Who is Your Most Wonderful Friend?: Books

Who is Your Most Wonderful Friend?: Books

Books are the most wonderful friends in the world. When you meet them and pick them up, they are always ready to give you a few ideas. When you put them down, they never get mad; when you take them up again, they seem to enrich you all the more.”-Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

They are also emotional.  They can be mad, sad, lonely, happy, glad, scary, apprehensive, shy, wonderful, helpful, merry, confused, relieved, amused, crushed, curious, nervous, fearful, annoyed, hopeful, funny, brave, numb, safe, loving, confident, quiet, blue, angry, stressed, tender and loving.

Sometimes you can’t even handle how emotional they are.  However you can never stop being friends with them because you feel alive when you are with them.

Spending hours on reading books at my favorite café with some kind of espresso drink on sunny day or rainy day means contentment to me.  When taking a short break from reading and happen to look out to the window of the café, you realize you are the happiest person on the earth.  Books are the most wonderful friends because they teach you that life is beautiful like that.

My Kind of Meditation: Coffee, Cream and Sugar

My Kind of Meditation:  Coffee, Cream and Sugar

When I feel like this (oh, life is so hard).

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I translate my body is asking for some happiness injection.  Gentle sugar intake.  I barely use sugar when I drink coffee since I want to enjoy pure flavor and taste of coffee beans but sometimes what you need is good quality sugar and happy cow cream.

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Inner beauty is important but outer beauty is also important.  I don’t know what it is but I have this huge love for mason jars.  Whatever you put in, they all look lovely.  I even put my  quinoa salad in one of my mason jars and bring it as my lunch.  Anyhow, coffee also looks good in that.

I like to use rock sugar or raw sugar because it taste milder and rounder than refined sugar, to me anyways. Sometimes all you need is to take extra few minutes to grind beans, boil the water, and inhale fantastic coffee aroma while pouring water over the coffee.  Your life would be so much better after that.  It is sort of like meditating.

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Some tips on making this coffee…use good quality coffee. I tend to like higher acidity beans from Africa.  Use good quality sugar and cream, this makes so much difference.  You can also add vanilla beans (real) to ground beans to it.  Don’t rush to do anything.  Please make sure to taste it.

Luner New Year: Komodo Dragon

Luner New Year: Komodo Dragon

On morning of Chinese New Year, what is the appropriate way to wake yourself up?
Komodo Dragon, of course. Komodo Dragon is one of Starbucks’ core coffees. Rich, deep, dark. Also earthy spicy and kick. It will take you to Southeast Asia somewhere. You will feel like you are wondering around in the forest hearing these exotic birds and animal crying.

This coffee does not have any association to Chinese New Year but it is nice to start the day taking a trip to where you have not been to, by drinking Komodo Dragon. Happy Lunar Nee Year, everyone.

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Sixty Four Minutes of Patience Takes You to…Amsterdam: Arabica Lounge

Sixty Four Minutes of Patience Takes You to…Amsterdam: Arabica Lounge

1. It is a long line to order your food and drink.

2. It takes a long time until your food comes out.

3. Staffs are not so  attentive.

If you do not like these facts of restaurants or cafes, you would not like to keep reading this post because this place I write about today does have a long line to order, they take a long time to prepare your food and the staff are not super attentive.

I love Capitol Hill in Seattle.  It’s weird and not-so-clean, but it offers a lot of character and feels welcoming for some reason.  I came to Seattle for the first time to study English and lived at a dorm at Seattle University.  It was located (still is) on 12th and James, and I used to walk to Broadway to check out  funky small shops and do some human watching (there were LOTS of “interesting” people back then).  Capitol Hill has gone through numerous changes and people say it is not the same Capitol Hill anymore, but this place still attracts me and I notice I feel nostalgia every time I go there.

Arabica Lounge is located at the corner of East Olive Way and Denny.  Many of the old buildings (I love old architecture!) still remain around there instead of being replaced by these ugly new apartment (cheap materials and ugly…ugly!) buildings with no character nor the care.  This place is located in one of those old buildings with big windows and lots of sunlight.  If you are like me, as soon as  you enter this café, you feel like you are transported to somewhere in Europe.  Maybe like Amsterdam.  People working there and people drinking, eating, chatting, reading, laptop-ing, iPhone-ing or just being are all beautiful people.  I am not saying they all look like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  What I mean is that they have their own style.  Some are hip, some are cool, some are groovy, some are rad, some are indie and some are just not.  They just look comfortable in their own skin.  This space a good level of intimacy but in the meantime you can still be alone with other people there if that makes sense.  I feel most comfortable at this kind of places.  They offer simple yet delicious food, well prepared drinks (traditional French bowl with Stumptown beans!  Oh MY!) and good music.  I wish I had a living room like that space.

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Arabica lounge is the best place to be yourself and alone with someone.  It is a place to connect with people who are exactly like you, who want to be themselves and are comfortable in their own skin without exchange of words.  You’ll want to bring 2 or 3 books when you go there.  Trust me, you want to easily stay there half a day but please be careful who you go with.  Go there by yourself or with someone who is like you.  I went there with Archie and this one friend who was sort of cranky that day.  While I was enjoying the time waiting for my food, he mentioned how long we had been waiting (it was 64 min actually but it did not feel like that long) and you don’t actually need to know that kind of information at Arabica Lounge.  This is where you go without your watch.

Bring no watch.  Bring your books, notebook and your favorite pen.  64-minute wait is totally worth of your time.

Meet Riley: Starbucks Flat White Expert

Meet Riley:  Starbucks Flat White Expert

Archie is a beer snob. He also is a coffee snob.  Other than those 2 departments, he is not snob.  Before we became friends, I was already a coffee snob.  Starbucks coffee, really?  It’s a chain just like McDonald, right?  That was our attitude before I actually started working for this company.  I have to admit espresso drinks are not my favorite.  Well, usually.

I have been working here a little over a year and I haven’t gotten tired of coming in to the smell of coffee yet.  It makes me happy every friggin’ morning.  Like I wrote before, coffee fixes everything.

Flat White; creamy micro-form steamed milk poured over two ristretto shots of espresso (Casi Cielo beans).  Ristretto shot is a smaller, more concentrated serving of espresso.  This drink has more intense espresso flavor.  Yes, if you are a Starbucks hater, I highly recommend to give it a try.  I hear it a lot, that Starbucks espresso drinks are too milky and they only taste milk.  I hear this all the time from Archie.

Riley is shy, lovely, cute and an experienced barista at Starbucks store on the 8th floor.  When she called my name when my flat white was ready, she was smiling ear to ear and said, “Mimi, look!  I made a heart (latte art for flat white is usually a white dot) for you.  Happy early Valentines’ day”  I was actually able to hear excitement and pride in her voice.  It was nice, such an amazing moment to share with Riley on Friday morning about 6:30am, on the 8th floor of Starbucks office building.  So, I snapped this photo right at the counter.  She got so excited when I told her that I was going to write about her in my blog soon.

My coffee snobbish attitude is slowly diminishing due to this kind of moment.  Also Archie had one the other day and he even said, “hmm, it is not bad at all.”  That is huge.  Just one short flat white might make your day and you might have a really nice surprise.

If Riley can make you one, even better.

Coffee Fixes Everything?: Starbucks Reserve® Sumatra Peaberry Lake Toba does

Coffee Fixes Everything?:  Starbucks Reserve® Sumatra Peaberry Lake Toba does

My morning was interesting.  Well, it was not interesting, it was actually bitter start.

Coffee.  Yes, coffee is needed for this kind or morning or any kind of morning.  Our office building has a few Clover® machines. The very first thing I do every morning is to go to 9th floor and make myself a delightful cup of coffee.  No sugar or milk is added in order to taste pure whole beans.  One of perks of working on a coffee team for a coffee company is the opportunity to taste millions of different coffees.  My favorite is Starbucks Reserve® Ethiopia Sun-Dried Yirgacheffe™ because this coffee gives you BAM!! blueberry smell when you open the bag and nice semi-sweet chocolate flavor.  What a romantic combination.

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Anyway,  Starbucks Reserve® Sumatra Peaberry Lake Toba,  I detected light acidity in the back of my tongue and very mild and smooth bitterness spread in my mouth slowly.  This coffee also has a bright fruity note and some sort of herbal note.  I was trying to think of a good description and finally figured it out.  It is green apple (!) for fruity flavor and cedar wood for herbal note.  This is such a charming combination of note and flavor.  Sumatra Peaberry Lake Toba has juicy entry and silky/smooth finish even though beans from Sumatra are very bold, almost chewy.  Because of the chewiness and density, I usually do not like Asian coffee, however, Sumatra Peaberry Lake Toba is the very first Asian coffee that I ever liked.  When enjoying this coffee, I was picturing myself sitting on swing in lightly humid but comfortable morning in early summer and enjoying sunrise.  I almost could see the moon fading and the sky turning from purple to deep pink to orange.

How can I carry on with the bitter morning start all day after this lovely cup of coffee.  You simply don’t.

I am a firm believer of this.  Coffee fixes everything.

Seattle Winter Blues: Convoy Coffee has a solution for you

Seattle Winter Blues:  Convoy Coffee has a solution for you

I do not want to see anyone, do not talk to anyone, do not want to do anything for anyone.  I just want to eat, read, hang out with my dog and drink coffee.  That’s it.  That’s all I want to do, kind of like hibernating.  Wait…coffee?

We are lucky, we really are.  We have quite a few neighborhood farmers markets all through the year just within city of Seattle. I go to U-District Farmers Market near University of Washington every Saturday Morning. http://seattlefarmersmarkets.org/markets/u-district  This farmers market has this Japanese farmer who grows and sells Japanese vegetables that you cannot buy at any other farmers markets or regular grocery stores.  Also U-Dist farmers markets seems to have more vendors and variety.  I love small vegetable farmers, butchers, fishermen, mushroomerries, bakers, beer brewers, tea makers, ginger-ale brewers, honey farmers, fermented food producers, poets with 1948 Royale typewriters are all together and showcasing their at-most quality produce (and poem) from all over Washington state.  Most importantly they are sharing their passion.

About a month ago, my nose was detecting something splendid, it’s called coffee at the market.  I approached them and started to talk about this coffee they were serving that day, “Ethiopian Wanago.”

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It smelled just like strawberries!  That means these beans make a cup of coffee that I would love.  Lots of people tend not to like citrusy and fruity coffee but I do.  I am in love with it.  Their shop is called “Convoy Coffee,” they only offer pour over and aeropress.  No lattes, no caramel macchiato, no damn pumpkin spice latte.  Perfect.

When I woke up, I was feeling like I was a bear.  I just wanted to hibernate but I forced myself to get out of the bed and I headed down to the market even thought it was (of course) raining and chilly.  And these smiley people were making coffee by spreading their love and passion for coffee.  He knows what kind of coffee that I like so he recommended “Guatemala Hanapu” roasted by Kuma (means bear in Japanese.  Ha) Coffee in Seattle, WA.  I ordered a cup of aeropress.  The impressive acidity sits in the middle of tongue and spreads slowly.  It was a quintessential combination of acidity, mild bitterness, kindness, tenderness and joy.

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Thank you Convoy Coffee, you took my hibernation desire away.  I will see you next Saturday.

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1970 Hacienda Alsacia : First Crop

1970 Hacienda Alsacia  : First Crop

Floral, fruit, chocolate, sweet & sugary, nut, grain, roast, spice, savory, herb, earthy, vegetal.

What do you think I am talking about?  These words are commonly used to describe flavor of coffee.  You can dig deeper if you want to.  For instance, let’s talk about coffee tastes like “chocolaty.”  Chocolaty could be categorized “cacao nibs,” “dark,” “bakers chocolate,” “bittersweet,” “cocoa powder,” milk chocolate” and so on. To be a coffee nerd, it is so fun to try to get those flavors by sipping a cup of well made coffee.

So now, this coffee.  This whole bean coffee is from Costa Rica and is grown by farmers in Costa Rica on the first coffee farm Starbucks has ever owned, Hacienda Alsacia.  As a photo of this coffee bag indicates, this is the first crop and they were only distributed to Starbucks employees this year because they did not produce enough beans to introduce to global market.

I am lucky enough to get to taste this delicious coffee.  I will try to describe Hacienda Alsacia as a certified coffee master (completely subjective however)

Balanced and medium soft body coffee with subtle notes of clementine.  Juicy, smooth, vibrant and clean and it taste a slight cocoa.  This would accompany well with citrus fruits such as clementine or orange, semi-sweet or dark chocolate and roasted walnuts.

Scratch that.  It does not matter, just enjoy (perhaps next year’s crop).

Hey, you are late for 1 on 1 meeting with your boss: Anniversary

Hey, you are late for 1 on 1 meeting with your boss: Anniversary

I thought I disliked surprises.  I found out today however that I enjoy them.

Do you love coffee?  I sure do.  I love everything about coffee, smell, shape, different flavor and taste depending on regions, history, romance of preparing coffee…list goes on.  I work for this coffee company and every day and every hour, someone is leading a coffee tasting.  Meetings-coffee tasting, birthdays-coffee tasting, welcoming new employees-coffee tasting, we have new crop-of course, coffee tasting, someone leaving the company-coffee tasting, someone getting married-coffee tasting.  Anyway, you get a point.

My boss sent me an email yesterday with this message, “Hi, can we please meet at 11 am on Thursday.  I’d like to talk a couple of things.”  She and I are tight.  She knows she can talk to me any time and on anything.  This message sounded a little strange to me because we do have regular 1 on 1 meeting every Monday.  I started to get nervous and I thought that she was going to leave the company (no!) or I was going to get let go (NO!!).

So today is Thursday.  I was having the meeting at 10:30 am with different team member and it was supposed to last only 30 min but the meeting went longer.  I sent a text message to my boss letting her know that I was running a little late.  She replied to me “you need to come see me now.”  Oh crap, I thought “this must be serious”  She will let me go.

I ran back to her office and she was waiting for me outside the door.  Oh great.  We are going to go to HR now to complete the exiting process.  She took me to this area where people can hang out, drink coffee, eat lunch, whatever that may be.  What I heard was, “SURPRISE!” “CONGRATS!”  Oh yeah, Today is my 1st year anniversary at work.

They prepared a big French press pot of Ethiopia coffee, dark chocolate to accompany with,a a gorgeous bouquet of flowers and a thoughtfully written card by my boss.

I will never forget the taste of coffee I had on the day of my 1st year anniversary at work and the day I found out I didn’t get let go.

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