Sunday, June 9, 2013

Coffee! (And Some Tea!)

Recently we broke in our coffee grinder with coffee beans that Eric picked up to remind him of his recent trip to Sao Paulo.  He raved about the coffee he tasted there and when he got back, he picked up some Brazilian beans at the Coffee & Tea Exchange in our neighborhood.  Eric and I have put together a good coffee-making set-up.  We have a one-cup coffee maker (which was passed down from my sister Val to my brother Tim to me) and a cappuccino machine that Eric has mastered.  While we enjoy coffee, neither of us is what I would consider a connoisseur.  We like good coffee, but we also go through creamer at a steady rate.  

It's tough to take a photo in our apartment without some sort of Michigan gear in it.
While we traveled last year (this time in 2012 we were in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia), we sampled local coffee everywhere we stopped.  Here's a round-up of some types of coffee or tea you might want to try on your travels or if you can find it at home.


When I get asked what my favorite place in the world is (an impossible question to answer) my mind often jumps to Istanbul.  From the architecture to the food to the views of the Bosphorus, it was easy for me to fall in love with the city.  Since Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, hanging out in bars is not as popular an evening pastime.  Instead, tea gardens are a popular spot for people to sit, smoke hookah and play chess (probably other games, too).  Turkish tea comes in fruit flavors, such as apple or lemon, as well as traditional black tea.  I've read that apple tea is just for tourists, but it's still delicious, so who cares?  

I always think of Turkish tea in tulip tea cups. This is actually a photo from
our trip in 2010 when we accidentally ended up in Bodrum.
Long story.
Turkish coffee is also in a category of its own.  It's a thick, strong brew that comes in an espresso-sized cup.  I always request mine sweetened.  It is my favorite way to end a meal of Izmir meatballs.

Okay, I tried the Turkish Coffee at the Starbucks near the Blue Mosque.
As you might expect, it was good but not as good as when it's made in a Turkish café.


While I'm sure there are significant differences that Greeks and Turks would point out, Greek coffee is similar to Turkish coffee in its thickness and strength.  You have to let the grounds settle to the bottom of the cup and make sure not to drink the last sip.

I don't have a photo of Greek coffee, but I do have a photo of where I drank it:
Delphi, a day trip north of Athens.

The first morning we arrived in Krabi, I tried the popular Southeast Asian style of coffee - strong with sweetened condensed milk.  The sweetened condensed milk gives the drink a thicker body while also balancing the bitterness of strong coffee.  It also goes incredibly well with early morning dumplings.

The coffee is off to the left - I was way more focused on those dumplings.

When I think of Italian coffee, I imagine cappuccinos and lattes served with biscotti.  However, when we were in Rome Eric and I learned that (a) a cappuccino is a morning drink and (b) espresso bars are fantastic.  Italians stop by cafés in the afternoon and put down a euro or two for an espresso.  They stand at the bar, maybe to chat with friends, and down that single or double shot in a matter of minutes.  Refreshed and energized, they go back to work or whatever else they were in the middle of doing.  Efficient, inexpensive, and awesome.


When I lived in France in the summer of 2010, my host family had a Keurig, but always served me Nescafé instant coffee.  I loved the smell of it as I made my breakfast in the morning.  In the cafeteria of the school where I worked, I always ordered a café demi, which now that I'm looking into it may have been a redundant way of ordering espresso since they come in demitasse cups.  My friend Hope and this Stephen Clarke novel taught me to order "un café crème," or coffee with hot milk.  

The prettier the cup, the more likely I am to love the coffee.
When I returned to Paris with Eric and his parents last year, I tried to show off at a fancy coffee house.  I ordered something like "un crème demi café, s'il vous plaît!" and was sad when the kind barista switched to English.  It wasn't until I was a block away with my café crème that I realized that what I had ordered made no sense.


Eric and I only spent two days in Vienna, so our knowledge of the Viennese coffee house tradition is limited.  We drank espresso served with glasses of water at an espresso bar in the Naschmarkt and loved the warm, medium roast.  The story is that coffee came to Vienna via wars with Turkey, so the coffee originally reflected the dark, thick Mediterranean espressos.  Vienna made coffee its own, however, and developed a culture around the drink.

This was a special Naschmarkt blend that we took home for our parents.
Great Britain

When I think of the United Kingdom, tea is the second thing I imagine after the Queen.  When I visited London with my mom in 2008 afternoon tea was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  We got tea and scones with strawberry jam at the Café in the Crypt under St. Martin in the Fields church near Trafalgar Square.  The strawberry jam came in individual jars which still sit on my bookshelf in my parents' house.  Eric and I did not get to spend much time in London last fall, but when we go back St. Martin in the Fields will absolutely be on our list of places to visit.

Now that we're in Chicago, we've been exploring the coffee shops in our neighborhood and planning to try new types of coffee.  Eric has gotten very good at steaming milk, so I have ready access to fresh cappuccinos while I work at our kitchen table.  Maybe I can convince him to learn how to make Turkish coffee (and Izmir meatballs) next.

What are your favorite types of coffee?