Reviews · Tried

Flavor Fun: Starbucks Chocolate Orange Mocha

starbucks advert I couldn’t help but try the Chocolate Orange Mocha when I stumbled across it in Japan. As far as I know, this flavor isn’t offered in the states–at the very least not in Michigan, so I decided to share about the beverage here 🙂IMG_1905

I got a tall size of the hot version of the Chocolate Orange Mocha, and it wasn’t too bad. A barista told me that they use mocha, orange syrup, espresso, steamed milk, orange-infused whipped cream, mocha again on top, and orange sprinkles. One of my former coworkers (here’s looking at you, Dona!) would kill me for saying this, but the orange sprinkles SERIOUSLY tasted like Fruity Pebbles cereal. I’ve got Chad to back me up on that. IMG_1907To be honest, the whole Fruity Pebble flavor going on with those sprinkles didn’t really do much for me, though otherwise the beverage tasted like a lightly sweetened hot chocolate with the slightest hint of orange. It almost felt like less pumps of mocha than standard were used, though I never put full pumps in my beverages anyway.

I’d have to say the beverage, for me, was sort of take it or leave it, but I definitely will be visiting the same Starbucks location again. After all, I got to meet a Japanese coffee master there, and the partners were all really friendly.

Have you tried any fun beverages lately?
xx Caitlyn

Bookspiration · Projects

Bookspiration: The Coffee Belt

O Coffee! Thou dost dispel all care, thou are the object of desire to the scholar. This is the beverage of the friends of God.”

In Praise of Coffee,” Arabic Poem (1511)

After practicing my calligraphy like a crazy person, I decided to test my new skills for a map I had planned to make while reading Uncommon Grounds. I was really happy with how my coffee belt map turned out, and doing the watercolor and calligraphy have helped me remember what flavor profiles the different regions of coffee are known for: Latin America for notes of cocoa, soft spice and nuts, Africa for floral, fruity and berry notes, and Asia for earthy, herbal notes. I also enjoyed making the little coffee cherry diagram, as it put an image to the descriptions I’ve read about coffee cherries. I was thinking that if I can figure out how, I’d like to submit my map to the really fun website They Draw and Travel.

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Please click on the image to see a larger version!

Now that I’ve written a bit about the Coffee Belt, where most of the world’s coffee is grown, here are twelve of my favorite facts gleaned from Uncommon Grounds:

1. “By 1700, there were more than two thousand London coffee houses, occupying more premises and paying more rent than any other trade. They came to be known as penny universities, because for that  price one could purchase a cup of coffee and sit for hours listening to extraordinary conversations…” (12). “‘The best stories [are told] over coffee,’ wrote a wise commentator in 1902, ‘as the aroma of the coffee opens the portals of [the] soul, and the story, long hidden, is winged for posterity'” (425).

2. “Wherever [coffee] has been introduced it has spelled revolution. It has been the world’s most radical drink in that its function has always been to make people think. And when the people began to think, they became dangerous to tyrants” (17).

3. “The caffeine content of coffee probably evolved as a natural pesticide to discourage predators” (43). “Although some bugs and fungi adapt to any chemical, it is quite likely that plants contain caffeine because it affects the nervous system of would-be consumers, discouraging them from eating it. Of course, that is precisely the attraction for the human animal” (412).

4. During the civil war, soldiers “preferred to carry whole beans and grind them as needed. Each company cook carried a portable grinder. A few Sharps carbines were designed to hold a coffee mill in the buttstock of the gun, so the soldier could always carry his grinder with him” (49). “Real coffee was so scarce in the war-torn south that it cost $5 a pound in Richmond, Virginia, while one Atlanta jeweler set coffee beans in breast pins in lieu of diamonds” (40.)

5. “In eighteenth-century Sweden twin brothers were sentenced to death for murder. King Gustav III commuted it to life sentences in order to study the then-controversial effects of tea and coffee, One brother drank large daily doses of tea, the other, coffee. The tea drinker died first, at eighty-three” (105).

6. A German housewife, Melitta Bentz, created the once-through drip method with a filter in 1908 (117).

7. During WWI, “Brazil also went to war with Germany, but only after the United States promised to purchase a million pounds of coffee for its expeditionary forces” (145).

8. During the prohibition, many coffee men were excited and hopeful for more coffee consumption:

“When there’s such a drink as this,

Liquor never need we miss.

All its virtues we repeat:

‘Coffee! Coffee! That’s the treat!'” (156).

9. “In Europe, economizing on coffee wasn’t so much a matter of choice as necessity. As late as 1947 coffee had been to scarce that it was used instead of money on the European black market” (245).

10. Howard Schultz of Starbucks hired Dawn Pinaud in the 1980’s and, with her staff, they created their own lingo. “…[Service] people weren’t soda jerks or flunkies. They were baristas, spotlighted as though on stage. A drink wasn’t small, medium or large. It was short, tall, or grande. A double espresso with a splash of milk was christened a doppio macchiato. ‘It’s amazing to me that these terms have become part of the language,’ Pinaud says. ‘A few of us sat in a conference room and just made them up’ (369).

11. Caffeinism is recognized as an ailment for those who consume excessive quantities of the drug, and caffeine intoxication is described similarly to a panic attack. “The only difference,” writes author Mark Pendergrast,” is that someone must have recently drunk coffee, tea, or soft drinks, which appears to have a circular diagnostic logic. At various times while writing this book, I have exhibited five of these symptoms, including restlessness, excitement, insomnia, periods of inexhaustibility, and particularly, rambling flow of thought. I drink only one or two daily cups of coffee, in the morning” (414).

12. “Inviting a woman for coffee in Finland is a sure sign of romantic interest. Finnish personal ads seeking a ‘day-coffee companion’ are understood to be ads for casual sex. In nearby Norway, distances used to be measured by ‘coffee boils’–the number of times someone had to stop to prepare coffee along the way” (420).

I hope you enjoyed these segments I learned about from Uncommon Grounds as much as I did. When was the last time you had an engaging conversation over coffee? Would you be satisfied with coffee if you lived during the prohibition? How many ‘coffee boils’ would it take for you to get to where I’m from: Michigan? 🙂

xx

Bookspiration · Food & Cooking

Bookspiration: Uncommon Grounds

I’ve finally finished the behemoth book Uncommon Grounds, and am happy to say that I learned a lot. It’s quite possible my coworkers don’t feel the same joy I do, since upon starting the book I’ve been spouting out all kinds of random facts to them.  In my defense, we are in the coffee business, so telling them interesting things I learned should be perfectly acceptable. I also should get an award for finishing the giant coffee history book, but perhaps that’s just my opinion.

Anyway, in honor of Uncommon Grounds I wanted to do a coffee tasting (I may or may not do coffee tastings all the time, but that’s beside the point 😉 ). I chose to give the medium roast coffee, Guatamala Antigua, a try. I tried this Starbucks coffee in a French press when I first started working as a barista, and after it was mentioned briefly in Uncommon Grounds, I thought I should give it another go. My palette for coffee tasting has improved a bit, so I was hoping to be able to recognize the notes of cocoa and soft spice this time around. Because the Guatamala Antigua pairs well with caramel, I decided to try it with one of my favorite treats: Stroopwafles!

20140428-190055.jpgI found some stroopwafles at my local grocery store, and though they weren’t the brand I normally get, I purchased them. The last time I went to the fabulous DeBoer Bakery in Holland, MI, a cashier recommended putting a stroopwafle on top of a cup of coffee or tea so that the caramel in the center would warm up, so that was a must for this tasting.

20140428-190107.jpgAfter waiting for the press to finish, it was finally time to try my pairing. I poured some coffee into my cup and set a stroopwafle on top. In that moment, it was like dreams were coming true. *sighs happily* I smelled the coffee and slurped it, noticing the medium body and acidity of the roast. Then, I tried a bite of my stroopwafle and…MY DREAMS WERE DASHED! The stroopwafle tasted quite stale, and it paled in comparison to stroopwafles of my past. (Chad and I were fortunate enough to try stroopwafles in Amsterdam a couple years ago, and since then the best brand I’ve tried is Daelmans. I’ve decided to make amends for the serious sadness of this tasting by getting proper stroopwafles and trying them with another press of the Guatamala!)

Despite the heart-breaking taste of the stroopwafles, the Guatamala Antigua paired so well with caramel that it actually improved the flavor of the stroopwafle. Good coffee and food pairings are supposed to compliment each other that way: the food should bring out the best of the coffee, and the coffee should bring out the best of the food, so that you’re sitting there wanting to take bite after sip after bite after sip.

20140428-190116.jpgI didn’t finish my stroopwafle, but I finished the delicious Guatamala. I’ll keep you posted on how the next tasting goes, and I’ll share some of my favorite facts from Uncommon Grounds, too! What’s your favorite coffee pairing?

xx

Around Town · Monday Matters · Projects

Wheatland Music Festival

 

 

 

 

 

Over the weekend we went to Wheatland Music Festival in Remus, Michigan. It was so nice to go after about 5 years of being in Japan during the festival, even if we did have to volunteer one night for 8 hours straight (admittedly, there were a few exciting moments in the 8 PM- 4AM shift!). After taking a bunch of pictures throughout the weekend, I realized I didn’t really take any of our campsite or of any of the stages or food vendors! I guess I’ll just have to share those with you next year. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the ones I did manage to take 🙂

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Chad starting out Wheatland with a little honey whiskey & a birthday oreo (I also managed to forget to take a picture of us singing him Happy Birthday with his little Blueberry Cheesecake!)

20130909-135121.jpgWe were lucky to camp with some wonderful musicians!

20130909-135126.jpgWe tried out the Starbucks VIA packets–did you think I could seriously go a weekend without Starbucks? 😉

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Chad making coffee Saturday morning ❤

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Something we look forward to every year: Blueberry Pancake Sausage on a Stick (shortened to B.P. S.O.S.)

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Chad starting a hemp bracelet.

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Time for a saw workshop with my sister-in-law Ariel’s dad!

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Chad trying the saw for the first time (and Ariel supporting him in the background with a little PBR)

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One of Ariel’s friends brought a portable darkroom & took old time photographs of Thom (Ariel’s dad) with his saw.

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Ariel working on her friendship bracelet back at the campsite.

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Chad working on his friendship bracelet.

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Our completed friendship bracelets! We didn’t give up or get jealous of each other’s bracelets because…friendship doesn’t give up or get jealous.

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A cool tree stump carving in Middle Ground

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Chad and I made birdhouses! Bird house and friendship bracelet-making at Wheatland fulfilled two fun things on my Summer Fun Bucket List. Can’t wait to use our bird houses at our first house if everything goes well with closing! (By the way, don’t you just love Ariel’s expression as she sneaks a peek over Chad’s shoulder?)

20130909-135254.jpgWe also made Aromatherapy Bath Salts. It was super easy!

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We had a lot of fun at Wheatland, and are looking forward to going back next year. Do you like going to festivals? Which is your favorite?

Learning · Projects

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

 

 

 

I remember loving the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” when I was growing up, and I still love it to this day. Lately I have been finding myself getting down and worrying about a lot of things I can’t change. I want to fix everything to make my family happy all the time, I want to have more friends that I really feel I can connect with that live on the same continent–or better yet, the same city in the same state!–, and I want to be comfortable and capable in my new job. I don’t want to worry, I want to be happy!

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A few years ago, before I got the opportunity to work exclusively as a teacher of small children, I made the page above in my art journal. Amazingly, I’ve done a lot of the things listed: I’ve gone to Italy and Spain, I’ve sort of joined a book club (though it only consists of my sister-in-law and myself), I started Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (though I didn’t finish–ahem), and I’ve gone paragliding (though I know that’s not the same as parasailing!). I’ve been researching soup kitchens and Habitat for Humanity, and we’ve been looking at houses with a Realtor, so we’ll be getting our chance to make our first house a home.  And, probably most significant at the moment, I am now working in a cafe.

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Around the same time that I made that page, I made this one above with a “mantra.” I came up with the mantra through an exercise in an art journaling class I was taking, and when it came out be the following, I was really excited:

“I want to electrify the lives of children by broadening their horizons and teaching them to navigate life with energy, curiosity, creativity and optimism!”

After making that page, I was lucky enough to live out my mantra as an Executive Head Teacher and Curriculum Coordinator for the Early Learning Center of an international school in Japan. I found my passion, and I hope one day I can start making a difference in early education in the states. In the meantime, I’m trying my best to stay positive, and not let anything or anyone get me down. I mentioned briefly before how working at Starbucks has been kind of stressful, but I think I’m already getting used to things. And I feel pretty lucky to be getting the opportunity to learn all about (and taste!) coffee, to always take my breaks and arrive/leave when my shift starts/begins (which I never did when working as a teacher), and to be gaining so many new, valuable experiences.

Since we’ve been home I’ve often been feeling a bit out of place, and it’s been hard to talk about my life when pretty much every sentence starts with, “In Japan…” or “When I was in Japan…” That was my life for about 5 years, but I feel like a lot of people can’t relate and so they sort of shut down whenever I talk about it. I’ve had moments where I just want to scream or where I just want to cry because I miss my friends in Japan. But, I also have the joy of being with my family every day, and of living in the gorgeous state of Michigan. I’m forcing myself to think something positive to counteract every negative thought that crosses my mind, and if I’m frustrated with a particular situation that’s out of my control, I try my best to let off steam about it once and then limit my acknowledgement to a simple, “I’m frustrated with X situation right now,” before trying my best to let go.

I think I’m learning an important lesson in being vulnerable and in growing through change. We knew we had gotten really comfortable with life in Japan, and that things would be getting uncomfortable for a while as we figured out our life together here. But overall, we’ve sure got it good. We don’t need to worry, we just need to focus on letting go, appreciating how lucky we are, and on being happy.

 

Monday Matters

Home, Sweet Michigan

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

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After nearly five years of living abroad in Japan, we’re finally home to Michigan. It’s strange, at the moment–the feeling that we’re on vacation for a while and going back to Japan soon is starting to fade, and yet being here permanently hasn’t quite sunk in yet either. It is so good to see family so often now, and difficult to explain how at the same time I so dearly miss my friends and “family” in Japan. How do you describe a life abroad for that long, where you start calling a different location home, too?

20130701-101410.jpgAn ema, or prayer card, I filled out about a week before leaving Japan.

I’ve said before that whether in Japan or the US, we’ll always be homesick for one place or the other. I can’t lie and say I don’t miss Japan, but I also can’t say that I’m not incredibly happy to be home. Life in Michigan is so comfortable–I love being in America!

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We lived in Kobe the last half of our time in Japan.

I know that our time spent abroad was invaluable. It definitely wasn’t always easy, but Chad and I learned so much about each other, about cultures all around the world, and about life in general in our time away from Michigan. We had some hard lessons, some fascinating lessons, and many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Now that we’re home, we’re onto the next journey in our lives–a new beginning, so to speak. We’re not sure what that means for us exactly, and I think that’s okay. Through it all we’ll be together, with our past experiences to look back on and remember.

Here are a few pictures from our last few weeks in Japan–though there are so many more and it’s hard to choose only these to share!

20130701-101420.jpgGreen tea soba, at a restaurant with my beautiful kimono-wearing friends, a pretty coaster, a matcha parfait

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Standing in our kimono in Kyoto (except my lovely pregnant friend, who is still just as cute!).

20130701-101454.jpgPirikura (Japanese photo booth)

20130701-101752.jpgOn our last day in Japan, we got this message on our drinks from Starbucks! I decided to try the matcha flavor frappuccino for the first time since I didn’t know if it would be offered in the US.

Thank you to everyone in both Japan and in Michigan for all of your support and love over the past four and a half years. We couldn’t have made it through our adventures without you, and will keep on needing you in the future! Here’s to new beginnings!