I was drinking a lot last summer. That summer, my friend gave me his dirty coffee machine – my first coffee machine. And the same friend sent me some tea from Taiwan. While I was tasting the tea leaves, I sent my thanks to him on MSN, told him that I’ve never tasted tea like this before, then told me that the real gift was the trendy designed tea steeper, not the black tea or the oolong, said to be the tester for the steeper.
I went to Safeway to buy some coffee beans. I never bought my own beans, even though I drank coffee everyday. That summer, I was drunk on coffee and tea. I didn’t sleep at night, I was on my guitar all evening, staying silent on my laptop at night ’til early morning, already tuned into my new timezone. I started to love owning a coffee machine. I can adjust the taste of my coffee. I could drink the soft brews straight, and make mocha drinks and ice coffee with milk/cream.
Just when I started a happy life with my new toy, I had to leave it for the year.
Later that summer I was in Chengdu. I was in distress by the fact that coffee, not only is a rare product, but also isn’t affordable for daily consumption (that is if you are a college student living on barely enough government money aid). One cup of latte costs 30 yuan. That is one month of baozi (包子) for breakfast; Three days of a split family style meal for dinner (家常菜); A week’s worth of groceries. Which ever you want to use to compare. I got the chance to visit Starbucks with some friends. The coffee taste pretty much just like at home – one of the moments when I applause to the corporate cup of coffee. That is the best I could get in Chengdu.
The nearest Starbucks wasn’t at a convenient location. I began to scout around for coffee in the neighborhood. At least on every block, I found milk tea stands (or aka. Boba Tea – Taiwanese Style milk tea). I was biking my way home from school, then I found this milk tea stand advertising their coffee drinks. I was excited to see that, and rushed in to ask what kind of coffee drinks they offer. I ordered from their menu, a cup of cappuccino, jittering even before drinking, anxious to taste my 4 yuan cup of coffee. Unbelievable price! Little did I know, it was a cup of cappuccino from an instant coffee machine. I should have known. That was my little disappointment of the day, walked away while enjoying my not so bad cup of instant coffee. Later, I was more aware of people’s definition of coffee.
Before my instant shooters, I drank nestle canned-coffee. I looked for the place where sells the cheapest. At the mini-marts, they usually sell for 3.50-5.00 yuan a can. Then I discovered, at the Chinese Wal-mart（好又多）sold nestle canned-coffee at 2.50 yuan a can. I save roughly 1 yuan buying from Wal-mart – which is usually not the case, because everything else there is over priced in China.
It still was a hassle to make my way to Wal-mart so I started my research for the best choice of instant coffee. I consulted the GoChengdoo forums. The foreigner favorite brands: Nestle and Maxwell’s. I’ve seen those in WOWO and Hongqi (i.e. similarly, 7-11, Chengdu convenient store). A box of Maxwell Instant coffee is around 20 yuan for 12 packets. Nestle packets are sold individually for 1 yuan. I haven’t tried Maxwell in China yet. I remember drinking this brand back home in Seattle, and it wasn’t that great. In face, I didn’t like any kind of instant coffee, with the exception of Starbuck’s micro-ground, Via ® instant coffee.
I got busy with school, and started adopting my skills with instant coffee.
In a period of an hour, I snooze my alarm clocks every 10 minutes. That is how much it takes me to get out of bed in the morning. 20 minutes before class starts, I bounce out of bed, get dressed, start the water boiler. While my roommate puts on her make up in the bathroom, I brush my teeth at the kitchen sink and when the water boiled, I pour it into my to-go coffee cup, the coffee powder dissolved, then I spit out the toothpaste, put on my shoes, get on my bike and soar to school. Everything, all instant!
After awhile I drank tea instead in the morning. Why drink instant coffee, when you can drink nice tea?