Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Barista Fingers

     It's amazing. Since I've stopped making coffee, my nails have gotten ridiculously long. See? That's really me in the picture, and those are my real nails. Less than a month, man, that's all it took.

     I'm messing with you, those are just internet nails. Mine are only like half as long as that.
     But seriously. How do these people do basic tasks? If you can't pick up a fork to eat your food, either you've gotta just dip your face in your dinner or get somebody else to feed you. You couldn't dress or undress on your own. You wouldn't be able to go to the bathroom alone. Honestly, that's where I'd draw the line. Plus they'd be heavy, and in the way, and a hazard in the bedroom, and extremely painful if they got caught on anything, which is more than likely considering their size.

     Anyway... I'm thinking now that I've got my nails back, (claws, more like--I feel like Cruella Deville) maybe I'll do something with them. Like paint them, I mean, not set a new Guinness World Record, don't worry.
     Imagine being a writer with extremely long nails. You couldn't type or hold a pencil. But maybe you could dip the tips of your nails in ink like a quill, and drag them across the paper to try and form letters...? Who knows.
     I certainly don't intend to find out. Instead I'll paint up my nails real nice and Instagram a picture of me holding a cup of Starbucks for you guys. Like this one.

     But in all seriousness, I miss my corpsified barista fingers... We used to level the shots with our fingers, so as the coffee collected in my festering barista wounds, coffee brewed in my skin for my whole 8-hour shift. No amount of hand-washing could clean them completely, leaving my hands smelling deliciously of espresso the rest of the day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Robber Armed with Hot Cup of Coffee

     In 2010, a man in Hamelin, Germany robbed an arcade attendant with, get this--a cup of coffee. And then again last year, in Manchester two boys robbed a newsstand armed with a hot cup of coffee, and got away with a sack full of cigarettes.
     Now, don't get any ideas, kids!
     Hot coffee is apparently the only kind they have in Manchester, at least the last time I went. I ordered an iced coffee, and the woman asked me what on earth I was talking about. Apparently in Manchester there is no such thing. The weather doesn't usually call for iced coffee, so I explained it was ice and coffee in a glass. Although, to be fair, maybe it was her first day or something.
     On earth.
     Anyway, one last coffee-sipping criminal, today's winner... Everybody put your hands together for Huntsville, Alabama's own Phillip Shawdey! According to Huffington Post, this "Alabama man's plan to rob a Starbucks was allegedly thwarted by a cup of" guessed it--coffee! Phenomenal. He demanded the cashier to empty the register, and when she suggested a free cup of coffee instead, he accepted, left, and was arrested in the parking lot for robbery without incident. According to the article, "Coffee isn't the only item robbers have accepted in lieu of cash." A Whataburger employee in Oklahoma settled an attempted robbery by offering the man (armed, by the way, with a machete) a salty delicious side of fries.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Black Ivory & Kopi Luwak Coffee

     Let's say you go to a friend's house, and they make you a simply exquisite cup of coffee, and you ask, "Where did this coffee come from?" and your friend says, "an elephant's ass"-- Would you be alarmed? Would you spit it out? Or would you go get yourself a pound of those ass-beans?
     Because, apparently, these pre-digested coffee beans go for an awful lot of money. It's funny, because I used to joke, back in my barista days, whenever I was helping a really particular guest... Could you cut it into four pieces, toast two, butter one, and bag them each individually? ...for some reason? or something like that, and I'd always think Oh, no problem! Would you like me to eat it for you too? But damn. These people actually pay for some animal to eat and excrete their beans for them... The world never fails to amaze me.
     This process is not done just for fun, however. There's an enzyme in the stomachs of these animals that breaks down the coffee protein, which eliminates the bitterness and makes for the most expensive and high-class cup of crappy coffee you've ever had.
     Black Ivory refers to beans that have been excreted by Thai elephants. While Kopi Luwak refers to beans digested by an Asian Palm Civet, which looks almost like a cross between a possum, skunk and weasel. Cute, right? I want one.
     I'd much rather deal with civet scat, which looks about as bad as a peanut-coated candy bar. But the elephant poop--you either have to stand behind the elephant and pray to god you catch it as it comes, in your tiny little bowl, or else you've got to go sift through big steamy piles of the stuff. No, thank you.
    Just be careful, if you really do want to buy it, most of the Kopi Luwak out there is counterfeit, because about twice as much animal-excreted coffee beans are sold as are actually produced. Although,you likely wouldn't notice the difference anyway.
    However, I can vouch for ValDeMar's authenticity (click here to see certification).

Aroma Festival--The Rocks, Sydney, Australia

     The Rocks Aroma Festival: Sydney, Australia. Massive coffee cup mosaics featuring da Vinci's Mona Lisa (3,604 coffee cups), and Marilyn Monroe, who took a whopping 5,200.
     The construction of the portraits incorporated several shades, as you can see. This effect was achieved by mixing different ratios of coffee to milk. Ingenious...
     Obviously, such a masterpiece can't be left out too long, or it would go bad. I wonder if they drank the coffee when they dissembled her?
     Probably not.

Portrait Composed of Coffee Rings by Red

     Get a load of this girl, Hong Yi, but she goes by Red: She's a bangin young painter who found herself in Shanghai without a damn thing to paint with. Lucky she is so resourceful. Having grown up in Malaysia and studied abroad in Australia and Holland, but until recently her Chinese roots remained a mystery.
     Her newfound fascination with China's rich culture and history inspired this massive portrait of Jay Chou, comprised entirely of coffee rings, and several others featuring iconic Chinese figures, including Yao Ming painted with a basketball, a Zhang Yimou made out of socks! When was the last time you made a masterpiece out of your laundry?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Latte Leaf Tattoo?

     Alright you guys, don't be shy. You can comment. Please do, in fact I have a question for you, yes--You! You've been chosen!
     And your mission?
     Help me decide where the hell I ought to get my next tattoo: I'm thinking a latte leaf, creamy and espresso colors and fade into my skin tones kinda thing. Awesome right? Except, I have a compass on the back of my neck/upper back, and I'm not trying to get a tramp stamp, so probably just try to avoid my back altogether. That's my only condition. So... any ideas?
     Please please please! Interact with me, mystery internet users! Give me some goddamn ideas. That is all I ask.
     You can check out my little google barista icon, kinda what I'm talking about. Okay, sudden, possibly terrible idea... are you ready?
     Latte leaf quill, and ink, because it looks like a feather, sort of. Cute? Stupid?
     Input guys, I need input. I'm lost. I even briefly thought of adding a latte leaf to either side of my compass to extend like wings across my shoulders. Stupid, right? Or is it? I'm really asking.

Life is Like a Cup of Coffee

Life is Like a Cup of Coffee
Unknown Author

     A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.
     Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.
     When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.
     Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups. And then you began eyeing each other's cups.
     Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.
     Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee. Savor the coffee, not the cups! The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

One More Cup of Coffee

The White Stripes, boys and girls:
One more cup of coffee for the road.
One more cup of coffee 'fore I go...
To the valley below.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Starbucks Groupies

    You know those girls who are always inexplicably instagramming pictures of their Starbucks beverages and uploading them to facebook? Worse yet, others feel the need to post replies and like the post, and declare how desperate they suddenly are for a Frappuccino. Why on earth should your beverage be anybody's business? But it's very big news, apparently. Of such importance, in fact, that some of these girls adorn their fingernails in matching Starbucks-colored polish.

      I call these girls Starbucks Groupies. You know who I'm talking about. It's the same girls who wear short shorts in the dead of winter, and sunglasses in the middle of the night for no apparent reason.

     You see, it's this phase girls go through in high school, when they first discover how grown up it feels to drink coffee, and the importance of consuming excessive amounts of caffeine.

     Starbucks has become a right of passage for these girls. A fallback identity if you can't figure out how to form your own. It's easy. Just swap out your wardrobe for a bunch of grungy thrifty shit. Wear plenty of scarves and beanies. Instagram everything. Chew way too much gum. Listen to some whiney indie music and you're set! America's Next Top Starbucks Groupie!

Espress Yourself

    Coffee is America's life force. It's the reason we get anything done, but above all else, coffee is our creative inspiration. It stimulates our minds more than any known legal substance.
     If you, like most Americans, are still struggling to "find yourself," do so over a cup of coffee.
     Doodle something spectacular on your napkin or cup.
     Doodle something stupid.
     Scribble the lyrics to a Smiths song.
     Scribble a masterpiece.
     Express yourself. Let the aroma of your coffee take over your mind. Immerse yourself in a thick creamy steam-induced dream.
     Coffee keeps artists afloat, over-caffeinated and inspired. Without the coffee industry there may be no art. Artists would have nowhere to hang their work, and nothing to wake them up in the morning to do it. So let us take a moment to appreciate the beautiful art born from these beans.

By Arkady Kim, Russian artist. Largest coffee-bean-mural worldwide. Constructed in Gorky Central Park in Moscow, took 12 days and a million coffee beans to make.

By Esther Horchner, German (or maybe French?) Illustrator. Naked Lady Tea Set. Very clever. Very cute.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Just My Cup of Tea

     Now, don't get me wrong for shit-talkin' Teavana. Just because I bash on them doesn't mean I have anything against tea. I love it. I take mine English style--lots of milk and sugar, sweet and creamy, just like me.
     In fact, not only is tea cosy and delicious, but it actually does a lot for your body too. Depending on what type of tea you're drinking, it possesses secret powers. Let me explain.
     There are four types of actual tea. Tea, in this case refers to the plant tea was originally made from, the camellia sinesis. Let me tell you how it all went down... a very very long time ago in China, the emperor was out on his patio sipping a bowl of hot water for some reason, when a breeze rustled a couple camellia leaves free, and they flitted into the emperor's water, and, alas, tea was born. (Slightly abridged version... I tossed my Teavana handbook).
     The rest of the world took it from there and said alright, that's all good and fine, but what if we toasted the leaves a little? And so the leaves were dried and roasted and smoked and fermented and god knows what else. The leaves that were fully fermented were classified "black," as opposed to "white tea" which isn't processed or fermented at all. This leaves us with two in-between teas: green and oolong. Let's take this one tea at a time, starting with:

White: White tea is the lightest in flavor, the richest in antioxidants, and the lowest in caffeine. This is because it is the least process. Like I said, it isn't fermented at all. Instead, it is simply picked, dried, sold, and steeped. Because it isn't fermented, it retains its naturally high antioxidant content, which cleanses your skin and your body. That's no lie, either.
     I know I bash on Teavana, but they're not all bad. There's some truth to what they tell you, for instance: Because white tea has such a subtle taste, yet it's so abundant in health benefits, it is sensible to buy some simply to add to whichever type of tea you like to drink. It doesn't distract from the flavor, so you won't even notice, but your body will. Teavana was my first job, fresh out of oily acne-ridden high school, and my skin cleared up entirely in the first two days of working there, because I had to "familiarize myself with the teas" starting with the whites. I probably tried about 5 a day. And I tried everything--every cleanser, toner, butter, cream. So if your skin is atrocious, white tea is your best bet.
     If you're buying white tea, it'll look one of two ways. Either it'll look like a bunch of long greenish white fuzzy leaves called Silver Needle [see image above]. That's the kind you want.
     Sometimes, you'll see white tea that has some of those silver needles, and then a bunch of crunchy dark leaves that look like someone raked up in their backyard [see image on left].
     Next time you're in Teavana and you're asking to see one of the "white teas," White Ayurvedic Chai for instance, take a good look. If there's a single silver needle in there, it's a needle in a haystack of spicy dry compost.
     Lastly, white tea, if had by itself is re-steepable. But be reasonable. If you save your tea leaves overnight, and steep the mildewy carcass of those tea leaves tomorrow, it will make for a frightful cup of tea. Only re-steep very recently-used tea leaves. The flavor will be weaker the second time 'round, so this would be a good time to add to another tea.

Green: Green tea is the next least processed after white, and therefore still has most of its antioxidants. It's about 15-20% as caffeinated as an equal amount of coffee.
     Green tea ranges from earthy light flavors along the lines of white tea to very dark green, seaweed-esque needles. The latter is Japanese style, Gyokuro and sencha. This particular tea is extremely expensive on account of the leaves need to be shade grown, and are only picked between April and May when they are most rich in chlorophyl, allowing them to retain that deep dark green. Very high maintenance, anyway. People have been known to pay over a thousand a pound for the very best Gyokuro. It's crazy.
     I only really like that kind if I can find it with brown rice crispies. They call this kind genmaicha.
     The same type of tea is also served in powder form, called matcha. If you've ever seen those green frappuccinos, or green tea pastries, or green tea ice cream, which if you haven't tried you need to because it is delicious, they're all made out of matcha. You know what I really want? A Matcha Macaron! Oh, man...

Oolong: Chinese Restaurant tea, known for its slimming qualities. It is traditionally served with dinner (in China) to help with digestion.
     Oolong tea falls between green and black, partially to mostly fermented, caffeinated but not as much as black tea. And although I take my black tea with milk and sugar, I prefer my Oolong plain. Most people do.

Black: Fully fermented, and therefore fully caffeinated. The flavor ranges from smokey to sweet. I mainly get PG Tips, which is an English brand. Five Mountain's also got a great black "Heirloom Ruby" tea. Real sweet and smooth.
     But if I get Earl Grey, the best brand is Numi.
     When I'm feeling a little more extravagant I sometimes get Ginger Peach (Republic of Tea--they sell it at World Market). That's the only fruity tea I still take with milk and sugar--sort of a peaches n'cream kinda thing.
     And if you like yourself a spicy cup of chai, I like to get Good Earth, Vanilla Chai, because it comes with all these little inspirational quotes and sayings.

Herbal & Rooibos:
     Herbal infusions don't actually have tea leaves in them, but they're steeped and prepared just the same as any other tea. They're also decaf. Herbal teas can contain anything really--dried or candied fruits, nuts, petals, bird seed, weeds, whatever... (just kidding).
     Popular herbal teas include mint and chamomile. Since herbal teas include so many different types of plants, there is quite a wide variety of benefits, depending on what's in your tea. For instance, mint is good if you're congested, chamomile helps you sleep, and rooibos tea helps keep your sinuses clear if you have a cold or allergies, etc. I like red rooibos because it's sweet.
     At La Boulange, (where I worked) they serve Mighty Leaf, which has a great rooibos blend called African Nectar. It's almost self-sweetening.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


            Teavana is advertising on my blog. Ha! Little do they know…
            I used to work for Teavana—at the Stanford store. However, I am now a sworn enemy. I won’t get into it too much, let’s just say I disagreed with the sales process. Very aggressive sales. Teavana sets a million traps to try to reel you in.
            Don’t be fooled by the dramatic names of all the teas… The so-called Jasmine Dragon Pheonix Pearls Teavana advertises—get the same Jasmine pearls in the nearest Chinatown for a tenth what you’d pay at Teavana—I promise. Teavana’s over here trying to sell you 2 ounces of Silver Yin Zhen Something for $22, except they’re selling it by the tin, which contains a good twenty ounces, and as the salesperson tops off the tin, they tell you one pound gets you a ten percent discount, reducing your total to only $396! Honestly, no one coming in the store has the slightest inclination of dropping over a hundred dollars on some Dragon Pheonix Pellet Tea. They just come for the free samples.

            And don’t be fooled by the Monkey Picked Oolong either. It was by no means picked by a monkey. Golden Monkey as far as I know has nothing to do with monkeys either, and, no, Teavana has not cultivated its own new species of magical berries—Youth-berry, Wonder-berry, Imperial Acai berry. I know acai berries are real, but I assure you they are by no means “imperial.” You will notice many of the other teas claim to be Imperial as well. Not to mention Emperor’s Cloud & Mist, a name which fails to describe the tea effectively in any way, except perhaps subtly attempt to justify the ridiculousness of its price.

            Lastly, let me tell you, whatever health benefits the tealeaves claim to possess have long been diluted by all the chunks of dried fruit, nuts and chocolate—yes, chocolate—that by the way all the employees pick out and eat throughout the day. Especially the “Yum”-berries (yet another made up name).
              Take this “tea” for instance: “Wonderberry ChocolateTruffle Oolong.” The Teavana salesperson will, I promise you, suggest Oolong tea for its slimming abilities. Does chocolate-truffle-oolong-tea sound slimming to you? Delicious, yes. But slimming? Just look at the picture. Click on it, look at it close up. There’s about 75% chunks of chocolate, 20% miscellaneous dried fruits and berries, petals possibly, and tops about 5% actual Oolong tea leaves. Weight-loss-tea my ass. And that’s about how it goes for all their “infusions”—you might as well steep potpourri.
But if by some terrible chance you do find yourself in Teavana, order the following: [left to right] Honeybush Vanilla, Maharaja Chai & Samurai Chai Maté blend, White Ayurvedic Chai

Monday, January 14, 2013

Magic Beans

            You may have heard (depending on how in touch you are with the media… I blog my ass off and didn’t hear a damn thing about it ‘til today) about Green Coffee Bean Extract, America’s most recent fat-burning fad. Coffee beans, until roasted, have the ability to melt away your excess fat, but only in their raw, un-roasted form. The magic beans work on account of the Chlorogenic Acid. You just take, depending on the dose, usually three capsules a day, one at a time, a half hour or so before eating.
            The capsules claim to do all the work for you, so that if you don’t change your exercise and eating habits, the supplement will still ultimately reduce your dress size. Perfect for the average lazy American! Get your Green today!
            Sorry I keep selling stuff. I can’t help it. I’m taking a copywriting course and now all I do is advertise…
            Anyway! It’s cheap and safe so no real risk. Here’s Google’s top-rated choice of Green Coffee Bean Extract, but there’s about a billion distributors—just be careful, because this green coffee bean thing took off so fast, the second it aired on Dr. Oz, so there’s a lot of supplements claiming to contain considerably more chlorogenic acid than they do, so avoid anything super sketchy, or that’s inexplicably cheaper than the rest.
            Good luck burnin' off that booty.