Sunday, March 27, 2011

Social Drinking and the Siphon

I have a confession to make: I can’t handle my caffeine. Even after all of these years of sipping lattes, including the time I spent behind the espresso machine, caffeine still affects me in bizarre ways. Sometimes everything will seem fine until about 4am when I’m lying in bed, unable to sleep and deeply regretting that mocha I had 12 hours earlier. Other times, like the day I visited the Beach Bum Café, the chemical rushes straight into my brain, making me coffee drunk. Yes, sometimes a cup of coffee can hit harder than a couple of vodka tonics.

Appropriately enough, this downtown coffeehouse is set up much like a bar, with counter seating wrapping around the drink prep area. I settled into a chair and started studying the menu. A friendly guy sitting next to me suggested going for the siphon brewing method, if I had time. Ooh, I’d never gotten around to trying that before. Sad, but true. Sure, I had some time to kill. Let’s give it a go.

The barista pulled out the components of an elaborate coffee chemistry set from behind the counter and quickly assembled it. He then ground the coffee, spooned it into the top part of the contraption, filled the bottom with water, lit the Bunsen burner... and then we were off! Wait, this shop is in the middle of grab-and-go country; an area where you sneak away for a coffee while your boss is in a meeting. How do the 9-to-5ers have time for this?

Following the barista’s suggestion, I tried the Rusty’s Red Caturra. It was interesting and different; a nice cup indeed. Sorry, I’m out of practice when it comes to describing coffee…. I shall study up!

It’s good to finally have a shop out here that takes their brewed coffee seriously, instead of focusing primarily on espresso drinks. 100% locally-grown coffee, brewed by the cup. 

The owner was holding a tasting while I was there, explaining the nuances of a few different brews to a group of people.

Oh yeah, then I got wired. Majorly. Feeling a bit awkward sitting alone at the bar, I drank my coffee rather quickly. I also felt like I shouldn’t just sit there mute, so I asked the barista a bunch of questions. As the caffeine started surging through my bloodstream, I’m pretty sure my questions grew progressively more off the wall. By the end, I was convinced he either thought I was some sort of coffee spy or a random oddball. Caffeine-induced paranoia….

The plan for next time: Don’t drink on an empty stomach, drink slowly and don’t drink alone. 

Beach Bum Café 
1088 Bishop Street, Suite 101, Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 521-6699

Friday, March 25, 2011

Now Serving...

I’m excited to announce that some of my coffee shots are being featured on coffee | served daily over the next few days. Kim’s site provides daily caffeinated inspiration in the form of beautiful coffee photos, many with great stories attached. I love this site and am honored to have my pictures in the company of so many lovely cups.

In tribute to coffee | served daily, I’m sharing this coffee photo sent to me by my best friend Brooke. While on her way back from her January honeymoon in Thailand, she and her husband Jeremy had a long layover in Seoul, Korea and decided to check out the city. I suggested a few places to go (since I spent a year and a half there) but they also stumbled upon some nice spots on their own.

“Sorry, but my latte art wins! This was from Amandier in Insadong. I think it wasn't there when you were there, unfortunately... It was the perfect remedy for a long flight and frozen toes.”

Aww, what a sweet bear! Latte animals are the best.

Well, you may not be able to easily pop by Amandier, but there’s always an open table for you at coffee | served daily. Stop in for a cup.

coffee | served daily
175-3 Jongno-gu, Anguk-dong 110-734, Seoul, Republic of Korea

Monday, March 21, 2011

Coffee's Fizzy Cousin

Coffee cherries have always seemed cool to me. They’re fruits with a secret hidden inside. Magic seeds! Beans that, once roasted, can fuel the weary through the toughest mornings or (in the company of a few good muffins) help create a mellow atmosphere where busy girlfriends can settle in to catch up. But what about the coffee cherries themselves? Did they taste good? Could people use them for anything or did they simply strip them of their treasures then toss them aside?

Though the fate of countless coffee cherries around the world may remain a mystery, some lucky fruit have a sweet future: They become soda.

Waialua Soda Works, a cool little beverage company on Oahu’s North Shore, has started bottling a new flavor called Kona Red. In addition to its other natural ingredients, this pop features a good splash of Hawaiian coffee fruit extract. No, it doesn’t have the faintest coffee flavor, but is more like a lightly fruity cream soda without the overpowering sweetness. It’s nice. And since it’s made from coffee fruit and not beans, it’s caffeine free.

Besides being part of a good tasting soda, coffee fruit are starting to garner a reputation far beyond merely being coffee bean incubators. It seems these little red gems have been elevated to the status of “superfruit.”  Huh?

According to the Kona Red website (there's a whole related product line), coffee fruit are packed with a concentrated dose of nutrients and “bio-available” antioxidants, which sound like they shoot straight into your cells and make amazing things happen.

Wow, apparently the coffee cherry is quite the incredible fruit. Now I’m wondering if the cashew apple has any superpowers…. 

Waialua Soda Works
Available at shops and cafés around Hawaii; Whole Foods in Hawaii, Southern California, Arizona and Nevada; online

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My ♥ Belongs to….

Oh Glazer’s, how I love you. Your smooth lattes. Those beautiful mugs in the perfect shade of red. Baristas that know what they’re doing. Yay!

Today I just needed a nice cup of coffee, so I made the drive out to Moili’ili, near the University of Hawaii. The rising gas prices are the enemy of good coffee in my life, as there are no cool, independent cafés near my home. Six Starbucks locations within easy driving distance, yes, but that’s not exactly the experience I’m looking for.

I stick to ordering lattes here because I love to be surprised by the designs poured across the surface of my drinks. This one is supposedly influenced by Klimt’s The Kiss.

Oh, and you need to order the grande size. Tall just doesn’t have as much surface room to play with. And you don't get the cool red mug.

Here’s a shot of today’s latte, which was made by a barista-in-training. I can see the beginning of a heart in there….

I’m sitting on a comfy chair, next to a guy in the other comfy chair. As he took his seat, he placed a plate with a couple of chocolate chip cookies and a large glass of ice water on the table next to him. I was charmed by that for some reason. Might have made a cool photo, but he'd probably think I was odd if I just started shooting him and his plate.

The only less-than-positive thing about this place is that it feels a bit unfriendly. No, not the baristas, who all seem to be cool. It’s just that virtually all the patrons here are either hidden behind a laptop screen or buried beneath a pile of textbooks. Sure, that’s to be expected, since this is a café for the university kids. But no one is talking. I came here once with my friend Shane and we felt pretty awkward even having a quiet conversation at our table. So yeah, negative points for that.

(By the way, I don't mean to infer that these people pictured were unfriendly. They actually came with study partners, which is a very friendly gesture indeed.)

Anyway, don’t dwell on that! Glazer’s is great! Just bring a book with you and you’ll fit in fine. See, even the walls are wishing you well. 

Glazer’s Coffee
2700 South King Street, Honolulu, HI 96826
(808) 391-6548

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cravings, Chinatown & Chai

Mmm, pho! Every so often I have an intense craving for a bowl of rich, beefy broth filled with those wonderful rice noodles. Last Saturday was one of those days, so I hopped into the car and headed over to Honolulu’s Chinatown.

A craving day is not one when you should experiment with a new place. When your stomach's chanting for a specific food, there’s no worse disappointment than when it turns out to be just…wrong. So I parked in my favorite lot off Beretania Street and made my way to Pho 97, at the Maunakea Street entrance to the Maunakea Marketplace.

This is familiar pho. Comfort pho for me. Perhaps there are better bowls of soup out there, and I will find them soon. But there’s just something about their turquoise table cloths and the mountain of Thai basil waiting on a back table to be sorted that relaxes me. It’s no nonsense, good food.

And, of course, there’s the necessary plate of garnishes. I just felt like basil, bean sprouts and a squeeze of lemon that day and left the culantro and hot pepper slices on the plate. A couple squeezes of Sriracha and hoisin sauce for meat dipping and I was set.

The post-lunch plan was to walk over to Manifest, a café/bar/venue on the strip of Hotel Street once notorious for its scummy girly bars and creepy old guy joints. There still are a couple of less savory places in that area but they now exist alongside hipster watering holes. I suppose it’s an improvement, but I feel rather sorry for the original patrons of the area who had their space invaded by a bunch of young people.

Well, one cannot go straight from pho to café, as pho fills one’s stomach to just about capacity. A brief digestion walk was in order. Here are a few shots from that.

Okay, it was then time for Manifest. Since the place had mentioned their chai latte in an ad I saw in the Honolulu Weekly, I decided to give it a try. 

Note to people tempted to order hot drinks on an especially warm day in Hawaii: the barista will hear your order but his subconscious mind knows better. It will prevent him from steaming the milk, adding ice cubes to your drink instead. And the barista's right; hot drinks on a hot day are just plain silly. This has happened to me twice recently.

Anyway, I was happy with my iced chai. Nice and spicy, although a wee bit thick for my taste. They use Tiger Spice Chai, which is a powder, and powders tend to be that way.

It was a nice afternoon. Mellow jazz. Window seat. Chai. 

But soon it was time to go. I spotted this cute sandwich board a couple doors down on my way home. There are way too many tempting food options in this neighborhood. 

Phở 97
1120 Maunakea Street, Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 538-0708

32 North Hotel Street, Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 523-7575