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Coffee matters

Drink stall cashier

I drink coffee. A lot of it. Where did this habit come from?

During my student years in Lasalle I was known as the Coke boy. With my meagre allowance ($4-$6) I would have at least one bottle of coke at the end of the day with my favourite snack of Murukku from the convenience stall nearby. The reason I get to be the coke boy is not the frequency of my beverage indulgence, but it's this nasty habit of not throwing out my trash immediately. I think there'd be at least 15 empty coke bottles laying around before I decide to throw them out at one go. (In my defence, the bottles are closed and therefore quite hygienic. I also save at least 14 trip to the nearby bin.)

One time I dated a lady from an European nation with the great tradition of coffee consumption. (everyone dated someone from college) I believe that was the first time I actually honestly tasted coffee, warm, and I hate warm beverages - It's Singapore man, the humidity and heat.

(I found out afterwards, that particular cafe is not a decent ambassador for any beverage or food. Though I sincerely compliment the $12.90 Salmon Pizza. At least there's real big chunks of smoked salmon on top. I don't regret it so much, but I also cannot afford it.)That utterly rancid taste and how it burned my tongue. To add insult to my injury I bought that scalding (amateur barrister alert) cup of black coffee from the only cafe on campus, costing me $4.60-ish. I regret that decision till now. I could have bought another piece of Fabriano paper, murukku, and coke with the money I had in my wallet.

Now that I actually love coffee, the regret of first encounter remains, as the overused saying goes, "you don't get second chance at first impression".

A few observations were made regarding consumption.

- Firstly, running a risk of sounding like a dim-wit, but a warm cup of coffee is really not meant to be gulped down refreshingly like a cold bottle of coke. Have anyone really described a warm cup of coffee "refreshing?" I don't think so. If there is, they're wrong.

- Secondly, as a proper Singaporean, my first introduction to warm coffee should have been from the Kopitiam or coffee shop. For starters it cost only $1.10 at that time (It is now $1.40 at the same place). And who convinced me that I should order "Black"? Absolutely no one, but I just never placed a coffee order before. I had no idea what's black and whats not black. Is the opposite of black, white? What if I'm wrong, and it's actually brown? Of course brown is a better opposite of black.

In conclusion, order coffee from the kopitiam and you have a brown coffee. It's very sweetened by condense milk, a sweet tooth can almost enjoy it. If you panicked and ordered black, I promise you it's adequately sweetened with spoonfuls of sugar.

If you fall into the same trap I've been and absolutely have to order from a CAFE, get Latte. (If possible, VANILLA Latte.)

*Here I took a coffee break. Every time I break into the Enter key, I'm taking a sip. If I didn't mention I didn't take a sip, It means I took a sip. Just for clarification purpose.*

- Thirdly, a warm cup of beverage, assuming you've already achieved point one and two, is best accompanied by good company, a good book, or a good cigarette (non-menthol). I remembered telling my fellow non-smoking coffee lover friends that they have never enjoyed coffee as I did with a cigarette.

I must clarify now that I am no advocator of cigarette smoking. Kick it. I'm trying myself.

Once we get through the induction period of coffee introduction - or reintroduction if you are unfortunate like myself - then you can go dive into the world of The Coffee Question. Kopi O, Kopi C, what qualifies for Siew Dai and what's Kosong? I'm still not sure whats this "Kar Dai".

Wherever offers the cheapest coffee.? $1.10 vs $1.20?

If the one at $1.40 is best, is it $0.30 worth of better? Is 100 meter a distance well saved for $0.20 difference? What about 50 meters, but unsheltered? How much more do I pay for ice and how many ice is it actually in a cup - Am I still drinking coffee?

As soon as you get this figured out you have to content with the question of packaging. Plastic bags versus styrofoam cups.

What about the consistencies of the coffee maker? Surely human factor is a big part of the coffee question. Maybe we ought to study the different coffee uncles/aunties - identify when they handover shifts for instance. - for the sake of comprehensive analysis.

For example - I know that the coffee shop nearest to me now is good from 630am to 1300pm. After which the coffee will be filled 1/3 lesser and the colour darker, hence significantly bitter.

Of course this issues are invalid if you are affluent and lucky enough to stick to franchised consistencies of big brand names like Starbucks or Coffee Bean.

All these are hard questions, but the draw of caffeine is undisputed. Coffee is perhaps one of the classless beverage that appeal both all worlds from the proletariat (if I may coin it this way), intelligentsia, to the elite classes (I have no interest here pretending it don't exist - not in this post anyway.).

The latter group tend to stick to big franchises - though I personally know a few who still insist on a good cup from certain local coffee shops, and would take great pains to drive over to get a cup or two once in a while.

"The smell of coffee is the smell of hard work." I have no idea who made this up. I pretended it's a term for a long time in my life.

If you've read until this point you might already suspect that there will hardly be any conclusive point. Or - I hated the phrase - "Moral of the story".

Allow me to share with you my preference. I gave up on purchases everywhere. I used to make at least 3-4 trips to the coffee shop. Long story short, $1.20 x 3 times, x 31 days. Its bloody expensive, ok?

So I make my own instant coffee. Oh my god, more questions.

The market is now flooded with dozens of brands and "blends", the majority of which are of similar formula. The usual promise of "Authentic" and "White Coffee" with 15 satchels within for the price of $6-odd minimum.

They tasted nothing like coffee. They're thick and extremely sweetened. I've found the only way to render them drinkable is by pouring the powder in a huge cup and fill the water all the way to it's brim. (It shouldn't be my job to redistribute 1 serving worth of satchels into 2 or 3, right? I respect the manufacturer's wishes this way.)

Do note that when I say "drinkable", I do not mean they're nice. Its extremely watered down at that point but at least one could at least recognise it's in liquid form instead of some gooey mess. The classic choice of Nescafe don't exactly offer much comfort as well, I wonder if anyone really liked them to begin with.

My current choice is anything that offers at least 30-40 satchels in a packet which I found cost at most $4-odd. Significantly lesser then the $6-odd for 15 satchels. But never, never nescafe.

The idea is that if it suck, at least I have quantity. Maybe this is the answer.

Aik Cheong seems to hold up well so far. And I found that I could use it with my IKEA cup and fill it up 2cm from the brim (the most comfortable level) to achieve optimal taste - sometimes more, sometimes less - Power in my Hands.

This should be the gold standard - Ikea cups. But again there's too many cups and sizes. What about material?

This should end at some point, now will be nice.

P.S. This is not a sponsored ad. I wish it is then I'd get paid.

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