Hand to Mouth

misadventures in eating

You’ve just made or broken my morning here.

with 3 comments

As a rule and in the interest of saving myself from the crushing agony of being destitute, I have a 4 c. coffee maker that I set up every evening and flick on first thing in the morning — when I’m so disoriented and half dead it’s too much to even grab my hairbrush out of the cabinet without tugging down my entire shelf of makeup.  (Cool thing I learned about CoverGirl foundation?  Their bottles?  They bounce. Good job Next Top Model.)

But sometimes — like this week — when you’re out of coffee you crawl back to your best friend, your early morning lover, that face that smiles up at you even though you know you look like you just lost a fight with a mac truck and then it made you roll in farm detritus as payback for picking the fight to begin with.

Weeks like this, you go to your barista.

My barista is an age-indeterminate genius named Lem. He is kind of my hero in life, and not just because he wears the bitchinest rasta cap every day to work and sports a soul patch like a mofo, but also because when I collapse at the ugly greenish-grayish-some-indeterminate-colorish counter at the Daily Grind (which is not in Efland, NC, CoffeeGeek, God) and mumble “tall skinny tough guy with an extra shot” he always laughs and says, “Good morning, I knew it was you,” and makes my drink with a combination of perfectly foamed milk and awesomeness. Then, he pours a heart into my latte foam as he passes it over to me and says, “You have a good day.” It’s one of the most intense emotional exchanges of my day.

Lem and the Daily Grind’s generalized coolness has ruined me for more easily-found coffee sources: Starbucks, Caribou, that English Starbucks with a blue sign instead of a green sign that spreads throughout Covent Garden like a cancer. Their fancy-pants macchiatos and blindingly-sweet frappachinos mostly make me gag at this point — why even bother when I could be drinking a tough guy?

Tough Guy, also known as, the best drink you will ever put in your face, no, really, modified for home production and consumption because I cannot afford Illy espresso beans or you know an espresso machine.

Chai latte mix
Milk (skim, whole, rice, soy, whichever)
Espresso, or, a strong pot of coffee, made with your favorite bold beans

(1) Prepare the Chai tea, depending on what brand you’re using, it will either call for water or milk, go for milk in this case. I personally recommend you be a freak and mix skim milk (for creaminess), soy milk (for a nutty taste in the background that is utterly excellent), and rice (for a clean finish).
(2) If you have an espresso machine, this is where you want to pull a shot and introduce it to the chai; if you’re me, you’ll pull two. If you’re working with coffee, pour half a cup of coffee at the bottom of your mug and up-end your chai in — stir and enjoy.

It’s a very soft finish with a nice bite of caffeine, so you don’t get any of the harsh back-of-the-mouth sourness you would from drinking a pot of coffee. Once you go tough guy, you never go back.


Written by lshen

September 29, 2006 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. When I was a barista I would make those for customers a couple times a week and I didn’t think much about it, until a co-worker made my skim chai with two shots of espresso. I didn’t take a sip until I was halfway home, and it was an unpleasant surprise; instead of my end-of-shift, lightly spiced teddy bear of a drink, it was like the end of the world in a cup. But I had plenty of apparently sane customers who swore by them, so maybe the taste for it is determined genetically, like cilantro?

    If, god forbid, you should ever be without a sweet and reliable barista a macchinetta might be an affordable way to ease the pain. I’m in London for a semester and since the dollar can’t even buy a local barista’s cold indifference, my Bialetti has become my best friend in a lonely city.


    September 30, 2006 at 3:50 pm

  2. All I can say to you is this: blasphemy.


    September 30, 2006 at 7:10 pm

  3. When I poured coffee professionally I was duty-bound to provide my regulars with their caffeine without comment or judgement, but now that I am a private citizen I can say that tea and coffee were never meant to mix, and that the whole Tower of Babel incident in Genesis is probably meant to illustrate that.

    But mixing hot chocolate into coffee is not only genius, but totally divinely sanctioned.


    October 7, 2006 at 1:57 am

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