It made me realise that while I’ve taken photographs of historical buildings, quirky art, gorgeous gardens on my travels, I have pitifully few photos of my morning cup of coffee, my after-dinner coffee or even my hotel-room coffee.
Yet, these cups of comfort represent many special moments: the quiet contemplation on a balcony, the thrill of discovering a local coffee shop speciality, the restful recuperation on a photo stop after two hours on a coach, even a conversation starter on a long train journey. Indeed, each cup was often a cultural experience and history lesson in itself.
So here are some royalty-free stock photographs that come closest to what I’ve encountered. My thanks to the photographers for their generosity in sharing, and for capturing what I should have.
This reminded me of kopi tarik (co-pee tar-rake) or “pulled coffee” in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The stall owner would raise his metal pot way above his head, take perfect aim and pour coffee (or tea) into a mug. He would pour the liquid in the mug back into the pot the same way, and repeat the pot to mug transfer. The result was a frothy beverage with the temperature just right for sipping. The old-fashioned cappuccino, perhaps?
This is Vietnamese dripped-coffee. In the tin cup are coffee grounds with hot water poured to the brim and kept warm by the saucer on top. In the mug is sweetened condensed milk. When all the liquid had dripped into the mug, you stirred your drink with the metal spoon and ta-da! … coffee.
I must confess this was something I didn’t actually try, although my fellow travellers did. In Singapore, traditional coffee shops in the 1930-40s served coffee with condensed milk and a blob of butter; this was called kopi gu you (co-pee goo you, where gu=cow, you=fat, hence coffee butter). The butter was said to add flavour to the coffee, and to “smoothen” its taste. Today, this drink has made a comeback, and also flourishes in parts of the US as Bulletproof Coffee, blended with the butter, coconut oil and protein powder.
And these two cuties remind me of my too-short trip to Nagoya, Japan.
In an attempt to promote phone-free dining and arrest the decline of real conversation, McDonald’s erected these mini-lockers. The intention was for diners to safely store their phones while they ate and conversed with the people they were actually dining with.
Look closely and you will notice the absence of phones, save two.
The lockers themselves were absent from that outlet several weeks later.
Today, as I shifted some furniture around, a tiny millet seed rolled out. And I wanted to cry because it brought back memories of the family baby – Snowball the Hamster, who died almost to this day last August.
Snowball came to us as our friend couldn’t stand the thought of him being lonely after his siblings had been adopted. We’d had no plans for a pet, much less a high maintenance attention seeker like Snowball.
If we had our meals, he wanted his treats.
If we returned from an outing, he’d be at his little house staring pointedly at us felons for daring to abandon him for two hours.
If we cleaned his cage, he’d scurry to his spot behind the sidetable to have a munchfest on whatever seeds he had in his cheekpouches. When we were done, we had to wait till he was. The three inch King of the House would sashay out and clamber back into his Castle.
Obviously, the little seed had been lodged somewhere, unnoticed for almost exactly a year. Or Snowball was reminding us of his presence.
I tap my keyfob to get out the door, and out the gates. I tap my travel card for the train. I decide against taking the driverless shuttle and walk to my building. Upon arrival, I tap my card to enter. I settle down and tap on my keyboard and various devices to communicate with everybody and anybody who has sent me messages and things to read. I attend a briefing where I listen to the presentation of the uber boss reaching out to us from the other side of the world.
I tap my watch to pay for coffee in the cafeteria. I tap my phone to e-pay my share of lunch. Naturally, throughout lunch, we’re all tapping our phones and catching up with all our other friends not at the table (or not even in the same country, or not even really known to us except via an avatar and a chosen moniker).
Because I have 12 minutes to spare before the end of lunch, I engage in a Scrabble game against an opponent I don’t know and have never seen but that beats me to a pulp.
I run into a problem with my email password so I call a helpdesk. I listen to a recording that gives me a list of eight numbers I can press, each with another 5 choices, then I listen to a Richard Clayderman recording for 22 minutes before the line of the person I need to speak to buzzes and says “the mailbox is full … please contact us via email …” which I can’t access because that’s my login problem in the first place.
I stop to get take-out after work and tap on the e-menu, adding extra sauce and opting for reduced sugar in my drink. I want to protest the higher cost of less sugar but there’s no “Contact Us” option. “Contact Us” could possibly be the greatest oxymoron of the 21st Century.
I stop to collect my laundry and tap my code, watching as the carousel whirls about and a metal arm hands me my coats.
When I get home, I say, “Hi, I’m back!”
And realise that, just like that, I’ve spoken more to the cactus than to any human being in the entire day.