I stumbled upon something called erowid.org forums. According to these people almost anything from absinthe to yoga can be abused. Grind up some caffeine pills, add ammonia, microwave the mixture – bam – freebase smokable caffeine. It’s a thing. Can you abuse blue cheese? Can you have a bad trip on chocolate? It’s crazy stuff.
Today I received in the mail a fresh shipment of coffee from Victrola Coffee. Inside, along with the coffee was a handwritten postcard, thanking me for buying their coffee and encouraging me to let them know what I think about it.
I bought a pound of their house blend, Streamline Espresso ($13 /lb), as well as half pound packages of pricier special coffees, Colombia La Esperanza #1 Cup of Excellence ($18/lb) and Kenya AA Mtaro ($14/lb).
If I had sufficient financial resources, I would buy coffee in half pound increments, on a weekly schedule, because coffee is only at its best for a few days after roasting. I would also buy a Synesso Cyncra and a Clover machine. Well, ok, enough dreaming, as what I have in terms of coffee and equipment right now is pretty damn good.
I loaded the award winning Colombia La Esperanza into my grinder and pulled a shot. There was a lot of crema (as there always is with coffee this fresh), but it wasn’t deep red. There were little dark flecks which I guess could pass for “tiger flecking.”
“Juicy, complex citric notes in the dry aroma turn into dried apricots in the crust. The cup is astonishingly clean with brilliant cranberry acidity, white wine, honey & melon.”
– says the website.
Tasting wine, coffee and cigars is highly subjective, and gets rather ridiculous, just like judging audiophile equipment. I never know if I am so stupid and insensitive that I can’t detect all the subtleties that the real fanatics detect; or so stupid that I believe that generally vacuum tube amps sound more pleasant and that there are “notes” of different stuff in good coffee, wine and cigars.
Starbucks has a huge variety of coffees. They all taste pretty much the same though, because they are over-roasted and under-extracted. Espresso made from any of their beans has the same notes: hydrochloric acid, burnt coffee and donkey. Yet they go on and talk about notes of chocolate, toffee and oranges; conduct coffee tastings and train their employees to talk about it to the customers.
Once you properly pull a shot of well roasted coffee that is also fresh, it does not have enough acid that would cover up the thousands of complex aromatic organic molecules that really confuse your taste buds. Your brain starts trying to assign familiar tastes to the weird electrical impulses generated by your taste buds. Without overpowering bitterness and burnt character, the playing field is leveled for these subtle and rather weird flavors. Coffee starts tasting the way freshly ground coffee smells.
The beans of Colombia La Esperanza had a smell that I have not encountered in my life yet. It was similar to the way really expensive chocolate-covered dried apricot would smell, although that wasn’t it. It was something else. But if it were sold, it would come from an expensive store individually wrapped in tissue papers inside a well-made wooden box.
Espresso made from the beans was amazingly tasty. The major taste element was that weird apricot smell which actually went away after a while, replaced by something very similar to an expensive white wine aftertaste.
In short, some of the best espresso that I’ve had in a long while. And that apricot-like taste still haunts me.
In one of the stories of the late genius science fiction writer Robert Sheckley, the main character needs crazy and exotic items to cast a spell. Bat wings, eyes of newt, etc, etc. Seemingly hard to find items, yet the character did not have any problems finding them. Why? Because he lived in Manhattan. You can find the most obscure, impossible to locate items in New York. Dried parasitic fungus that feeds on caterpillars? I had no trouble finding it.
A couple of days ago I made a happy discovery. It looks like Manhattan has it’s own chain of authentic Japanese “konbini” – convenience stores. When I visited Japan, I really liked konbinis. They have 7-Eleven, just like we do, but also Ministop, Lawson, Sunkus and FamilyMart.
So, what’s different in a Japanese konbini? The variety and quality of junk food that they sell is a lot better. They are stocked with a humongous variety of snacks. Dozens of types of dried squid and fish for beer, Japanese sweets, nuts, edamame, sashimi quality fish, japanese pickles like umeboshi. The variety of soft drinks and genki drinks. They also have Japanese shampoos and skincare products. In short, they are stuffed with Japanese goodness of overpowering variety.
I’ve been to SAM BOK store at 127 West 43rd Street before. It was nice but not the same as the real Japanese kombini. Also there’s a big Chinese supermarket in my are which has a lot of Japanese stuff. Not the same either. But then I found JAS MART. It even has 3 locations!
35 St. Marks Place, (Bet 2nd & 3rd Ave), NYC
Sun – Thur: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Fri & Sat: 11:00 AM – 12:00 AM
34 East 23rd Street, (Bet Park & Madison Ave), NYC
Mon – Fri: 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Sat & Sun: 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
2847 Broadway, (Bet 110th & 111th St), NYC
Mon – Sun: 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM
They even have genki drinks and Coffee Boss coffe! I’ve been to the one on 23rd street and promptly loaded myself up with goodies. Unagi eel, unagi sauce, roasted rice tea, sencha tea, several types of dried ika and fish, umeboshi, edamame. It’s a little expensive, but hey – beats buying tickets to Japan.
Coffee Boss is a brand of Japanese canned coffee drinks with a J. R. “Bob” Dobbs-look alike mascot. They are sold in Japanese style soda machines which look rather different from the US Coke/Pepsi machines. They can serve the cans hot or cold. I wonder why somebody doesn’t bring some of these to Manhattan – it looks like the design of soda machines hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years!
Pocari Sweat is a brand of Japanese sports drink, and despite the name rather tasty I might add. Notice the recycling can next to the machine – apparently the Japanese etiquette requires you to finish drinking your soft drinks next to the machine and not walking around with them. Almost every machine sold unsweetened green tea, in many cases Coke or Pepsi-branded.
It’s a proven fact : bubbles make caffeinated beverages better. Take a crappy tonic drink from Thailand, add carbonation, introduce it in Europe and the US and bam – you are a billionaire. Introduce espresso (simplistically speaking a very concentrated coffee with a foam of sugars, proteins and oils on top) and cappuccinos (add foamed milk to an espresso) in America on industrial basis – and bam – you almost a billionaire.
Seems like the next logical step is tea. You see, Japanese have this tea ceremony thing. Never being a big fan of tea, but being a Japanophile at heart, I always wanted to try that. Unfortunately to this day I haven’t, but I definitely tried some tea that is used in the ceremony. They were selling it in a booth in Kyoto alongside with ice cream.
Japanese tea ceremony involves two kinds of tea, “thick” and “thin”. From what I understand the difference mainly in the dilution and the quality of tea. I like stronger flavors, like espresso and scotch, so I prefer to make thick tea. Making is very simple. You take some high quality powdered tea called Matcha and put it into a bowl. You pour some hot water on top (I use the water from my espresso machine’s hot water spigot). Then you take a special whisk called chasen that is made by splitting a single piece of bamboo and whip your beverage up, kind of like making shaving lather with those old fashined shaving whisks.
You get a radioactive green liquid that is absolutely loaded with green tea flavor, caffeine and and antioxidants. I already went through a package of medium cheaper Matcha, I think I’ll order some of the higher quality stuff as well.
Here’s how Matcha is served in Japan, with regular tea and sweets. The one on the right is wrapped in a pickled leaf of sakura.
Here’s what I just made for myself:
Recently I visited New York offices of a certain Redmond based corporation. The corporation in question always has free snacks and soft drinks in its numerous kitchens (the home campus having an especially fancy selection at that).
Their office coffee machine fascinated me even more than “Colombian Supremo” vs “Colombien La Vereda” K-Cups and content of “Milds” in Mother-Parkers’ packets. (As a side note I’d like to add this rumor that Tim Horton’s coffee made by Mother Parkers is so addictive that some people think it contains cocaine).
Anyway, the Redmondsoft coffee machine is made by Flavia and uses packets that look like miniature iv bags:
I asked to keep one as a souvenir – they were out of coffee and this is actually a hot chocolate packet. The coffee packets were probably all injected by employees. They also had tea packets which were smaller in size.
I’ve made coffee in almost every which way, except percolated. I also never owned a percolator. Alt.coffee news group FAQ which I always regarded as the highest authority in all things caffeinated, seriously disses the French-invented percolator. On the other hand, people who actually drank percolated coffee usually have good things to say about it. Because of that I think I’ll hunt for a nice percolator specimen on eBay. A glorious Art Deco instrument in chrome and Bakelite. Even if I won’t like it’s coffee making characteristics, it will remain in my collection as a sculpture.
(This particular auction seems to be reflectoporn free.
There is something that can not be captured in a hastily taken photograph in how Bear Stearns World Headquarters Building shines, with it’s glass crown sucking up clouds, amongst dark art deco buildings of the Jewelry District, when already late, sleepy and caffeine deprived I drag myself to work, on the way to the door handle that will give me a static shock and my noisy cubicle. I also can’t take a decent picture of the building’s crown when it lights up at night.
Joseph Ainslee Bear and Robert B. Stearns must have been superhuman to build a company that occupies a building like that. At leas their names are pretty cool. I wonder what “B” stands for.
This morning I was stumped by a choice of K-Cups forced onto me. Timothy’s brand “Colombien La Vereda” or Green Mountain brand “Colombian Supremo”? How am I to choose when I have no idea of their contents of milds?
Also, recently gleaned from
After some research and trial and error I finally found the best tea making device.
It’s a Bodum Assam teapot. It has two advantages over the clay teapots. First of all it’s clear. It makes it very easy to judge the strength of your infusion. Second, the french press like plunger filter stops the infusion process, yet you don’t have to take out and discard tea leaves immediately. One drawback might be that the tea cools down faster than in a clay pot, but I actually like cold tea.
By the way, I highly recomend Kitchen Kapers. I buy a lot of my kitchen gadgets from them.
We tender this premium coffee for your enjoyment as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the deadprogrammer’s collection to you 33.
Recently a commercial Bunn coffeemaker in our office kitchen was replaced with an automatic Keurig B2003 machine that uses K-cups. K-cups are a neat technology, but not suitable to good coffee preparation. Cffee from k-cups tastes like coffee prepared in athletic cups (because it gets very stale). On the other hand, conventional Bunn machine was actually very good, but we had the most foul prepackaged coffee. To this day I have one package of that coffee hanging on the wall of one cubicle. Check it out:
I new there was something weird in that coffee. “Milds”! What the hell are “milds”? Judging by taste it is probably tobacco. Or dried dog crap. But then, what else what did I expect from a company called “Mother-Parkers”? Hey, these motherparkers even have a website.
There is an OU symbol on the package. Milds must be kosher.