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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Caffeinated Irony

Leave it to me to come to China to discover fantastic coffee.

China's store-bought coffee is instant coffee. As in, add water, stir, and you get some offensively bilious garbage that only a desperate fool would call coffee.

This will not do.

So when fortune smiled upon me and delivered unto me a coffee machine along with my new place in Jilin (despite the one I had in storage in Hong Kong that is as we speak (type?) en route), I decided I needed to find a source for ground coffee.

Once again, I was luckier than I was in Zhanjiang, because the local markets around here actually have import sections, containing a limited but certainly acceptable variety of ground coffee to any caffeinistas out there.

But then I walked by a little coffee shop near the Da Fuyuan market (I know, the 'ol mom and pop's Da Fuyuan), when what to my shimmering coffee-obsessed eye did appear, but a miniature grinder and bags of coffee beans, oh dear! Yes, the store carried whole-roasted coffee beans, bean grinders, bean roasters, and all sorts of coffee-brewing paraphernalia. You could even buy green coffee beans, roast them yourself at home, and then grind them at home for the ultimate in fresh coffee. That may be the next step, but I digress.

No, seriously, I do. Watch.

So I bought myself a small, hand-powered coffee grinder, and a little sack of Columbian beans. (See? Digression.) I brought that sucker home and got to work, and brewed myself a few cups of amazingly good coffee. It's unlike any coffee I've had before: upon brewing, the pot shimmers a beautiful warm ruby, the aroma is a dry muskiness from the freshly-crushed beans, and the taste is a sharp, delicious jolt lacking the bitterness of freeze-dried and even industrially-ground coffee. It's a satisfying sip, too, because you're actually tasting the freshly-cut, freshly-brewed bean.

So it's sadly ironic that I travel to the opposite (new word: antipodean) side of the planet, the veritable tea capital of the world, and indulge in coffee. But hey, the two are not mutually exclusive, and I'm buying and enjoying all kinds of great tea as well.

I can't believe how much I write about beverages. Good lord.

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