Category Archives: coffee hipstery

all the world’s colours and breakfasts

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The title of this post is a riff on the French translation of Tous les matins du monde (which translates clunkily into all the world’s mornings. It’s a novel by Pascal Quignard and the film (directed by Alain Corneau) famously has:

    • THE FREAKING VIOLA DA GAMBA (no joke, this film is responsible for bringing the viol to a wider audience. Don’t even get me started on how ace Jordi Savall is)
    • Gérard Depardieu’s suuuuuper-hot son Guillaume, playing the younger Marin Marais (I’m really sorry I’m early-modern-western-music geeking out but the music is sublime – may even have read that the actors who are shown playing the gambas learnt the basics but I’m not going to cite that for you ’cause I’m losing you…! <3)
    • grown men learning music and crying in sheds
    • soundtrack available here! (I don’t feel dirty about sharing a Spotify URL to it because I’ve got it on CD twice. There was a 20th anniversary for the film version, so I’ve got that one, natch. The ‘regular’ one is really my dad’s, hehe

Review proper starts now.

zine: The Suburban Review vol. 7 (writers of colour)* edited by Anupama Pilbrow

full disclosure: I have a piece that appears in this volume, but for the purposes of this post, I am not reviewing it. This is about celebrating and reviewing others’ works who appear. I’ve never read this zine cover-to-cover till now.

drinks: non-alcoholic – Woolworths brand English breakfast tea (day 1 & 2) / alcoholic – Sailors Grave Brewing (Orbost, Vic AUS) coffee breakfast stout; 500mL can, 5% ABV (day 2)

I didn’t really learn the word ‘suburb’ before I came to Australia. In England, places were cities or towns, and in the Philippines they were villages, now that I reflect on where I’ve lived within these countries.

The people that feature in this volume of TSR are amazing. They are intimidatingly talented and their profiles have only grown since it came out. At this year Emerging Writers’ Festival and National Writers’ Conference, I was astounded to learn (pleasepleaseplease read that in the best way possible!) that TSR co-editor Anupama Pilbrow is a mathematician as well as a poet. Recently, I’ve come to see many poetry-pure sciences links as making sense – before I understood them as facts on a page. Perhaps I wanted to see them as distinct rather than celebrate their joyful overlappings.

Anupama’s intro is about representation and how it really matters. Coincidentally, I posted a thread on Twitter the day I started writing this post about how knowing the British-Guyanese writer Fred d’Aguiar even existing means writers like me can claim space?

That last question mark is there – deliberately.

The first piece by Pakistani-based Mahreen Sohail ‘en-route‘ hits me in the feels so hard, I’m not initially prepared. It starts with imaginings of if one were to set fire to a house, then seamlessly moves through the complicated relationship between a mother and a daughter when migration is part of your experience. There were times where I winced reading it because even though I’ve never come across this author’s work before, there is so much that feels familiar – the silences, the I-don’t-want-to-argue-but-I’ll-push-you-to-your-limits-anyway exchanges. Just…wow.

Gomeroi poet and lawyer Alison Whittaker’s ‘Workwork: odes to invisible indigenous burdens‘ has three poems. The first ‘Blackwork’ short, sharp, economical and I love the way she uses dashes and white space. Nothing about the way she uses the page, its language and its space is accidental. It is measured to critique and devastate persons that could be the reader. Here’s a spot that made me go ‘ooh. phwoar. fuck.’:


That dawdling off-trend meme,
White guilt. To survive among it; well,

it’s naff to say, but compul—

—sory to do. …

(excerpt from ‘Blackwork’)

The second poem ‘Heartwork’ is at first literal then metaphorical, in describing the heart and its bodily mechanics. I’m not giving anything away or spoiling the poem for you by quoting its final line:

…—colonially tired, colonially blue.

You can learn more about Alison here, and also note that she is this year’s Indigenous poet-in-residence for the Queensland Poetry Festival after finishing a stint studying in the US.

The Sharmas‘ by Jov Almero is clever, incisive and devastatingly funny. It will make you cringe, wince, giggle, raise your eyebrows in saucy expectation, and it’s refreshing to hear someone write about food and not wax lyrical about it as a transformative cultural experience. Cheeky snorts will happen whilst reading! Also: yea fellow Pinoy!

‘Chorui’ by New Delhi-based Sohini Basak is the kind of poetry I want to write – slightly stream-of-consciousness, uses repetition in a letter-permutation kind of way, and includes personalised taxonomies. It’s about a crow who has a bet going on with a sparrow who claims the crow’s too filthy, so it tries to get washed but can’t – because everything it wants to touch to get clean doesn’t want to get dirty!

                 …then our crow goes to the 

holy cow … milk please … a study in food chain

As I start listening to Radiohead’s Kid A album (one of my favourite musical aids for sleep, and late night working – it’s like musical comfort food?), I read Sean Wai Keung’s ‘Immigration’ poetry sequence. There are two sections called ‘Departure’, and Arrival is in the middle. This review is getting super-long so I’m mindful of that, but it’s such a haunting look at what generations eat and how they travel and what they have to do to survive in the places they’re alien to, in search of a better life. Reading it instills a sad yet necessary pensiveness – it’s nice to be up late now, reading the form I guess I call my writing genre ‘home’ (which stems from my first real love – music) but also a little lonely.

Lee Lai’s comic features a queer couple of colour, one preparing a roast chicken, the other excitedly interrupting. Afterwards, they share the meal and feed each other, and say the most vulnerable, frightening, loving things to each other. ‘Queer people of colour and romantic* contentment’ needs to be a genre! This comic sequence made me smile the way I do when my cat is happy and she just wants to be around me because my existence apparently makes her really settled, and then we catch each others’ content feels.

Eerily, when reading ‘Looking For Cuba’ by Celine Aenlle-Rocha, ‘In Limbo‘ and ‘Idioteque‘ came on. It’s short but impactful, and questions when a person stops and/or starts to belong to a place they are fleeing, and the place they’ve fled to.

Stephanie Chan’s ‘Waterfall’ is a poem/microfiction piece about a first, shared overseas trip to Malaysia. It’s also another lovely example of queer intimacy and is prefaced with a note on its inspiration (Cyril Wong’s poem ‘crossing j. b.’ from their poetry collection Below: Absence – more wonderful poets’ work to look up!).

Ellen van Neerven, a Yugambeh writer, has a short story called ‘Carrier’. It’s kind of wonderful and dark, in that way where you read and don’t quite know what’s going to happen or follow, and know that some bad stuff’s gone down, and your mind just keeps birthing more questions as you read on. The sense of wholeness is in the quotidian scenes of people caring for each other and connecting in the best way possible even if we are stripped down to our best or worst selves. There’s an unease about going on the journey of Jet, the character who’s injured, and this doesn’t resolve with the story’s end. You realise, as a reader, that to want neat resolutions and endings, is actually quite misanthropic towards the writer, and towards humankind.

‘War Flowers’ by Mexican-American poet Fernando Pérez is about photographs, and their lives. Such astounding economy of words evident in tight metaphor and hints at major national historical events. I’ll quote some of my favourite lines:

Those camera flashes that made blue eyes in black and white

appear hollow.

[…]

Revolution let sticks of dynamite fly.

Time in a camera’s flash, rifle mouths in bloom.

I saved drinking the alcoholic selection for this post for the second day of reading. The gorgeous Bengal I’m currently looking after seems to have given me time off to write this, so now I have the evening to finish a can of this gorgeous stout.

It looks like flat cola, and tastes slightly acidic in that way too! Must be citrus, or some sort of bitter citrus oil from rind. Why is this so heavenly? I’m just going to retype the can tasting notes here:

Coffee Breakfast stout brewed with micro-roasted beans by our old friends at Genovese, vanilla beans, cinnamon & a little Lark Whisky barrel oak ageing to boot!

Coffee notes: Jhone Milanez Lacerda – lot #03. Red Catual varietal. Controlled fermentation process. Sitio Santa Rita estate. Serra do Caparao (Brazil) region (altitude: 1250 masl); coffee tasting notes: strawberry jam, candied orange, milk chocolate, ripe jackfruit, juicy mouthfeel. Roasted by Ben Toovey.

HA! Fark am I glad I saved this can as an end-of-the-week drink! No wonder it’s so freaking divine! In case you were wondering, I never read tasting notes of a beer till I’ve drunk at least half a glass of it and tried to name the flavours I think I can get?

So what did I think I could taste? Jam, orange, cocoa, mango tartness, vanilla, chai spice, something to make it taste smooth but thick the way coconut cream is, something boozy.

When it warms up a bit, the acidity is more pronounced and I start to get a bit of that savoury roast coffee feel, but not much. Gosh, this coffee by itself must be dreamy to drink. I’m going to pour my second glass (very coincidentally a Bonne Maman jam jar!), and start reading where I got up to.

‘Final Call’ by Bikram Sharma is about two best friends, one of which has a successful application to study at an overseas university. There’s familial expectation, there’s hints of magic realism very, very subtly woven in, and the story itself is achingly devastating though not in ways you’d expect. It went down paths I definitely did not expect and so deftly; quickly but not rushed.

There’s a lot to process in Atong Atem’s ‘Conversations With Myself, My Mama, My Friend, and My Past Self About The Burden of Re-Learning Intimacy’ – it’s creative non-fiction, and framed through experiences of childhood assimilation, and talking to relatives, and the emotional labour and burnout that goes with uneven (largely platonic, it’s insinuated) relationships. She gives voice to the complicated dance that is displacement, belonging, surviving but not really enjoying existing as an alien.

Khalid Warsame does the same with this list poem? microfiction? piece ‘Secret Shame’, though any piece that intimately admits zolpidem as being part of the creator’s existence is going to have me on board (seriously: I have never embarrassed myself drunk ever the way I have whilst waiting for Stilnox to kick in, if it’s even working. Chronic insomnia is part of my mental illness experience).

Though I’ve largely discussed the works above in order of appearance, Taiwanese artist Mengo Lee’s comic about surviving and looking after an unwell parent was sandwiched between Warsame and Atem’s pieces. It captures and conveys the eerie, dreamy-like state of being in hospital, and waking up and not wanting to really get up out of bed, that could be due to medications or sleep-wake cycles, conscious-unconscious states of being.

The last piece by Wiradjuri writer Hannah Donnelly, ‘Bloodwood’ examines the surreality of colonisers/invaders’ belief systems (I particularly enjoyed the mockery of the union jack symbolism and the weird anti-biological birth that made Jesus’ apparent existence possible), and the title ties and threads all contributions in this volume together. It also reminds us that many of us are still living an ongoing process of decolonisation, if we are persons of colour. How many generations does it take to shed that exhausting burden? I couldn’t resist quoting a line, about water, because it exposes my ‘head’ knowing and understanding that Australian First Nations peoples are the land, and the land is them, I’ll never really know that truth. It’s uncomfortable to admit that, but it also means continuing to learn in earnest and deep, solid hope and optimism. It’s about water reservoirs:

Forced to sit in stillness, the water turned into tainted sorrow that killed them for hoarding its flow

Melbourne-based comic artist Rachel Ang has illustrations peppered throughout relating to the written works featured, and is also responsible for the cover art – having her illustrate the landing page for my ‘Umami’ piece was just…it felt wonderful and special to think that someone could read my piece and create based on it?! (I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about my work, but her illustration is gorgeous and cheerful. There’s a quieter reflective one for Keung’s ‘Immigration’ poems, and a darkly magical one for Sohail’s ‘En-Route’.

I’ll end with a confession below. If you got this far, thank you for reading my gustatory, aural and literary indulgences come together in this post!

no, I don’t have a (self-)signed copy because I think I’m famous or important. It was meant to go to a friend who had read and helped edit my work a few years ago, but he never gave me a postal address whenever I asked him for one, so now I have this embarrassing failed display of emotional warmth that makes me wince a lot more than I previously admitted.

Buy unembarrassingly unsigned copies here for a steal! There’s a loooooot of big-deal creatives in it!!!

(*I find odd things romantic: like being able to sit next to someone you love, and have a comfortable silence in a shared space, and limbs might be touching/brushing against each other, and the world feels whole. Though it’s used in a polyamorous context, I also get compersion a lot in a fair few non-romantic situations)

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it only takes seven seeds to yield visits aplenty

I miss Alex.

Seven Seeds interior

There, I admitted it.

Months and months of trawling through random bits of paper and I found a (deliberately) silly poem I wrote about Lenin, Russia and global warming on a receipt. On the other half, I found coffee blends and single origins he’d recommended to me and realised I missed him quite a bit, despite having seen a fair bit of him for some serious fat bastardry in Hong Kong this January just passed (he’s actually a killer karaoke singer – wouldn’t have picked that).

Though Alex looks to give the impression that he’d be the first person in the world to possibly accidentally offend you, one of the things I’ve always admired about him is that if you straight-up say “I have no knowledge of <insert appropriate topic here>” then he is happy to share the knowledge he’s acquired in said area.

I’d initially met him at a Libertine pigfest that I’d somehow successfully managed to arrange and so we got to chat more via that dreaded microblogging social platform and confessed, look, I can’t drink a lot of coffee due to side effects of meds AND idiot IBS, but I want to learn more. Care to help a nigga out?

Seven Seeds, back counter

Thus, he took me to Seven Seeds and my coffee initiation begun.

Seven Seeds counter

I think that date we had four or so coffees each – I had as much as I knew my body would handle – espresso, the Magic (a double ristretto in case Courtney crucifies me for referring to it as thus), Clover, long black.

the 'magic'

Clover coffee

Man, why didn’t Seven Seeds exist when I was actually still at bloody uni? No matter, I was stuck in a soulless job just round the corner (though many of my bosses and coworkers were rad) and it became my pre-work ritual to pick up a soy Magic with the SS house blend. Pretty sure that their soy Magics are what kept me sane. I remember negotiating door, takeaway coffee and various things in hands and once dropping said takeaway coffee on floor. People from another project rushed to my aid but it wasn’t the humiliation, it was the sheer loss of wondrous caffeine goodness that I most lamented. Screw my dignity.

squee! bikes!

On the more common occasions, I’d show up with a grin (don’t worry, the grin wouldn’t be around for too long after), sipping my precious. “Where did you get that?” my favourite team leader would ask. “Oh, Seven Seeds, just up the road a bit…” and after explaining just how far, it was vetoed as a work coffee run place due to being too far.

Oh, did I mention they do great nibblies too? I never feel lonely eating here by myself – the staff are always so lovely and happy to explain the coffee to you till the moment of epiphany hits. Here’s one of the heartier baked beany type meals I had. Infinite comfort food.

020920102589

If you want something more breakfasty rather than brunchy, then how about granola?

granola with berry compote and honeyed yoghurt

Or if you’ve survived an onslaught with the public and private health system (as I seem to be doing of late) and are feeling like a treat, then go with the special of the day – smoked salmon, radish, red onion, watercress, rocket and mixed salad with creme fraiche dressing – salut, Monsieur Decadence.

smoked salmon, radish, red onion, watercress, rocket and mixed salad with creme fraiche dressing

If you can’t eat in, then why not grab a takeaway coffee and some delectable snacky-wacks? I admit these were initially chosen due to their looks but they most certainly did not disappoint. You can see they are divided exactly down the middle so no one has to fight for their share…

flourless mandarin cake & hummingbird cake with takeaway coffee

It’s not just a Carlton institution, it’s a coffee institution. Still feels weird to visit now that Alex isn’t in Melbourne anymore, but it’s a treasured haunt.

just general Seven Seeds prettiness

Seven Seeds on Urbanspoon

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HK: withdrawal…

Gem and I had made it through Kuala Lumpur’s LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) on nothing more than airline food and nervous energy. She’d been awake the entire time; I’d napped in a cramped half-daze.

Man, I could murder a coffee.

Unfortunately, I was in Hong Kong. Venturing out in to the city for my first coffee I came to a horrible realisation — apparently the only thing Hong Kong denizens like more than shopping and eating is Starbucks. I’m fairly sure south-east Asia single-handedly saved Starbucks from bankruptcy by ingesting their caffeinated swill. You get the picture — it was dire.

I kept an eye out for somewhere better, but came up with nothing. Aside from Starbucks you have Pacific Coffee — a similarly vile beverage dispensary. Forlorn, but not defeated, I contacted former Melbourne coffee heart-throb, @alexlobov. Prior to our arrival, Alex had alluded to some coffee oases in the otherwise stark coffee landscape that is Hong Kong.

Armed with information and Google maps to guide me (courtesy of my Jesus phone), I headed to Fuel Espresso deep within the bowels of the International Finance Centre. You’d be forgiven for walking past Fuel’s pedestrian exterior — more Gloria Jean’s than Seven Seeds; not a funky interior or cool barista in sight  — which is unsurprising given its pecuniary surrounds.

I assume it was America’s proclivity to bastardise food that made the thought of an ‘Americano’ (a long black) off-putting in a supersized kind of way. However, if you can get past the name, you will be presented with a good rendition of a long black. Failing that, all of the usual coffee suspects are represented (with their usual names).

 

The staff are friendly, the coffee is good (using a Italian house blend that is roasted in NZ). As this store spawned from a successful New Zealand franchise, Fuel Espresso the HK edition is well worth visiting for your caffeine IV.

However, my caffeine addiction was rampant and all-consuming (oh how droll!) so one place was never going to satisfy. Acting on another recommendation from Alex, I journeyed to my next cafe, hoping to appease my caffeine lust.

The beauty of Hong Kong for me is the fat-bastard-enabling public transport. I can gorge myself in Kowloon, then hop on a train and be across the water on Island stuffing my face within minutes. Said enabling transport allowed me to slip from Kowloon to Sheung Wan for my morning coffee(s) at Barista Jam. Barista Jam would not feel out of place amongst the emaciated and skinny denimed set of Melbourne’s coffee scene. Just like Melbourne you can expect some excellent nosh to go with your coffee — I can attest to the deliciousness of their sandwiches, seeking out their club sandwiches like a pig to truffles. Light fluffy ‘Turkish’ bread with tasty fillings left me wanting more and on revisiting with Gem, they were reordered.

But let’s not get distracted — the coffee!

My first coffee was a double ristretto. It was just right with a great acidic bite without being overpowering. I then moved on to one of the single origins (the exact name escapes me) as a long black (Americano) and finished my decadent spree with a latte of the house blend. All were excellent, and with Barista Jam offering a good rotations of singles and blends you shouldn’t go thirsty.

Upon ordering the double ristretto I received an approving nod from barista — you know, one of those ‘in the know’ things. While I consider myself inexperienced with regards to coffee, I have developed sufficiently to recognise a passable coffee and good interpretation of its style. I think in an odd way the barista appreciated my appreciation, did we have some sort of metaappreciation thing happening? Everybody appreciates sympathy within their day-to-day grind (apologies for the terrible pun), and I think this is especially true of the often under-appreciated  hospitality worker. While the people of Hong Kong are amazingly savvy consumers — especially with their food — they are still developing an appreciation of good coffee (as ‘evidenced’ by the 50 Starbucks on the Island alone) and especially of good beer (but more on that in a future post).

However, fear not, weary traveler – good coffee  can be found everywhere, if you are prepared to seek it out.

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