Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Grand Vent on Coffee (Kopi)

The marketing wanker who came up with the idea (and took home a 7 figure bonus, no doubt) of the NAMING of the three cup sizes in Starbucks has a lot to answer for. Obviously (do I mean predictably?), on the odd occasion that E@L ventures into the realm of Seattle's other "best" coffee, he never uses the unnecessarily branded names for cup size, but insists on the generic: Small, Medium and Large. You have three sizes of cup, that's what they are called. Right?


Deal, supercilious hippyoid waiter dude, deal…


Today, sigh, E@L ventured into his old nemesis, the Wang kopi shop in Harbourfront, wondering what fresh hell they would drag him through this time.

- Kopi and kaya butter toast, take-away, he said.

- Kopi and kaya butter toast take-away, the serving girl repeated. Regular?

- Um, regular, he replied.

Fuck, is this a trick question? Regular would mean what you regularly get, yeah? The standard cup that you get when you just ask for kopi? Something out of the ordinary could not be called Regular. Right?


The kopi lady poured the blisteringly strong kopi into a LARGE mug, so that the sweetened condensed milk and the (secret recipe) evaporated milk (Carnation Brand) mix would be too diluted and E@L's coffee too strong.

- Is that a "regular" cup, he asked, distressed.

She nodded.

- Then what is this? he asked, pointing to the smaller cup, the one he'd 'regularly' get.

- That is "normal" cup sir, she replied.


REGULAR and NORMAL are the two choices one has for cup size. WTflyingF?

No wonder people kill other people.

It was only that the toast came promptly, correct as ordered, that E@L calmed down. Until he drank the kopi of course… Calm? (Shaking like a caffeine junkie…) What's that?


On the way to his profound muscle therapist the other day, E@L was early and yet had missed breakfast at home, so he ventured into the nearest breakfast place - Han's. Man big, mistake.

- Kopi and kaya toast please, he said.

- Normal kopi? the serving girl asked.

- Normal?

- With sugar?

- No, no, not sugar, he replied (They use sweetened condensed milk for kopi, right? No need for sugar. Right?)


She poured something into the paper mug, but obviously it was not sweetened as he had to return to put some sugar in it, and he saw the toast woman put plain white bread into a toaster!

The toast for kaya butter toast should be wholemeal, it should be cut thick, and it should be slowly dehydrated on a low-flame open griller (something like the way Beckett's Belacqua Shuah immolates his toast in the first story in "More Pricks Than Kicks" - perhaps that similarity is why E@L is hooked on kaya toast: it's part of his old [finished, thank god] Beckett obsession).

So the kopi turned out to taste like coffee (E@L had to return for sugar!), even though it came from a sock, and there only ONE piece of soggy, white toast!

It was a horrible experience!


At the Changi airport, Terminal 2, there is a Ya Kun kopi shop. Arriving back in Singapore at 7 am the other day after two weeks away, in Bangkok and Dubai, E@L felt like a kopi kaya toast top up. Mmm, breakfast.

These guys practically invented the type of kaya toast that E@L likes (or so they say). They don’t fuck it up, right? They have the training routine, the experience, the skills. Right?


- Kaya toast no butter, said the SingaporeGirl in front of him.

- No butter, said the serving girl.

E@L was next up.

- Kopi and kaya butter toast, please, he said.

- Kopi, kaya butter toast, she said and gave him a plastic marker with the number 6 on it, to place on his table for the efficient delivery of the kaya butter toast.

E@L saw that the woman assigned to the toaster today looked an little nervy. She was the jumpy sort, quite older, perhaps nervous for hormonal reasons? She skittered about here and there, unsure what to do next as the wholemeal bread dehydrated nicely on the rack. E@L bent his head to his book...

- Number 6, she cried out a few minutes later and brought... some French toast towards him. He shook his head.

She went back to the counter, checked up the numbers and brought the French toast to another table.

- Sorry ah, toast come soon, she said as she scampered past E@L.

SingaporeGirl had left already, he noticed. She was cute, They're ALL cute, in a severe way, with the tied-back hair, the form-fitting uniform. He went back to the book, smiling.

- Number 6 for you, said the toast, lady laying the plate of four pieces of toast sandwich, butter and kaya (coconut) jam in the middle of a horizontally bisected thick slice, in front of him.

He ate the top two pieces. Crunch, smooth, sweet, warm toast, frozen butter… They were lovely. Then, when he bit into the third piece, the crumbly toast fractured and disarticulated into a mouthful of crumbs. It was dry, totally. No kaya jam, no butter. So was the last piece. He nearly choked. He swallowed the last of the kopi to wash the crumbs down.

- No butter, no kaya in this, he called out, Auntie, this is dry toast! He brought the plate to the counter.

The girl at the till and the toast lady had a conversation in Singlish - part Mandarin, part Hokkien, part English - and were flashing toast orders between each other. He heard something about number 5, no butter, number 6 kaya toast, etc… The skittish woman had screwed up the order for no butter in her mind and ended up putting nothing at all on E@L's second piece of toast.

- One minute, we do again for you, sorry, ah! Toast lady had already put on another slice of bread on the griller.

E@L, with an empty kopi cup, decided not to bother.

- It's OK lah, no problem. Next time.

And he took a taxi home. The taxi driver was wide awake and did not try to kill him.



Paul Lewis said...

I can solve your problem.

Go to McDonalds !

expat@large said...

SunGai: there's a Macca's right next door to the Wang's in Harbourfront. They say the coffee at the McCafe is reasonable, no doubt in the American/northern European brewed style. Not my way to drink it. I'm the Italian style latte drinker, the one who swoons over Pellegrinis cafe in Bourke St and other Melbourne coffee foci.

As for the solid(ish) material Macca's sell ... I've been working in HFC, what? 3 years, and I've never even been within a million miles of being tempted to ingest their produce. Why would I eat such utter shite when there's twenty million better Asian junk food places all around me? It never ceases to amaze me how people can stomach such non-food as those burgers. I gag on it. I feel nauseous just thinking about their grey sickly warm patties... Urghhh...

savannah said...

nothing worse than unfulfilled expectations, sugar. especially on an almost daily basis. xoxoxo

expat@large said...

Sav: 'Tis my fate to live this life. 'Tis my duty to report on it.

Dick Headley said...

I would enjoy an account from the Toast Lady's perspective...'Same foreign devil come in again...'

expat@large said...

I don't do imagination. Maybe you can find her blog yourself on Technorati.

And as she is Singaporean she would refer to me as a red-head (ang-moh), despite my fair to middling mousey complexion.

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