A COFFEE RANT IN CHINABy
Coffee falls into the stomach … ideas begin to move, things remembered arrive at full gallop … the shafts of wit start up like sharp-shooters, similes arise, the paper is covered with ink …
– Honoré de Balzac
As Balzac so wisely eludes, coffee sharpens the mind and hones one’s senses for the day ahead. So, like an addiction, I cannot imagine a morning without the ritual of grinding, brewing and drinking a fine coffee.
This is all fine & good, but there are times when you may experience a period of coffee interruptus. Such a time would be when you travel to China. China is thought to be one of the most tea-saturated countries on earth. China is indeed the world’s largest tea consumption and production country in 2010, according to a U.N. report. And I can believe it.
Go into any home, restaurant, hotel, and business in China, and you will see a collection of tall Thermos bottles corralled on the floor filled with hot water – for tea. A drive along Beijing’s ritzy Wangfujing Street is not without observing a driver in his Mercedes, cigarette & cell phone in one hand and a clear flask of tea in the other! In the countryside, everyone has tea with them in those glass or plastic tea flasks. Some even have what look like big pickle jars filled with tea leaves and water. It’s everywhere!
So it is that visiting China seriously cuts into your enjoyment of your daily brew. True, Starbucks has broken through the Great Culture Wall and further erodes Chinese citizens with its over-priced offerings of, for instance, a “Grande, sugar-free, fat-free, vanilla-soy, triple-shot, decaf, no-foam, extra hot, Mint White Chocolate Mocha with extra light whip and extra syrup”… Jeeze! This one cup alone is more expensive than a litre of gas for your Hummer!
And I have only has one cup already this morning. Must calm down!
My point is that when you travel to China, be prepared. Be prepared not to find any coffee or even the infrastructure to support your javadiction. ‘Be Prepared’, the old Boy Scouts motto tells us. So ‘Be Prepared’ I am.
Before any trip to China I carefully account for room in my bag for a few essentials from Mountain Equipment Co-op: My insulated stainless steel cup, a fine mesh coffee strainer with flanges that assures the strainer sits proud on the lip of the cup, and of course, coffee! My favourite and constant companion is Muskoka Roastery’s Northern Lights blend. It is a mild, aromatic burst of heaven every morning when I open the bag and lovingly pour out a healthy portion of the grounds into the strainer.
In many of the family-run hotels I visit, I do not find a kettle, but as sure as the sun will rise, there will be those clutch of Thermos bottles clustered about the lobby or in the breakfast area. Hoisting a Thermos bottle, I pour the hot water into the strainer then sit back while the breakfast room’s smells of cabbage, boiled eggs and rice is joined by a little accent of my Muskoka blend.
Here ends my rant. Time for a coffee!