time I was with a group of sisters and she was always busy, our interactions were only limited to a formal Konnichiwa, a genuine smile to each other and a hopeful promise to return. Our friendship really started to realize recently when the kind Olivia and cloudnine acted as our bridge of communications.

Yesterday, dear cloudnine, our imooto-chan (hehe, imooto is younger sister) and I spent a leisurely afternoon attending a Coffee seminar by ‘none other than our friendly around the corner’ Starbucks Coffee Company. And in the usual attentive Japanese standard, the staff:customer ratio is at least 1:1 meaning in every direction you turned to, there is always a staff smiling and anticipating your next request.

Since I am more of a tea person, excuse me if I sound a bit uncivilized or unsophisticated in the art of Coffee. Before I walked into this seminar, my idea of a cuppa is nothing more than java loaded with butter milk, maple sugar, whip cream, chocolate syrup, chopped nuts, cocoa powder, the fancier the merrier! It’s such an ironic coincidence that the night before I happened to re-watch the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail’ in which Tom Hanks wrote to Meg Ryan :

“You know the whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people who have no decision-making ability whatsoever to make 6 decisions just to buy 1 cup of coffee? For people who don’t know what the hell they are doing or who they are, can for $2.95, not only get a cup of coffee, but an absolute defining sense of self! Tall, decaf, non-fat .....”

Hahaha, how brilliant and so true! Haven’t you ever pondered in front of a Starbucks chalkboard menu as if you are reading a scientific journal while the cashier is staring at you pitifully like you have a literacy problem AND the people lineup behind you are jiggling impatiently as if they have to run off to a G7 Economic Summit or something? True, I know you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to enjoy a java at Starbucks, but you pretty much need to be a genius mathematician (well obviously, all their staffs are!) to figure out all the computations and permutations from their multitudes of options. Every time before I go to Starbucks, I’d tell myself, “Ok Jaime, don’t be such a bore. This time you got to try something different!” But alas, a Tall is a regular and a Grande is a large, so what’re a small and a jumbo? At the end, I still have the same old boring cafĂ© latte in my hand when I step out of the joint :(

Oops sorry, I diverge again, back to the seminar. So when the presenter handed me my first cup of coffee, I habitually asked for my cream and sugar, double double please. He looked at me with a despicable disbelief, “we hope you can enjoy the real taste of coffee here, we will not serve cream and sugar in this seminar.” What?! What’s coffee without cream and sugar, you might as well tell me to drink black ink right now! I can already feel those poor taste buds in my tongue and throat planning a mass exodus somewhere.

Well, I wouldn't do justice to the seminar if I don't write about what they preach. So, a bit of coffee facts here : coffee growth largely depends on the ideal climate, altitude of the land and its soil condition. The global coffee belt lies between 2 Latitudes, namely the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. In Latin America, countries like Colombia and Jamaica tend to produce medium body, smooth tasting coffee while Asia Pacific, in particular Indonesia produces full bodied, smooth acid tasting coffee. In Africa Arabia, a more complex, spicy citrus tasting coffee is produced. The 2 most common coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta, 75% of the world’s are Arabica which are used in brewing coffee, latte, espressos etc. while Robusta beans are used for instant coffee and vending machines.

When you drink coffee, there are 4 facets that you want to consider :

1. aroma – hold the hot coffee up to your face without burning your nose and breathe in.
2. acidity - take a small sip and savor it at both sides of your tongue to feel the taste.
3. body - the richness or lightness of the coffee. Hehe, I actually thought how much you dilute it, silly me.
4. flavor – the taste, is it smooth, spicy or citrus-y?

We are served with Sumatra (Asia Pacific) and Ethiopia (Africa) coffee, then Guatemala (Latin America). I know cloudnine likes her coffee black. I turned to my pretty imooto-chan with an inquisitive look “daijobu?” She nodded and smiled to reassure me that she does not take milk or sugar in her coffee either. I looked at the other 4 ladies and they have not thrown up yet. Okkkkkk, so I guess I was the only weird one there! The presenter was eager to fetch our reactions to each coffee especially I had this dazed, murky look on my face. Under ‘normal’ circumstances, I am very willing and readily to share my opinion with others. However I didn’t think he’d be too thrilled to hear me say, “Um Hm, well, my thoughts on the 3 kinds of coffee are bitter, bitterer and bitterest!” so I stuck these goodies in my mouth to keep it occupied :)

Regardless, I still enjoyed my ‘enchanted-leisure turned caffeine-charged’ afternoon with cloudnine and my imooto-chan, just hope they were not bore to pieces. I thought I could blog about this last night, afterall, I did have 4 cups of black ink, oops I meant black coffee! Hahaha, but I slept like a baby, must be charmed out by my lovely companions :)


Hyds said...

hehehehe I could so relate to this one Jaime!Thanks.I am a Starbucks regular too. And wow!! your cafe there looks far better than ours. It's always busy anytime in here and many fight for those lounges.. They never get empty however I go to enjoy the music and a good old discourse.
I always order a regular machiatto otherwise I won't be able to finish it..when I need an energy booster like today black coffee with sugar is perfect.
This time I have to consider those tips you've said before drinking my coffee hehehe I'm so used to Colombian, Puerto Rican, or Parisean coffee, must try something else. ;-)

jaime said...

Hi Hyds,

Thanks for reading, you like mocchiato? Is it caramel, just like our Yong Joon? I heard business is not as good as before in the States now, as people turn to donuts store for good and cheaper coffee.

Hehe, that's actually not Starbucks, just a venue holding the seminar. The Starbucks around here have nice and warm decor too, but definitely very busy and crowded. Please take care.

love ... jaime

jenny said...

Hi Lady Jaime

You are very funny. Actually I am having a minor headache this morning but I am laughing all the way while reading your experience in the coffee seminar.

If you are saying Starbucks Coffee I like their mocha but a bit expensive for the economy now.I totally agreed with you how to drink coffee hor without cream and sugar, but to those who really taste the coffee will not put anything. Still there is group also who didn't put anything because there have illneses.

Eh without cream and sugar will make you more awake. Is this the reason you start write late in the night. He he he he he



Hyds said...

Yes, it's caramel. There's a competition with Costa which is equally good and coffee isn't as strong as the 'bucks. I must say the latter was criticized for running the taps all day in made headlines here. Didn't stop people from going though.
I enjoyed that read. Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jaime and Bae sisters:
Starbucks is special for students and professionals because they can use their computers and I pods with Wifi signals in the coffee shop. And nobody ever complains however long they sit and discourse and write their papers. But there are many Starbucks franchises that are closing, and a recent survey reveals that Donkin Doughnuts serves the best coffee! Starbucks however, will never lose its culture of coffee drinking brought to perfection as you wrote about it! So what kind of coffee, tea, chocolate does Bae Yong Joon prefer?
Sarang Hamnida,
josephine pasricha

Anonymous said...

Hi Jaime,

That was indeed caffein-charged afternoon, which I really enjoyed.
Our imooto-chan said she also enjoyed and learned a lot.

Oh, the passage Tom Hanks wrote to Meg Ryan, is it really true to you, too? (When I watched the movie, I had no idea about S.B, so I didn't get it maybe...)

I was thinking we Japanese ajumnas are only ones who are always in trouble in front of the cashier. When the menu is written on the chalkboard, it really looks like a scientific journal to me, hehe.

cloud nine

yudi said...

Dear Jaime,

I was laughing all the way while reading this, since I had the exact same experience with you. Almost every time I get into S.B., I walk out with the same boring cup of coffee. Once I even joked with my daughter "Maybe you should get a part time job with S.B. when you grow up", so I can figure out their "scientific journal" under her help, hehe.
Vancouver is the city with the most S.B. I've ever seen, maybe because it is very close to Seattle. (I live in Calgary now, not very far from your formal home...comparing to your current home of course, hehe)
I learned a lot by reading your blog, today I know something more about coffee. Thanks Jaime.

jaime said...

Hi dear Jenny,

Thank you for reading and I hope your headache is gone by now.
Hehe, we all have our own little story to tell about drinking coffee, eh?

Have a great weekend!
love .... jaime

jaime said...

Dear Josephine,

I agree with you. SB is more of a leisure culture, most people go there because they love to sit down and read a magazine or chat. I myself started that way too, taking my little boy there to buy his books. Hehe, my neighbourhood library actually let people take their coffee inside to read too. Guess they also recognize this is the reading culture now. Have a great weekend.

love ... jaime

jaime said...

hi hi cloudnine,

glad our young lady friend also enjoyed the seminar. hehe, not just japanese ajumma, I think most people don't know one blend from another, including me. Everybody just say House Blend, right?

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Hi Hyds,

Ahhhh, so you have the same taste as wuri Yong Joon in mocchiato. So COsta is a donuts chain in England?

love ... jaime

jaime said...

Hi Yudi,

Thanks for reading and you're from Canada?! Yes yes, Calgary is not too far from Toronto. Have you lived in Vancouver too? Do you know our fellow fan Coco? Glad you enjoy and have a great weekend!

love ... jaime

vegas said...

My Dear Lady Jaime,

I have been catching up with your posts and have enjoyed reading this one. You are as witty as ever, but you have also shed some light on coffee. I too am not a coffee drinker, but love the aroma. I usually opt for tea, but I also stand there, reading their menus trying to figure out what is what when I only want tea. LOL

I do hope all is well with you. Things in the US are so sad now. It's tough, but we all have to hang in there.

Take good care!!
Thanks for sharing so much with us!

yudi said...

Hi Jaime,

I don't know Coco (a nice name). I am a pretty new fan of our prince. Although I knew his name long time ago, I didn't even have an interest to spare sometime from my busy life to look into a "movie star's" world at that time. I never expected that I would become a crazy fan of any star back then. But everything just changed when I bumped into Yong Joon's world after watching "Winter Sonata" very luckily last year (Can you believe this is the first Yong Joon's work I ever 2008, am I still living in this world?). It is as you said an enchanted encounter, I know how much I've already get from dear Yong Joon and his warm big family.

jaime said...

Dear Vegas,

It's so nice to hear from you. Oh, you're a tea person too, ocha? I know what you mean, we keep hearing these layoffs and bankruptcy every day. Just hope things will turn around soon. Please take care!

love .... jaime

jaime said...

Hehe yudi,

Better late than never. Same here, sometimes I wish I'd known BYJ earlier, but I am just glad I am his fan. We are in the lucky group who get that 'sparks' from him, well, it's all meant to be. Thanks for writing to me :)

love .... jaime

catt said...

I had to laugh at your description of coffee without cream and sugar - "four cups of black ink"!

My feelings exactly! In the US, just about everyone drinks coffee and I have never been able to acquire a taste for it.

It always seemed like a rite of passage: when you drink coffee, you are an adult. (when I was young, children were not really "allowed" to have it - we had to drink milk!)

Imagine, when I had my first cup of coffee at about 16 years of age and my thoughts were - bleh ... this stuff is awful!!!

I have tried it again over the years ... still ... bleh! Consequently, I kind of feel like I have never "grown up"!

If I loaded it with sugar, cream, etc. I probably could make it sweet enough to somewhat enjoy, but then, what is the point of drinking coffee? So I just drink tea, which I do like. (still with sugar though!)

I live in the US and know many who MUST have that cup of Starbucks coffee each day, but not me! Plus, if I spend $4 or $5 on fancy cup of coffee each day -- I have less money to buy Kdramas and magazines with BYJ and my other kdrama faves in them!

Hmmmmm...BYJ or a cup of Starbucks coffee ... no contest ...BYJ, of course!

bb said...

me like my coffee black sometimes too :)

actually i started taking coffee (in any form, latte, cappucino...) without sugar from my days down under. i was doing my masters there, and would often buy a takeaway coffee to bring into the lectures. but it's so troublesome to manage the sugar, stirrer and stuff when you still had to juggle books and all... so, i gave up on sugar and never looked back since.

today, i can't drink coffee with sugar at all :p

jaime said...

Hi Catt,

I know exactly what you mean. I have to thank SB for introducing those fancy drinks, or else I would never even try coffee! but for $4-5 a cup, you can get a bowl of wonton noodles plus a drink in some Chinese noodle shops in Toronto, still SB is doing great business there. Hehe, BYJ over anything anytime! Thanks for writing to me.

regards .... jaime

jaime said...

Hi Hi princess,

Yes, I know more people drinking black coffee now than before. I guess you ladies are the ones who really know coffee and appreciate it. Hehe, I wish I were as cool as you! Now when I go to my Japanese lesson, I also grab a coffee, but it takes me a good extra 3 minutes to do all the sugar and milk thingy :)

Don't worry la princess, I know you are too busy to write, thanks!

love ... jaime

swe said...

hello lady



Anonymous said...

hi jamie

again... reading your thought sis.. you're so funny..
i love SB's cappuchino ..hehe..
btw.. Sumatera coffee come from Takengon, province of Aceh..and Sumatera island is the second bigger island of Indonesia..