World’s most expensive coffee

You might look at cat poo in a different light after tasting what is undeniably the most expensive cuppa joe in the world! You have probably heard of it and this weekend, I and some friends, got to try it at Taipei’s Tea, Coffee, and Wine Expo. While most coffee dealers were doling out their wares for free, the folks who create Kopi Luwak typically charge 680NT (nearly 20USD) for a thimble-sized taste. Luckily, for this event, it only cost us 100NT, or about half the cost of the tallest Starbucks offering.

This unusual java originates on the island of Java and Sumatra (Indonesia), home to a civit-like animal: the luwak, whose favorite meal is ripe red coffee “cherries”. Down the hatch they go, and of course you know where they end up. After being collected and sanitized, they are roasted and ground, to be enjoyed by coffee connoisseurs.

A caffeinated afternoon!

A caffeinated afternoon!

Was it worth the price? Yes – if only to say we’d tried it. Would I pay 100USD for 200grams of the stuff? Uh…no.

 

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A hidden gem of a teahouse

A friend of mine just opened a teahouse, THÉ Beauté , (French for beautiful tea) and invited me to come check it out. He describes it as a “not traditional Taiwanese style,  more like a modern afternoon tea house”. Hmmmm, not sure what that means so I’ll just have to find out for myself…
If you think you know tea, you haven’t met Victor Yang! After a successful career in the high tech arena, he decided to make a change and has spent the past 5 years becoming a tea guru. Recently he opened a lovely shop, creating a tea experience where each little detail has been thoughtfully considered. His shop is sleek and elegant, every item custom-made: from the gorgeous menus, to the porcelain tea cups and hourglass timers for perfect tea temperature, to the tables and chairs covered in tea-colored velvet (what else?). What I love most about THÉ Beauté  is the education that comes with each cup of the world’s rarest tea. My favorite selection so far is called “Moonlight”. Picked only at night on a Sri Lankan mountain top, during a full moon in Spring, this brew smells as wonderful as it tastes! And there are only 5 venues in the world with access to these amazing leaves! If you’re hungry, try some of the locally-made tempting treats. (The fruit cubes are simply a little piece of sugared heaven!) A visit to THÉ Beauté promises not only a relaxing environment, but also tidbits of information about teas you may never have known existed. Enjoy!
The closest Metro station is brown line (文湖線) at Dazhi (大直) station, exit no.3. For detailed information (in Mandarin) see http://www.kireikan.com.tw/ .

Journey Home, part 1

I’m sitting in the Sky Club in Narita International in Tokyo, having just emerged from a SHOWER – yes, you read that correctly! Let me back up…

My day started early. I set the alarm for 0415, having fallen asleep somewhere around 0200. Needless to say, I stumbled out of bed thinking “this is waaaaaay too early to be up”. I had arranged a ride to the airport with a driver I found on Tealit.com: Mike Wang. Since the entrance to the apartment is down a one-way alley, he’d arranged to meet me across the street from Watson’s, and sure enough, at 0524 he texted saying he was waiting. What a pleasant ride that was! (I highly recommend Mike’s limo service; 1000NT each way and  you get to learn a little about Taiwan’s history as you drive.)

At the airport, Mike jumped out and got a cart for my luggage. I waited in a short line at the Delta counter (while I was in line, a friendly staff person took my passport and returned with my boarding passes.) Luckily I’d packed well and the ONE allowable free bag was under the 50 lb. limit. Then I went in search of food/coffee/the Delta Sky Room. Unfortunately my Sky Room membership had expired and in TPE, China Airlines runs the VIP lounge and could not renew it for me. A little over 2 hours later we were landing at Narita where I of course went in search of anything Hello Kitty for my oldest granddaughter. (Mission accomplished!)

Next, I found my gate (Terminal 1, gate 26) and then headed to the Sky Room. The super friendly Japanese staff offered me a one-month membership for a price I could not refuse. Then to make things more interesting, they asked if I wanted a shower. (A shower? Do I look  in need of one?) At any rate, in the spirit of adventurous travel and new experiences, I said “Yes!”. Half an hour later, after consuming rice crackers and tea, I found myself in a lovely LARGE private bathroom area and, despite having showered only hours previously, took another one. Heaven! It must be something in the water because I emerged totally refreshed. (They even had a hair dryer for use.) Ah….

Photos to follow

Watson’s

Junk mail is not an unknown concept in Taiwan.

Everyday when I get home, I check my mailbox for something other than a Chunghwa bill but all I find is junk mail. Most of it is colorful and looks interesting; sometimes I can tell by the pictures what is being advertised. (Written Chinese still looks like a foreign language to me!)

Last week a multi-page flyer arrived, with the recognizable white-lettering-on-aqua-banner logo of Watson’s on every page. Watson’s  are like 7-11: everywhere! There are two in 1/4 mile from my Lane 39 down to Xinyi. They sell cosmetics and personal items. Like CVS without the pharmacy.

SALE!” the flyer proclaimed in bold letters. Now that I can understand! I flip through it, matching the pictures to the numbers next the “yuan” (money) symbol and find ads for products that:

  • “whiten” the skin
  • help you lose weight
  • promote good health (herbal supplements and drinks)
  • help you enhance your beauty (cosmetics in a dazzling array of colors and packaging).

How’s a girl to know what to purchase? So I look for the prices. Strangely there are numbers that couldn’t possibly be the price for, say, a well-known high-end brand of face cream (85 = 2.50USD). At first I think the item is 85% off – wow, what a bargain! Then, I realize that that 85 actually means 15% off (so the item is 85% of its original price). Why not just say 15% off? Now that I’ve figured that system out, the  numbers next to the yuan symbol start making more sense. I can do the math, then divide by 30 to get the price in US dollars.

As I’m checking out, having purchased Naruko “Night Repairing Dew” (made with narcissus, smells wonderful, and at 80NT, it’s a bargain) and some blueberry tea bags in glass jar (Made in Germany) for 90NT, another bargain, I notice people using what looks a “frequent shopper” card. When it’s my turn to pay, I point to the poster for the card and am handed a beautiful silver packet containing said card and several informative brochures in Chinese, along with a package of cosmetic samples (for “sensitive Asian skin” which, let’s face it, does NOT describe me or my skin). It was a nice gesture though. I’m made to understand that I need to go online to register the card. Of course the entire site is in Chinese and even trying Google’s Chrome browser to translate isn’t helpful. Ah well, guess that explains why no sales associate ever offered  me a card…

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…