Jun 29, 2012

How Gilmore Girls led me to think drinking an unreasonable amount of coffee is okay

'Gilmore Girls' used to be one of my favorite shows during high school (yes, now you can totally guess what kind of high schooler I used to be). I loved the show for its irresistibly amusing and unrelentingly speedy dialogues. Loved the sweet little small town concept where the two seemingly vulnerable mother and daughter find family outside of family. The random struggles with random men and its mockery of the old money of the Northeast. But most of all, I remember noticing that the main characters always sat in the town diner drinking coffee possibly multiple times a day. I mean, I'm sure the production sets are limited but one of the strong characteristics of Lorelai (the mom) was supposed to be that she's a huge coffee drinker. Coffee is absolutely necessary to both the mother and the daughter, it's also an important element in their socialization. 

So why am I talking about this show again? Well, ever since I've started watching the show everyday from around 2006 or so, my caffeine intake has slowly and steadily gone up to the level of a mild addiction. And I blame this show because I completely admired the main characters as a teenager aspiring to be a unique woman on her own. Like I said before, being able to drink black coffee symbolized entering the real adulthood. Being able to drink a lot of coffee meant my emotional attachment to this show. Oh how I love this show.

Jun 25, 2012

The Art of Home-made Espresso

Being home means homemade coffee. Always. I apologize in advance for a bit of profanity but screw Dallas and its absence of good, unique cafes. I'm definitely not a Starbucks-hater but when it becomes the only option I have for coffee in Plano, it gets old fast.

I guess my parents feel the same way. Without much hesitation, my dad purchased a pricey espresso machine from Germany for their 25th wedding anniversary, which's just around the corner. I spent all weekend gawking at the beautiful machine, begging my dad to instruct me in the art of espresso making, and drinking too much caffeine as a result which left me pretty much sleepless the entire weekend. But let me tell you something as a coffee lover - sipping on a perfectly brewed espresso early in the morning while having breakfast with the ones you love is something I cherish much more than going out at night to get drunk off of alcohol. I mean, I drink too, but drinking coffee means so much more to me than anything. Everyone has their preferences, and mine is sipping on espresso. A dark, aromatic and beautifully thick shot of espresso. Maybe sometimes with just the right amount of steamed milk. Sometimes with hot water, making it into my favorite drink of all time - americano. Point here is that I'm a coffee person.

So with that being said, you can just imagine how much it means to me to be able to make my own espresso. I just went up to a whole new level in my coffee obsession. After a few practices, I decided I must become a barista sooner or later - I mean I'm going to be that 70-year-old grandma running the cutest cafe in the world in the end anyway...

So here's a bit of what I've learned.

- Grinding the right kind of coffee, at the right kind of texture is very important. Can't be too fine or too coarse. After you dump the ground coffee onto the head, you tamp it with the tamper with about 30lbs of weight. Make sure it's got a even surface.

then you got to dispense some water to take out the heat...


Excuse the abstract latte art. We haven't perfected that area yet. But man, this latte was delicious.


Jun 19, 2012

Americano #1

I'm the type of girl that has no problem gulping down plain old black coffee. So I've gotten a lot of astonished looks from people who contested that I was weird for not having any sugar or cream in my coffee. I blame my mother, the one that actually got me in on this whole coffee business, since she's a big black coffee drinker herself. My first encounter with black coffee was at 16, and I wish I had a really cool story of how I became obsessed with coffee but I really don't. I woke up one day and realized I had become accustomed to love black coffee. It became a necessity. Companion. Something to make a big ol' blog about.

But after a few years of drinking coffee and espresso drinks, I started to notice the differences between a plain cup of black coffee and a cup of cafe americano (shots of espresso diluted with water) - and starting a few years back, I became a total americano junkie. What's the difference? Well, I like to think Americano to be more flavorful. It's also got a more sophisticated taste (which's pretty ironic for me to say, since I carry little or no sophistication in my demeanor) and is stronger than coffee. According to this blog, espresso is made with blending of different coffee beans to extract the flavors whereas filtered coffee is better made with a single origin coffee.

Well anyway, americano is my go-to drink anywhere I go. I rarely drink anything else. So if you're a Starbucks frappuccino drinker looking for other great frappuccino places, maybe I won't be the best person to seek advice from. I shamefully spend $2.11 every morning at Starbucks (yes, with my personalized gold card of course. Who wouldn't want to miss out on the every 15th drink is free deal?!) for a cup of americano. It literally lightens up my day. That might be a bit problematic. But all exaggerations and jokes aside, I love my americanos.

Americano at Houndstooth, Austin TX - photograph by AM

Someone told me the story behind Americanos once. Apparently when Americans first visited Italy and tried the pure espresso, the drink was way too strong for them. So they asked the Italians to mix more water to dilute the coffee. Hence, the name Americano. Not too sure if that's completely true but sounds very likely. 

Americano at Ost Cafe, New York, NY | Photograph by AM
I had the best Cafe Americano of my life when I was in New York City this past March. I walked into Ost Cafe, which was a block or two away from my cousin's East Village apartment where I was staying at, and they really showed me what a good Americano is. Very rich and surprisingly creamy, the coffee was so smooth. I think I really did enjoy every single drop of it.  

At a dessert place in Vancouver, BC, Canada in December 2011 | photograph by AM

Americanos are also a perfect complement to sweet desserts like the ones above. I was in Vancouver for a week or so past winter, where I visited my childhood best friend and some other people, and this city definitely had some crazy dessert cafes. Maybe I'll talk about them more later on. But maybe this is the real reason why I love americanos; it gives me a really nice incentive to eat chocolate and cakes and cookies and etc...I can go on forever. 

Jun 18, 2012

Purpose of this blog

black coffee, mexican hot chocolate and latte from Spider House, Austin TX / photo by Ariel Min

I really should be searching for and applying to jobs right now. But the future me will worry about that tomorrow, maybe.
This is a place for me to rant about coffee, one of my favorite things in the world. I'm actually going through a phase of a pretty unhealthy espresso obsession right now, so bear with me. I live in Austin TX, and I love scavenging for cafes with some good coffee and awesome atmosphere. So after living here for about 4 years, I finally feel a little qualified to guide others to finding good cafes...so here we go. Enjoy!