For the love of caffeine: my steady flame of green tea and the coffee that tempts me to stray

Mocha brownies, Coffee Crisp chocolate bars, cafe latte jelly bellies and chocolate truffles with coffee centres . . . these are a few of my favorite sweets. Variations on a theme that is never ending. The surprise here is that despite my love of all things coffee flavored, I almost never drink coffee in Canada. I’ve long been a lover of green tea. Japanese, Chinese, matcha, raspberry-pomegranate, hot or cold I love it so much that I rarely add sweetener. It’s only with travel that I’ve started to enjoy coffee. Even to the point where I’ve found that in some countries – I can’t live without it!

It all started a few summers ago in Spain. It was a backpacking trip focused on partying with as much culture squeezed in as possible. Prix fixe meals are common there and any breakfast deals included espresso. Although espresso is not a proven hangover cure, it sure didn’t hurt. And, WOW, is espresso ever good in Spain! I think I only passed off one “free” coffee to a friend before it became one of the things I looked forward to the most in the morning. There is nothing like sipping that rich, dark liquid while the morning sun warms up the cobblestones in old Madrid. This espresso fling occurred a few years ago, and you’d think I’d have continued to enjoy espresso in Canada, but I resisted and instead continued my steady relationship with green tea. Green tea still doesn’t know about this brief indiscretion.


I'll never forget this espresso in Madrid.

Recently, on the road again, I’ve discovered coffee temptation of a different kind. First it was Kopi-O in Malaysia that I discovered in my quest to try a traditional nonya breakfast. If you order coffee in Malaysia, you’ll get a very strong, sweet drink with what feels like equal parts coffee and sweetened condensed milk. If you want something different, you need to be more specific. Since I don’t drink milk (I’m lactose intolerant), my order is Kopi-O which still contains plenty of sugar and I prefer it iced. Mmmm mmm! I was hooked from my first sip. I’ve been chasing around Malaysian coffee ever since – I was really excited to find it on a Thai island just North of Malaysia! I did a little research to discover why it’s so good and it turns out they roast their coffee beans in either margarine or butter!


I found Malay style coffee in Thailand!

It wasn’t long after my discovery in Malaysia that I gave Vietnamese coffee a try. Coffee in Vietnam similarly comes strong and sweet with sweetened condensed milk. I’ve met frustrated tourists who ordered black coffee only to find it full of sugar – which happens to be just how I like it, thank you very much! I discovered Vietnamese coffee as a bit of an accident too. I needed a caffeine boost after a night bus and had my first. Only minutes after this first coffee had my friend and I arranged for accommodation in the room above the coffee shop and we had negotiated the price to include a free coffee each morning. I was hooked once again!


A soy latte treat at brunch in Singapore.

On arrival in Hanoi, the deal got even sweeter. I discovered egg coffee which is like having an egg white custard in your coffee! Dessert and coffee together? Heaven! I was delighted to discover that I could order this kind of coffee without milk, in fact, I’ve read that it was initially invented at a time when milk was scarce. My favorite morning in Hanoi was spent drinking two egg coffees at a street front cafe. Yes, you heard that right, I drank two coffees in a row! I barely tore myself away from drinking a third – I definitely cannot handle that much caffeine in a day.


My morning of egg coffees in Hanoi.

It’s getting harder and harder to leave coffee behind and I brought some Vietnamese and Malaysian coffee with me to New Zealand. It’s only a limited amount, but I think green tea is starting to get suspicious. I may have to beg for forgiveness . . right after I finish this cup of java.

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