Food Friday: Coffee Edition

21 Oct

I am a big tea drinker. No surprise there, given the three summers I spent working in a teashop and years of having a nice earl gray after dinner with my dad. But college turned me into an unrepentant coffee fiend. I mean, the Starbucks was actually located inside Library West, how the heck am I supposed to resist that sort of temptation with my poor sleep habits? My last semester in school I practically had a coffee IV-drip set up in order to get my thesis finished. (I regret nothing!)

Most mornings, my lovely roommate would make the coffee. This was mostly a function of her having the earlier class in the morning. It was a good system: I donated the beans, she made it strong enough for me to stay awake, and I didn’t have to fiddle with rocket science in the morning. Good times all around.

Things are a little different here in China. While Starbucks does have several outposts here in Chengdu, including one a scant mile away over by the Shangri-La Hotel, the price is pretty exorbitant. A medium mocha will cost me about 30 kuai, about five bucks. Not insanely expensive, especially when you look at airport-Starbucks prices, but when compared to the relative cost of everything else around here, it looks a little steep. In comparison, a tea at a stand will cost me anywhere from 2 to 7 kuai, depending on how fancy I get. I generally spend about 10 kuai per meal, usually fried rice or noodles. So spending that much on coffee makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

To fill this necessary gap, I looked at how the locals got on. Instant coffee is all the rage over here. You have a small packet which you empty into your mug. Add hot water. Congratulations, you now have coffee. Terrible, terrible coffee. I’ve found that a single packet doesn’t make a nearly strong enough coffee for me, so I generally tear two or three, depending on how I’m feeling that morning. It’s got cream and sugar already added (although I’m not sure how, exactly). Frankly, it’s pretty idiot proof, which is kind of why I like it. If I got coffee beans and a French press, that would be much more likely to result in undrinkable swill than a cup of coffee.

When I’m in the mood for splurging, I head over to Kaffestugan, the local Swedish coffee bar. I positively love this place. Yes, the stair up to the third floor are gross, but you know what? Good coffee that is cheaper and closer than Starbucks, internet, clean and bright shop area, bookshelves, and (wait for it) bagels with lox. Swedish meatballs. Cinnamon buns. Yes, I do tend to end up spending a bit more here, but you know what? Cinnamon buns. It’s hard to go wrong with that.


2 Responses to “Food Friday: Coffee Edition”

  1. Dad October 21, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

    Just finished a Sea-Port Egg sandwich and am savoring a cup of coffee. I ate the last of my Godiva chocolate bars yesterday – standing rule – all business trips include one “meal” at Godiva (about 6 – 8 small bars of their exquisite chocolate) then stored in my office desk drawer. Going on another business trip Monday. Love u and miss u. BTW they want me to go to Taiwan to teach a class – if they can find the $$, nothing firm till they get the $ in place. But I will pop over for visit

    Love Dad

  2. Karen Luksich October 26, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Now I never would have guessed that you could get bagels and lox in Chengdu. It sounds very worldly. Yes, cinnamon buns are worth every penny. You have all the comforts of home (almost).

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