life in drinks
hello!! this piece is basically lightly edited thoughts from the shower. stick til the end for a homemade milk tea recipe~
If all else fails (I oversleep, lay in bed reading Discord messages, scroll my Notes app), I can salvage my morning routine by making a matcha latte. Green powder and hot water into a glass, whisk in zigzag motions. Insert milk container and watch a stream of light froth fill the glass. Drink from the grassy film of it. I think about people and time and cafes and all the caffeinated drinks I’ve had since last year. $7 lattes at NEO and Balzac’s at the public library on Bloor. My first purchase in SF was at Mazarine Coffee on Market St. My last was Blue Bottle on the way to SFO after picking up a salmon salad at an oyster shop where I felt like I was in Goodfellas. Photos framed on the wall of men gone fishing. The employees — men who were probably all brothers or cousins or second cousins — were opening up the restaurant, cups and plates and napkins laid out on the countertop. They were washing things, slicing things, storing fish and mollusks in crushed ice. In the airport, I unfolded the salad from its neatly wrapped paper and ate it on my lap while waiting for my flight.
Around this time last year I was reading This is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan where he wrote that coffee’s introduction to Europe coincided with industrial progress. Factory workers took coffee breaks to maintain their wakefulness. Mathematicians were drinking coffee to write proofs, like devs taking adderall. Caffeine was said to have lit up a new room for human consciousness to move into. Would that work on me too? My 21st century already-hyper-stimulated self. In the morning I made a latte with the coffee machine. At school I looked at the first page of my calculus test. Then my awareness inflated and encircled my body. I speedran that test. I totally just accessed latent knowledge, didn’t I, I thought. 3 days later I got handed back a 60. But I tried to replicate that feeling of enlargement everyday for the rest of the semester. I was squeezed for time and poured the coffee into a thermos and drank it on the road, waiting for the jitter, then the ensuing lucidity. All that time I wondered when high school would end.
Unoriginal experience: never understood coffee’s appeal as a kid, now I do. In chemistry we extracted caffeine from coffee. This week’s experiment wasn’t in the lab, but the Culinaria Lab, where we drank this very strong coffee using different extraction settings I’ve never heard of. French press, etc. All semester, I felt uptight wearing the lab coat and goggles. I’d forget that I could chat with my labmate while we wait for a reaction to finish in the fumehood. Chemical smells clinging to my hair. I’m so used to behaving transactionally. I just ask for things. Before lab time, I peered inside the Culinaria Lab thinking I was late. The room is red to stimulate appetite and there are 2 long kitchen islands in the centre. A professor was lecturing to a small class. Food studies. Later it was time for our lab. Everyone was eating hollandaise sauce and drinking coffee and chopping cabbage and I felt more civilian than obliged student. I felt like I could breathe. We were doing life and not tasks. We wore aprons. My lab coordinator was wearing ordinary clothes. There was nothing psychoactive about the coffee I had. Smelled strong and bitter and for the rest of the day I felt steady. I came home and played Civ 6 as Russia til 3AM.
I spent the afternoon today making milk tea. The weather was erratic, but calmed down during that long meditative stretch of time I spent waiting for water to boil, tea to steep, ice to melt. The sky was baby blue and cloudless. I sampled the drink from the bowl. It smelled and tasted watered-down. And I was like why ?!! I basically wasted a lot of milk and tea and sugar. Then I realized. I thought 8 cups of water = 800 mL. Lol. So I poured everything down the sink and started again, this time following my dad’s recipeinstead of winging it. When I finished I didn’t even realize. The whole process seemed to bleed into the outcome. I placed the pitcher on the kitchen table and spent another hour trying to order shawarma on UberEats (I’d like to have a word with the UX designer). Sometimes I’m so slow, sometimes I’m so frantic. I pour myself a glass.
For 1 pitcher: 1.5L water, 2/3 cup black tea leaves, steep 12 mins. Strain. 1.2kg ice, 600mL milk, 1 cup sugar. Optional: Add pearls. Enjoy <3