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Interview with World Traveler Jonathan Spinner

May 26, 2016
Small cafe in Cuenca, Ecuador. Photo belongs to Jonathan Spinner.

Small cafe in Cuenca, Ecuador. Photo belongs to Jonathan Spinner.

Obviously, not makeup or beauty or coffee, but it’s related to coffee. This poor guy was one of my first followers, he thought I was all about a coffee. Then, he soon found out I also like makeup, dogs, and gardening and is still a loyal follower present day.

He has nothing to do with makeup or gardening, but he is a fellow coffee lover. His photographs are stellar and nothing short of NatGeo worthy. I recently sent him a message saying, “Hey, thanks for still supporting MB and I’m sorry you are forced to like my makeup pictures.” His response was “I enjoy supporting anyone who is passionate about whatever they are passionate about.”

I started asking him about his traveling and HOW exactly he makes coffee when I’m assuming he doesn’t have a stove or filtered Brita water. One day he tells me that he barfed all over the streets of Spain. He basically got food poisoning and went on about how food sanitation is something to be treasured in America. Being mature and all, I asked him the following day how his runs were. Something about poop conversations is how some of the nicest friendships begin.

I decided to ask him if he’d be willing to do a travel interview. This isn’t like how I travel with all my skin care and makeup in two separate, large parcels. Or, a nice comfy ride to the airport in an air-conditioned SUV. This definitely isn’t like sitting in a scary place bracing for turbulence at which point you text everyone you love your last words and then feel stupid when you land safely. Yes, I hate flying and turbulence. Jonathan’s travels are dangerous, fun, exciting, and painfully efficient in the staples he can bring with him. No healing mask or ph 5.5 face wash over here.

Let’s see what Survivor World Traveler, Jonathan Spinner, has to say! Follow him here if you want to see more great pics @photosbyjonathan

Petra, Jordan. Photo belongs to Jonathan Spinner.

Petra, Jordan. Photo belongs to Jonathan Spinner.

1. What made you decide you wanted to travel the world? Was there a specific event that piqued your interest?
In college Jeff Johnson and Chris Malloy came on our campus to screen their new film 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless. The film planted the seed of adventure in my head. I wanted to go on trips and I wanted to experience things that not everyone could. That was in 2010 and then a couple years later I was on a train from Zurich to Zermatt in the mountains of Switzerland. My family was supposed to be with me but their flight got delayed so I was by myself, stressed I wouldn’t find them. Across from me on the train were two Germans deciding where to go next. They were drinking a bunch of beers as Germans do. Something about them was so genuine and free. I was on a 10-day vacation, knew exactly where I was going, and felt so limited. These guys had no idea where they’d sleep that night or even where they were going and couldn’t have cared less. I decided right then that I needed to do a big trip and experience the world.

Obsessed with Coffee. Photo belongs to Jonathan Spinner.

Obsessed with Coffee. Photo belongs to Jonathan Spinner.

2. If someone wanted to travel like you, what would they need to bring with them?
My favorite things to do while I travel are to get off the beaten path, take photos, drink coffee, and run. Everything I have is focused around that. I have been traveling with a 50 liter Osprey Pack. Maybe you can affiliate link that? Haha I’m kidding. I started the trip with enough shirts, socks, and boxers for a week. I’m down to like 4 shirts and 3 pairs of socks. The boxers have all survived! I have different stuff sacks to keep everything organized; one for shirts and shorts, one for socks and boxers, and one for dirty stuff. This has saved me a lot of frustration packing up. I have a stuff sack full of coffee stuff: Aeropress, Porlex Mini grinder, small scale… Yeah, it’s out of control; lot’s of questions in hostels and out in the wilderness. A couple things I wouldn’t want to be without: a UV water filter (I have used it a ton), Kindle (hard to find books in English), phone, sleeping bag liner, and a nice family who will take things back home when I’m done with the camping leg of the trip. Thanks, Mom!

Machu Picchu, Top of the World. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

Machu Picchu, Top of the World. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

3. What was your best trip and why? What did you learn?
So far on this year long journey my best trip has been Machu Picchu. I was concerned it wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype or that I’d feel like a sheep in the herd. When everyone says how amazing something is you never know. Not the case in Peru! I did a four-day trek, much less popular than the famous Inca Trail, but didn’t require a guide. It’s called the Salkantay Trek if you want to look into it. I didn’t think I could feel so off the beaten path to one of the most popular destinations in the world. I only saw a handful of people the whole trek. The people I did meet though were amazing individuals. I got to sit down and drink coffee with the farmer who picked the actual beans I was tasting, got life advice from a six-year-old, and learned about quinoa and chia seeds from her dad. Reaching Machu Picchu was only one small part of the experience. I learned for me the process is just as important as the outcome and it’s so much more rewarding for me to do something on my own.

4. What was your worst trip and why would you never go back?
My least favorite place was probably El Salvador. It was the only part of the trip where I have felt unsafe. We’d be walking down the street in San Salvador and everyone would stop what they were doing to watch. As rough as it was, I did meet an amazing old woman making pupusas. She wouldn’t let me pay her for the food. It was a gift and that was that. I felt really touched.

Real friends make travel amazing.

Real friends make travel amazing.

5. What moment in time during travel did you feel happiest? Conversely, what was a sad moment?
One of my happiest moments came in Pucón, Chile. I was with two Americans who came into my life 100% by faith. I met Steve in a cafe in Santiago. I started talking to him because he was repping my university on his shirt. After talking for 15 minutes he decided he needed to come with me to Patagonia to run a 70km ultra marathon two days later. Who was I to tell him people usually train for those sort of things? In Pucón we met up with a girl named Christina who someone I knew had met on a bus in Europe the winter before. The three of us clicked instantly and all finished this 70km race. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I was so proud of us for just doing it. There is no perfect time to try something so why not today? I then ran into each of them independently at the bus station in Argentina a couple days apart.

Journaling in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

Journaling in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

Saddest moment was definitely coming back to society (and to a mountain of Facebook posts about Thanksgiving) after a couple weeks on a coffee farm in Nicaragua. It forced me to look at what I was giving up to travel. Why am I here on a coffee farm, in the rain, with no hot water, speaking a language I struggle with when I could be home eating turkey in a heated house? I came out a better person and was realized exactly why I was traveling and who I wanted to travel with.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

6. Since we are always talking about how different people are and while some of these differences are highlighted through beauty and physical appearances, how are people in different parts of the world similar in views, morals, and heart?
This is such a hard question. Two things I noticed throughout my travels: food and family are so important. In developing countries people spend a significant amount of time and effort on these two categories. Much more so than Americans, I think. Makes you wonder what’s truly important you know?

Shooting sunrise, Easter Island. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

Shooting sunrise, Easter Island. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

7. Why do you love photography?
I took a few black and white courses and fell in love with the darkroom. The excitement of waiting while the chemicals created a physical interpretation of what you saw through the viewfinder. Now I shoot with a digital camera but the excitement of capturing moments hasn’t faded. I really enjoy sharing what I see on my travels with friends back home and people who aren’t able to travel.

Obsessed with coffee. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

Obsessed with coffee. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

8. Describe your typical day in a new place. How do you get there? How long do you stay? Where do you stay?
There really isn’t a typical day. I am not an organized traveler! That can’t be stressed enough. If I ever travel with someone again they will need to be organized and have capacity to plan. I try to travel by bus as much as possible. There is something romantic about telling the driver, “drop me here,” and watching the bus leave in a cloud of dust as you try yo figure out where you are going. I like to stay in a place for at least two nights. I and usually stay in hostels but sometimes I spoil myself with Airbnbs.

9. You’ve mentioned the longest you’ve gone without a shower is 9 days, what did that first shower feel like?
Haha yeah after a long trip in the mountains. The first shower was very slimy. The soap couldn’t quite cut the layer of sunscreen. I think it took three or four showers to actually feel clean.

The world is a playground, Spain. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

The world is a playground, Spain. Photo property of Jonathan Spinner.

10. So you prefer to travel alone or with a partner? Do you ever feel lonely?
Well, I told myself after a summer alone in 2014 that I’d never do an extended solo trip again but I forgot that when I flew to Mexico by myself to start this adventure. But I’ve come to appreciate spending quality time with myself and I do enjoy the freedom. That’s not to say I haven’t wished I had a friend with me for an amazing sunrise or hilarious incident but to either be with someone who isn’t a good travel partner or to miss the experience altogether would be far worse. Like Kendrick says, “You ever been a victim of being a prisoner inside your own mind?” At a certain point, the suffering of being alone looks incredibly peaceful. You just have to get out and explore even if it’s not perfect. That’s what’s perfect.


My Patronus is Coffee

May 18, 2016

How this became even an option is complete Harry Potter, House of Gryffindor level sorcery. Of course, I’ve been more than excited to write about this since coffee is my patronus. Don’t know what a patronus is? It’s an object that someone feels deep affinity with. Don’t know what affinity means? It means a natural liking. Yes, I’m also your dictionary for the day here. Coffee makes me feel like I can do anything- like be your dictionary and run real fast.

Go Cubes were created by Nootrobox who specialize in nootropics. This is basically the wizardry of helping you function like a better human being cognitively by mixing a bunch of safe stuffs together. A more scientific sounding explanation can be found at their website linked below.

What chewing coffee looks like…

Go Cube Chewable Coffee

Go Cube Chewable Coffee

What is it? Chewable coffee is what they are claiming. NO, not like coffee flavored Jelly Belly’s or coffee cake or artificially flavored coffee something. It’s actual coffee, in a cube form.

What is actually in this?

100mg Caffeine, 200mg L-theanine, 250mg Glucuronolactone, 250mg Inositol, 20mg Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), 60mcg Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin)

Is it vegan/GF?
Well, I’m not vegan but thought this was a useful tidbit for those who are. YES, they are vegan and GF. Also, cruelty-free by using pectin derived from plants.

What drinking coffee looks like…

I heart Heart Roasters

I heart Heart Roasters

If you’ve never had any coffee, you’re probably like 9 years old. At some point in time, you’ve seen coffee. I’m showing you this because look how pretty. Also, Heart Roasters is everything on earth.

To Drink or to Chew, That is the Question. So, what’s my answer?

Look at that cube. It’s cute, it’s small, it’s not messy, and it’s easy to bring with you anywhere. It makes you feel like you drank coffee without the crash (if you do experience crashing after coffee). It makes you feel really hip because it’s the new, cool thing that kind of defies the whole purpose and mess of making coffee.

There is a place for new, hip, innovative things, always. It’s fun, exciting, and people love new stuff. I mean, to be honest, I feel “cool” that I have the Go Cubes in my possession. I even ate a whole bag (contains 4) and felt like I had coffee! Definitely do not drink coffee AND eat a bunch of Go Cubes because you will be awake for about 4 days. The great thing is there’s no crash, at all, so whatever potion they added into this gelatinous cube of coffee is truly magical.

I believe it’s useful, essential even in places where you can’t get coffee and where you need energy. Perfect places would be during a marathon, hike, a trek across the middle of nowhere, or in a place where you question water sanitation. It’s the perfect item for survival and if they started selling at Costco, I’d most likely purchase them for my running for that excellent pick-me-up at mile 6.

That said, coffee in a cube is very 2016 and I’m pretty old fashioned, like 1980. Making coffee is a ritual, a self-care process, and a luxury of life I do not take for granted. Sure it takes time, but what’s 6.5 minutes in a day to treat yourself to something you really love? Opening a bag of beans, measuring out 18 grams, and waiting for the water to brew is all so exciting. I don’t know, maybe this is dumb, but it’s a joyful process. I’m all for instant gratification, but the anticipation of a good cup of coffee has too much overwhelming joy attached to it.

I can’t see how I’d call my BFF and say “Hey, let’s meet up at Heart for coffee” and then whip out some cubes. I don’t know. Something about drinking coffee with friends and family is the pathway for making memories, growing bonds, and laughing. I can picture us sitting there like this:

E: *just chewing on a cube:
K: *chewing…staring..*
*Keep staring at each other
E: Uh, what now?
K: Why do I have to tell you all the answers to everything, like..
E: GEEZ!!! Just asking!!!! WHY are we even friends, seriously? *Rolls eyes until they get stuck.*
Then at 1230 am…
E: I can’t sleep, let’s go run.
K: I hate you.
E: Your fault, those cubes, per usual, therefore, forthwith.
K: Why are you talking like you’re from the 14th century?
E: Your fault, per usual, henceforth.

See? Drinking coffee though we can catch up on random stuff, random people, each other, and I’d tell him all the new things I learned from my most reliable news source, The Daily Mail.

Something about holding coffee in your hands invokes nostalgia of growing up and seeing a mug on your dad’s desk with his newspaper. Something about smelling fresh coffee beans or freshly brewed coffee makes my eyes roll back into my head and I think about the first time I learned what good coffee was like. Something about seeing coffee being brewed, those gentle drops of life’s elixir dripping from the pour over, baristas with their on-fleek hair and neatly trimmed beards- all of that invokes what it means to be a big kid, a big kid living a good life.

Maybe I have a crazy love affair with coffee that is borderline DSM-V level crazy. I am sincerely sorry that I can’t say I would give up the entire coffee drinking experience for coffee cubes. I just can’t. There are not many things that make me happy every.single.time. without fail. Coffee is one of them and I am unable to give that up, even if it means giving up being cool. But, with that said, I seriously appreciate that Go Cubes exist in our world today because I will give up all my Gu and Running Jelly Beans for Go Cubes! Gu makes me want to vomit and those Jelly Belly’s don’t work all that well when I’m hitting a wall at mile 4. Go Cubes though, I believe will take me to the finish line, in a legal manner, faster than I ever imagined and for that moment in time, I am willing to give up drinking coffee.

Conclusion: My patronus is coffee, of all forms, even cubes….as long as it’s not ..well you know..from that place.

What’s your take? Would you give up drinking coffee to chew it?

To buy some of these cubes, visit Go Cube here.
For more information, visit their FAQ.

To buy Heart Roasters EVERYTHING, visit them here.


Birth Day Musings: A Short Story

April 21, 2016

Victoria BC 2016

Me: A short story.

This isn’t a birth story unless you really want to read about that. Let me know. It is about mine since I have no idea what your birth day was like. I’d have to ask your mom and that’s awkward because we haven’t even had coffee yet.

Growing up, I remembered birth days being about family time and maybe some presents if I got good grades, read: Straight A’s. It never bothered me that my birth days weren’t like A-list parties that Josh Groban was going to attend. It never even bothered me that I didn’t get crazy, fancy gifts because I always felt my parents really loved me. Even as a kid, that was pretty much enough. My husband doesn’t even get me presents and even though I sorta hope for it each year, I know that he loves me kind of a lot. I guess I can almost say I’m kind of a big deal to him 300 days a year. The other 52 days are for football and other stuff more important than me.

Every birth day, I try to think about something I’ve learned, good and bad. It’s probably the most zen I get because thinking too much gives me white hairs. So if you want to read for your night cap, morning poop (I already know so don’t try to act like you don’t do this), or because you’re bored and waiting for kids to nap… come join me in my mind dump.

1. Stuff You Write in Cards to Your Parents:
Situation A. For those in the 32-40 age box, sans children, still like your parents- you write stuff like this:“Hey Mom & Dad- I love you, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. I hope you enjoy your birthday/xmas/valentines/easter/monday. Call you soon.” So cute, so sweet, I’m sure parents appreciate it. You send it off, they get it, sometimes maybe even hope for a $20 bill, and go on drinking tea. You feel like a great kid, which you are by the way because card writing is basically prehistoric activity.

Situation B: For those in the 28-42 age box, with little kids, still like your parents- you write stuff like “Dear Mommy & Daddy, I am so sorry for everything I’ve ever done to make your life a living hell. I know you still love me but I understand those times you didn’t but still had to say to our neighbor that you did. I’m sorry for keeping you awake for like, 29.75 years until I got my sh*t together, and for not calling you when I was out. I am sorry for being the satan child and I hope you can forgive me. You made so many sacrifices like the kind where you left your family to come to the Land of Dreams, where you had no help. Then, had to try really, really hard to build a life for us. My sacrifices pale in comparison. You actually suffered and persevered, unlike my generation’s suffering which is more like –I can’t decide what kind of computer to get, what phone to upgrade to, and what should I post on stupid Instagram today. I am a disgrace. Why do you keep talking to me? Ugh, here’s a card and here’s some scribbles from the kids. Oh yeah, Merry Christmas.” Once you become a parent, you are so damn sorry for every sh*tty tantrum and situation you put your parents through. Then you look at them and understand why they had MORE kind of see if the next would better than the previous. Luckily, my sister is a good Dr type person helping people do stuff and my brother is really good at being a good kid. Meanwhile, me, I send many I am sorry cards and my parents are like “WTF, Stop.” OK, they don’t say WTF, but they just laugh manically and text me, “Now you know. You are welcome.”

2. My Kids Are Here to Avenge My Parents: I talked about being a professional child and nagging my dad for coffee. Well, my kids actually are like supremely professional. While my dad lasted MONTHS, I last maybe 8 hours. I can say no until 5:56pm and then I stop caring. Just go, you win, here’s your organic lollipop. I don’t even know why I get organic lollipops, does it even make a difference? I felt like an @$$ just now in saying that I get organic lollipops. Like I need to add a *neener neener my lollipops are better than yours!*. I am sorry.

Anyway, after almost 4 years of being a mom, I’m still Jon Snow, stuck in the cold north who’s about to get killed anyway by the white walkers. Anyone watch Game of Thrones? So, Jon Snow is basically this hot idiot and he dies. So, being a mom is all the feels. So much love that it makes you feel like might throw up. So much frustration that you actually do throw up. The roller coaster of mom life is one that I’m definitely honored to ride. It’s no joke and it actually in some ways, makes you a better person. Kids will break you down worse than any bully on the street or social media antics but then build you back up into a whole new, better, stronger person. Why? Because they do it out of love, not malice. Kids will make you reach deep into your soul to find that last ounce of energy to keep on keeping on and then they’ll say something like “Kate? I love you, mama”. Then, you’ll feel like you can rule the world. Kids will test your limits. They’ll test whether or not you will end up on the nightly news or fight the battle. Then, they’ll give you a half eaten banana as a olive branch and say “Well played, mama, well played.” So, I conclude they are out to avenge my parents- but it’s out of love. Only out to break me into a million pieces so that I can one day be the best version of myself. Kind of like how I broke my parents and they are the best humans on earth. *winks. Yes, right? ok, I’m still sorry*

3. Family: The family you grew up with and the family you made, they are everything. Don’t treat a stranger better than you treat your family. Seriously, no one else is going to love you and keep on loving you even though you’re a total moody jerk all the time. These are the people who well say,”Eh, just being Kate.” With strangers you have to be all pleasant all the time and sometimes you just want to punch them in the throat. Granted you have a family you like- then keep them close and write them “I’m sorry” cards frequently.

4. Actual Friends: I have like 5.5 friends. When I was younger, I had like 17. I’ve always been about quality over quantity. I’m that happy person who has 5.5 people at her birthday dinner. These 5.5 friends include my husband so that leaves 4.5. When I was a kid, I’d cry to my parents about not having any friends and they weren’t easy on me. I remember them telling me something along the lines of, “Why do you care about this person? Are they feeding you? Focus on your studies, your life goals. Are they going to give you a kidney? You are 8, you have the rest of your life for this.” Now, I’ve made friends who HELPED me focus on my life goals, achieve them, and I’m certain they’d give me a kidney should mine fail. They are the friends my parents will ask about and say,“Kate, don’t mess it up, this is a good friend.. like the kind you never had.” I’m really happy to have these 4.5 people in my world.

5. Just People: People walk through your life all the time unless you live in a cave, then it’s just squirrels and rabbits. You might meet some great ones and they get moved onto the kidney donor list. But, you’re going to meet some people who are great in their own way, but it just doesn’t work out. This is ok, too. They aren’t Satan spawn or anything unless they kill stuff. Differences either bring us together or keep us apart. It’s a natural way of life. Some may feel like that was a waste of time or even experience real betrayal. I know it’s easier said than done, but let it go because when you’re 89, they’ll be a distant memory. And if you have dementia, I say this really seriously, they’ll be a dead memory. Unless they are paying your bills, watching your kids, giving you a salary, or about to give you a kidney– let it all go. If they are going to black mail you, that’s illegal and so call the cops. Posting to social media about isn’t actually going to do anything… like actually dial 911 or contact the FBI. So, take it as a life lesson learned. If something doesn’t feel right in your gut, back away graciously, kindly. Agree to disagree. No malice, no hatred, no voodoo stuff people! Just let it go. If someone’s style isn’t making you happy, leave. If someone’s humor doesn’t ring with yours, leave. Save yourself trouble and go be with people who truly appreciate you.

You find the people who you can connect and slowly grow the friendship. Grow things at a normal, healthy pace and usually, it’ll work out. Because look at the chickens on growth hormones, yeah that’s why some of you don’t eat meat. It’s not natural. And growing human relationships on steroids is also not natural. Long tern human relationships can’t be based on fake romantics where you fall in love in 2 days and get married in 4 weeks. Haven’t we learned from celebrities that this kind of stuff doesn’t last?

Not everyone is like you nor will everyone like you. Look at God, he is like the greatest human that ever lived from what I’ve learned at mass, and not everyone likes him. And, he has super powers to make puppies and flowers! Humans are so hard to please that even the Lord can’t. So, what makes you think you need to, too? The problem with knowing more people is that you end up liking dogs so much more. The problem with shutting yourself out to people is that you miss out on the very few diamonds you find in the sea of rocks. Get past the rocks, find your diamonds, and move on.

6. Being Healthy: Being healthy is the epitome of all the gifts. Do what you can to keep this health. Whether it be something simple like give up soda or walking 10 minutes a day. Just try because once you lose this health, everything follows. Your mental health, emotional well being, and your quality of life. Baby steps, take baby steps. Look at real human beings among your peers or coworkers or someone at the grocery store who is taking baby steps. People who are actually dealing with something similar to you will always be more empathetic than someone who thinks they’ve been through something similar. Protect your health like your protect your social security cards.

7. Being Happy: Next to good health, being happy is gift not everyone has but will want to take from you. When you are happy, people who hate you hate it. When you are happy, people who love you are happy for you. Amirite? Work hard towards being happy even though it’s really not easy to achieve with every day pressures. I don’t know how quite to do this that well yet. I am trying. I do know when I am happy, it makes 4.5 people really happy. Everything around me flourishes and isn’t life about flourishing?

What makes you happy? Do that. Who makes you happy? Be with them. If you can’t avoid people, ignore and go drink coffee. Cut out everything that makes you stress or causes you grief. It doesn’t matter in the long run when you are 89 and can’t control your poops anyway. Anyone who isn’t going to be there to give you a kidney or change your diaper, let them go. Take steps to eliminate what you can and focus your heart on what brings you joy. This is actually really hard because humans try hard to please one another. We want to belong. We want to be liked. Well give no sh*ts unless it’s with someone who gives three sh*ts about you. Because hey, even the Lord can’t make everyone happy and he MAKES PUPPIES! That is all.

What are your musings? Seriously, I owe you coffee & your choice of pain medication after this read. Share with me what your wisdom in life is. Tell me what keeps you happy. Thank you.

Tulip Festival 2016


Why I love Coffee

April 4, 2016

Why I love coffee. It’s like asking why do you love your dog. It’s basically like that.


I’ve been asked, “Um, how much coffee do you drink?” or “What’s a good coffee?”. I like these types of questions, so don’t ever hesitate to ask me! The more unflattering comments are, “Are you dependent, like crack dependent?” or “I don’t drink coffee, it’s gross, but tea is better for you anyway.” *insert side eye*

Anyway, I remember so vividly my dad drinking coffee. He would dip his toast in it and I would wonder what was so good about it. So, I remember asking, then begging, then pestering as professional children do so well, for a sip. The following discussion ensued and slowly but surely, I broke the man down and he let me have some coffee.

*Everyday for 4 months in like 1987*
Me: Can I try?
Dad: This is medicine, it’s not for kids.
Me: But, I’m sick, can I try?
Dad: Ask your mom.
Me: I did already, she said ask you.
Dad: NO.
Me: WHY?
Me: But, I’m 7, I’m not a kid. I’m a big kid.
Dad: Go do your algebra.
Me: But, let me have that medicine first.
Dad: $%@#$%#&* HERE!
Me: *takes a sip and almost dies instantly*
Dad: *silently does a parental “I win” dance*

This poop water then made me sick every time I saw him drink it. Then, I wondered why people drank it and drank so much of it. I went through college and grad school without so much drinking more than a cup total. I remember some professors with that stale coffee smell that wafted across the room. *Gag* I would try to drink it. I even got a coffee machine and tried to be cool by bringing a cup to class. But, I never drank it. It just tasted like burnt onions. I would meet up with friends to do work at Panera Bread, order coffee, and just stare at it. One day, I met my demise. We were working on Multilevel Modeling, some fancy stats stuff, so I thought I needed to drink coffee to understand the material. I drank it, went home, and ended up lying on my bathroom floor, dizzy and unable to move for about an hour. *Curse the poop water!*

Side story: I sat next to a girl who brought 2 VENTI sized Starbucks coffee for our 9am stats class. She’d sit there next to me, legs shaking, spazzing out, sweating, and then saying over and over: “I’m so tired”. I would just quietly smile and then text my BFF under my desk, “OMG, this girl is going to explode! She’s drinking so much poop water!”

Fast forward to 2014, my husband noticed I would hide my k-cups because I didn’t want to share and was like “Kate, really?” So, he signed me up for a coffee tasting class in Seattle at Cafe Vita and my whole life changed. I tasted bad coffee and really, really good coffee. The difference was night and day. Let me tell you right now that GOOD coffee does NOT need sugar, random flavoring, whip cream, cream, or milk. Good coffee can be enjoyed black as it could be as delicate as your black or oolong tea.

I realized I never had good coffee. This whole time I was drinking k-cups and Starbucks! Sorry Starbucks fans, I cannot. I will drink it if I’m in a questionable town. But with choices like Matchstick, Slate, and Blue Bottle, I just can’t. SB is just too strong, too bitter, too burnt, and I just think you can do better! I still gave SB a chance and went to their grand opening of the Starbucks Roastery. I waited in the rain with my kids, I was dedicated, and I’ll say the coffee there is much, much better!

Anyway, what coffee means to me? Besides keeping me awake, helping me LIVE when I’ve had only a few hours of sleep, and basically being my life line- I love coffee because it brings good people together!!

With all people: Drinking coffee is a way to catch up or talk about hard stuff, like if you want to break up or something. Coffee is such a mediator. You can stare at your coffee when you don’t have much to say and it isn’t as awkward as staring at your hands. Coffee is a way to connect and it helps people to open up. Coffee helps you talk about your family or share your passions. Coffee helps you get to know the person and see if you want them in your life. Coffee also has a way of helping you linger with that hot date if you want to linger. *Would like to linger with you Josh Groban*

Another side story: I have a thing for Josh Groban. This thing is widely known and happily accepted for anyone who knows me. My husband is strangely ok with this. I have Josh Groban mugs from his concerts that are not allowed to be used-they are only for show. But, sometimes he gets used and I’m sweating watching the person use this mug. How dare your lips touch the Groban mug! My dad visited recently and was looking through my cupboard and said “Oh it’s Josh, guess I’m not supposed to use this one. How about Harry Potter?” See, even my dad knows.


With family: I’m that big kid who gets to make coffee for her dad now and drink it with him. My mom only sort of drinks coffee only because it keeps her awake for days like my husband. I think those two are like weird unicorns. It is special to me to make my dad coffee because the thing is, I am not the best dutiful Asian daughter. I can’t be the good kid who repays their parents back for all the years of sacrifice like most good, Asian kids do. I also don’t cook very well, he gets scared if I make him a meal. So, I make him good coffee. He watches me use the Aeropress and wonders why I am doing it versus a coffee brewer to make 8 cups in one fell swoop. My dad hates inefficiency. I do, too. For him, it must be like me watching my kid eat his dinner…takes 350 years But, being a good dad, he’ll happily wait 350 years because he sees my literal joy at making coffee in the slowest possible manner on earth.

With friends who I’ve forced into my family: This is the only way I get them to come over. Otherwise, they’re too busy and no one wants to hang out with someone who has a family because they think they’re getting in the way. No guys! So, I have to lure them like a creeper and say like “I have new coffee, wanna come by??” And it always works!! *Fist pump!* This is my time to catch up with the special friends and it’s exciting to share my good coffee with them. I generally am unwilling to share my good coffee with just anyone. My husband finds this absurd but coffee is a precious commodity!

I’d love to hear why you love coffee and what brings you joy from drinking it. Is it the warmth that drizzles down your throat in the morning…or that scalding hot burn when you drink too fast? Or the promise of a good caffeine fueled level of happiness that awaits you? Is it the time with friends, family, or the thank-you-baby-Jesus-for-coffee when you’re in an awkward place? Or, is it just purely a ritual all your own- your personal me time where you can indulge in this life’s pleasure? If you don’t drink coffee, then I’m sure it’s because you’re sensitive to it. I accept that. My mom, husband, and BFF Darth Vadar are like this and I love them a lot still. Share with me anyway what brings you joy!

Thanks for reading!


Big Island Coffee Roasters Guide to Hawaiian Coffee

February 8, 2016
Photo belongs to Big Island Coffee Roasters (2016)

Photo belongs to Big Island Coffee Roasters

I love coffee companies who are so passionate about their trade. I also very much appreciate when coffee companies take the time to share their knowledge with the public through blogs or classes. Many times people drink coffee just to stay awake rather than truly enjoying it for the delicate elixir that it is.

We all have heard about Kona Coffee if we are drinking copious amounts of coffee. But, it is really difficult to find a truly good single origin bean. We probably have had it as a “blend”. In that blend, how much of it is actually Kona, I’m never truly sure. Sadly, I have yet to have real, true, amazing Hawaiian coffee, thus I am unable to speak too much about it from a personal standpoint.

Photo belongs to Big Island Coffee Roasters

Photo belongs to Big Island Coffee Roasters

But don’t fret. I found a great resource for anyone interested in Hawaiian coffee. I stumbled upon Big Island Coffee Roasters by perusing Instagram. They were voted Hawaii’s Favorite Artisan Beverage in 2015 and Top 30 Coffees of 2013. They are an immaculate source for all things coffee and guaranteed you will be getting the best coffee from Hawaii if you purchase or subscribe to their coffee delivery. It’ll make you want to move to Hawaii all together!

If you want to learn all about Hawaiian coffee, please head over to Big Island Coffee Roasters guide.

Happy Brewing!



Interview with Leverhead Coffee

January 15, 2016

Leverhead Coffee, Seattle, WA

I had the great pleasure of conversating with Larry the roaster over at Leverhead Coffee about his coffee. Also, to rave to him about his Ethiopian single origin beans! I also got to ask him about everything I’ve been curious about. For someone who’s interested in learning about coffee, not just drink it, this was a real treat. I hope I get the chance to chat with more roasters in my little coffee adventure!

See what Larry has to say below!

1. How did you acquire the interest and skill for roasting? And what do you enjoy most about it?

I’m sort of a renaissance guy, when I like something I want to learn how to do it. Coffee was one of those things. I’m pretty much self-taught in coffee roasting. I’ve been active on a few online forums in the past and attended many coffee expos and events. The online community of coffee fanatics is a great way to learn… then experiment from there.

2. Can you describe your roasting set up?

Hottop as a sample roaster (1/2 lb capacity), Ambex drum roaster (5 lb capacity).

3. What are the 3 most important steps in roasting, i.e. bean selection, bean storage, etc.?

1) Beans, you can make bad coffee with great beans, but you cannot make great coffee with low quality beans. 2) know your roaster, and how it reacts with each bean. 3) roast, cup (taste) make changes, repeat.

4. What are the essential brewing equipment every coffee lover needs, regardless of price?

A good grinder (burr grinder) – I recommend Baratza grinders (electric) or there are several good hand grinders.

5. Describe your perfect cup of coffee.

The one I’m having right now. That’s a hard question, since I don’t know I’ve had a “perfect cup of coffee”. It’s similar to anything that comes from a crop (describe your perfect apple)… Different regions, years, farms, processing, storage, age, roast, etc. all affect the cup. If it tastes great, is it perfect? In that moment yes, will there be a better cup tomorrow? Who knows.

6. With El Nino being in full effect this year, the prediction is that coffee along with rice and wheat crops are going to suffer. Has this ever happened before and how long did it take the cherry trees to bounce back? Do you forsee coffee prices soaring, if so, by how much?

Coffee is a crop, and varies in each region each year… Brazil may be so-so this year and Ethiopian coffee phenomenal, next year could be the opposite.. Coffee prices vary with many things and always will change. Beetles and rust are a bigger concern with coffee right now, rather than weather…

7. What are the 3 biggest mistakes people make when it comes to coffee?

1) Let coffee get old. Roasted coffee is best within 2 -3 weeks of roasting, then the flavors fall off. Buy less and use it within a few weeks. 2) low temperature coffee maker (any cheap electric coffee maker you can buy at Target, or Sears). Most coffee makers don’t get hot enough to extract the flavors (oils) out of the ground coffee. Many folks think over roasted coffee is “bold)… what you taste is charcoal (aka the roast) that is construed as “bold”. I can make any coffee taste that way if I over roast it…. Get a good coffee maker (Technivorm, Bonavita, Brazen, search for SCAA approved coffee maker) or use a kettle and a pourover (Melita – ready set Joe, as an example). Water should be 195 – 205 degrees. 3) Grind just before you brew…. Coffee degrades when it hits oxygen, whole beans have less surface area than ground, so degrade slower.



Leverhead Coffee – Ethiopia Sidamo Ardi Review

January 12, 2016

Larry's Coffees Ethiopian Sidamo

This is the bag of beans that changed my coffee drinking ways forever, all thanks to my husband. He doesn’t even drink coffee as one little sip will keep him awake for 52 hours. True story. Anyway, he started noticing my extreme need for coffee, so he somehow found this gentleman, Larry, at work. It so happens that Larry is a really amazing roaster, has 10 different beans at his desk, and access to some of the best beans in the world.

Larry is a local artisan roaster who probably is the coolest coworker I can only wish to have one day. He holds coffee tastings at his DESK. I don’t even know if it’s an actual desk or a large cubicle, but do you have a coworker cooler than Larry?? Probably not. He even has all the coffee paraphernalia right at his desk in the event that a coworker visited him, he’d brew him fresh coffee on the spot!! Mind blown right!?

Conclusion: We all need a Larry.

Before this magical bag of coffee, I was set on my Tully’s Hawaiian Blend k-cups for my beloved Keurig. Now, I still like my Keurig for when I only have 30 seconds to make and drink coffee. But, admittedly, I just never knew what really amazing coffee was underneath the caramel, frappychino-ey, frosty, no whip cream goodness. Seriously, what a sad life that was.

Then, my husband calls and starts raving to me illegally on the phone while driving about this coffee that he doesn’t drink. “OMG, babe, this is..I don’t know how to say it, it’s so good. Is this what coffee is supposed to taste like? It’s like the consistency of tea, it’s not bitter, I don’t need any frapp on it, and it’s so smooth. I like coffee. Wait, am I talking really fast?” The second he gets home, he hands me this bag of coffee and starts talking really fast with very alert eyes and says “Try it now. Whoa, I really feel it my eyes…it tingles..I think I can see better. Does coffee give you eagle eyes?”

I stared at him thinking, “What’s in this coffee and I needed this at 9am!” So, I brew it in my little Aeropress and my whole life changed. I knew at that point in time that I found “The One.” Have you ever had a cup of coffee and instantly decided that you were a light to medium roast, fruity, perhaps floral, clean-bodied kind of person?? That was me the second Sidamo hit my lips and the rest became history.

I know you should try to finish your coffee before a certain amount of time before it turns bad, but I honestly have been rationing this for special days. And, I hide it when I have visitors because I just can’t share this. I want to be sorry about that, but I’m not. This should be indicative about how good I honestly feel this coffee is along with the roaster and quality of his products.

Like my earlier conclusion- everyone needs a Larry, but furthermore, everyone needs to check out all the coffee roasted by this gentleman!!! He is a hidden gem, that mom and pop store that only the elite kind of people know about, and basically, just the secret to life. The thoughtfulness of his roasting and bean selection is really something to be in awe of. He genuinely enjoys doing this and to him, it’s an art. I think I wholeheartedly admire and respect this level of roaster more than the mass produced, for-profit roaster. There’s a level of heart, a level of care that goes into everything that mass producers just lose. And, let me point out again: Larry. will. brew. you. fresh. coffee. at. his. desk.

Leverhead Coffee Ethiopian Sidamo Ardi Beans

Coffee Name: Ethiopia Sidamo – Ardi
Roaster: Larry Lewis at Leverhead Coffee
Producer: Importer – Keffa Coffee
Processing: Natural
Varietal: Heriloom
Roast Level: Light-Medium Roast
Price: $15/ 1 lbs
Where to buy: Buy me here!

The beans are evenly roasted, evenly shaped, and evenly colored that delicious tan brown. They simply look healthy and well taken care of through the entire coffee bean process.

HEAVENLY! I had a cold at my first whiff and even a cold while writing this review, but the aroma of the beans cleared everything and made me feel pure joy. Clean, fragrant, floral, and lemony. Did I tell you I have an obsession with lemons? When life gives you lemons, you make coffee people!

I utilized the Aeropress as my brewing mechanism.
17 grams of coffee, ground between, medium coarse.
230 grams of water at 204F.

I filled the Aeropress with 60 grams of water and let the coffee bloom for 30 seconds. Stirred 5 times.
Then added the rest of the water and pressed for 45 seconds.

TASTING NOTES (to my own interpretations):
I am by no means a professional coffee expert, so many times I miss some of the notes that are intended in the coffee. Slowly but surely learning about the complexities of different beans is going to be a lifelong journey. Please be sure I am trying my best to describe what I taste and smell!

* Berries
* Sweet aromas
* Lemon
* Floral
* Clean and gentle on the palate

TASTING PROFILE (Scale of 0 (nonexistent) to 5 (most amount/strong)):

Profile 0 1 2 3 4 5
Body  X
Clean X
Linger/Finish X
Sweet X
Sour/Tart  X
Floral  X
Spicy X
Salty X
Berry Fruit X
Citrus Fruit  X
Stone Fruit X
Chocolate X
Caramel X
Smoky X
Bitter X
Savory X

Final Rating: