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.

Vietnam: the tailored suit experience in Hoi An

“So, this fabric is blue white and this one is off white?” I asked for the third time over the din of customers discussing look books.
My consultant was not amused, “I take you to workshop to see fabrics. You want?”
I shrugged my shoulders, surprised at this unexpected development, “Um, ok?”
“Stand up! Follow me, quickly!”

I can’t have been the only customer in the busy tailor shop to have trouble picking a fabric for my shirt, but I was the only one being hustled outside and down the block to examine the bolts of cotton in person. Despite my consultant’s apparent annoyance with my indecisiveness, she did a great job explaining the difference in possible suit detailing and made sure I understood what I was ordering.

I had a basic idea of what I wanted before I entered Kimmy’s tailor shop in Hoi An. Hugo Boss makes a great classic and I brought a few ideas and pictures with me. Turns out Kimmy’s had that covered. They had iPads full of pictures on hand for browsing various classic and not-so-classic looks. Being able to select a bright blue jacket lining and matching button hole stitching on the sleeves really upped my fun value of having a custom suit made.


Feeling great in my brand new suit

They did a great job working with my measurements, because everything fit really well off the bat. I only had a few requests for changes due to personal preference and they were all made with no complaints even when it required redoing the sleeves on both my jacket and my shirt.

I selected their recommended middle range fabric (a blend of wool, cashmere and silk) and it feels great on. I tested it for movement by squatting, sitting and reaching up.  Seems like it will wear well but time will tell.


Details of my custom suit made in Hoi An

I really enjoyed the whole experience and I feel like a million bucks in my new suit. Can’t wait to wear it. So next time you feel like suiting-up don’t forget to give me a call!

[Side note: the dialogue above is paraphrased and my consultant spoke English very well.]