Monday, October 12, 2015

Coffee Bliss in Pacific Northwest

By Cal Orey

The Canadian Coffee and Tea Show on the waterside
Last week I was planning and preparing for the Canadian Coffee and Tea Show. The day of departure, as usual, I woke up to a fresh 12-ounce cup of flavored mocha premium coffee made in my trusty Mr. Coffee maker. A large splash of organic 2 percent low-fat milk is par for the course and back to the cozy and warm waterbed with a hot cup of joe is a ritual that I love.  And it ended Friday October 2...

Different than nestled amid pine trees
Timeless book on perks of coffee
On Saturday morning, I awoke at 7 AM in Seattle and at a hotel I love because I know what I'm getting--usually. I ordered a carafe of coffee (3 8 ounce cups, sort of), fresh squeezed orange juice, and a toasted bagel with honey. Total: $24. And I cannot forget despite the tab included a tip, the gentleman who brought me my "continental" breakfast said he could use more money. Couldn't we all. I needed coffee and my solitude as I handed him bills and away he went down the elevator. The java was doable (yeah, I'm a coffee snob after writing the book on its powers) but nothing to write home about yet no caffeine withdrawal so it worked.

Instead of the train, this time around I took the glorified bus (found at Amtrak) to Vancouver since this way it gave me more than less hours of sleep.  By the time we were close to the Canadian border I was thrilled the driver stopped at the "duty free" shop.  I went inside looking for crackers or bread to settle my stomach from unexpected motion sickness. Ironically, me, the author of The Healing Powers of Chocolate was welcomed by chocolate, chocolate, chocolate... Nothing else. It was surreal.  And it wasn't even the quality kinds.

Worse, still confused by the currency exchange, I spent more than less when I purchased 8 dollars worth of the sweet stuff. I gave the cashier a 50 dollar Canadian bill. Mistake. Should have used U.S. money. I ended up spending more than 20-something on the low grade items. I gifted it to the kid behind me who was also paying it forward and giving it to his girlfriend. Also, a follow-up conversation with the aloof woman behind the store counter didn't help. At all.  The bottom line: I lost (like so many others crossing the border), she won. Evidently, the owner of the shop is AWOL forever.

Hello Vancouver
Wanted rain, settled for awesome city/water
Once in a new and different hotel on a very high floor I was pleasantly surprised by the view scene via two windows. I was seeking gloomy, rainy skies but the sun was big and bright and temps in the high 70s. I left to get coffee. Downstairs I ordered a vanilla latte and it kicked in a bit despite I was still trying to get my balance from cabs, the shuttle bus, two planes, bus, and a cab I had to fight for and finally was rescued by a driver. After the coffee did its job and picked up my mood, I realized the only thing I ate was the 24 dollar bagel; so at the downstairs bistro I ordered a comforting grilled cheese with tomatoes on whole grain bread and fries (there are no baked potatoes in B.C. or so it seems). 
When my meal was served and I took the first bite I was rudely awakened by the flavor of smoked cheese. Not my fantasy. I settled for the fries sprinkled with herbs and a baguette (I loved it.) After my "dinner" I walked and walked (they do this in Vancouver for the health of it, they say). Ended up in my room with a "million dollar view" and purchased the San Andreas film for 20 bucks. I was homesick. (No quake yet at the Cascadia Subduction Zone.)

Good Morning

While the view was breathtaking and took my breath away; I forgot to mention if I hadn't opened the brown curtain, the night before, I would have never noticed there was a third window boasting a huge panoramic view. It was a pre-birthday present for me two days before the big event when I grow older like my senior pooch back at home.
Skies with coffee are unforgettable

For some reason, I was hoping the Earth would move or a wave would hit like in the earthquake movie. But adventure was lacking--even with a different environment in a different country. So I settled for going downstairs (29 floors) and ordering two (not one) mocha lattes. And back up to the room I went to prepare for the Canadian Show. After all, I was on a mission to learn about the tea industry.

Yep, the coffee did its work and I consumed info on why tea is hot around the world and how to make it even hotter, from type to presentation, season and more. Yes, I did get it and put it to work later on the trip. 

Tea tales will be shared in tea book
The next day for my coffee consumption, it was a Groundhog Day movie repeat but I asked for extra oomph. The bistro barista added something (I forget--did she say espresso?--because I was still half asleep) but it did seem to add a kick. Back to the Coffee and Tea Show for tea tasting tidbits. This session was enlightening and I certainly can use the "notes" in my forthcoming book on tea.  Note to self: I should have ordered the white tea. But I have a lot in my pantry to savor.

Tuning into the entertaining and tea-savvy speakers, I found myself envious of their travels and it made me ponder: "I should have gone farther; I've been to Canada." After networking with some folks at their exhibits, I needed an exotic atmosphere. (I missed my two dogs, one cat, and fish.)  Took a detour to the Vancouver Aquarium and visited the birds, snakes, monkeys, otters, and fish. It made me want to go to Brazil, Mexico, or back to Hawaii. But I was in Canada.  And I continued on with my tea journey in Vancouver. (That's another story and a happy one.)
Bluebirds are symbolic for happiness

Back to the USA:  Awake in Seattle
On Tuesday it was up at 4:30 AM to catch the early train back to Seattle. Now, I could have used the hotel room coffee machine but there wasn't any cold fresh milk in my room (oops, I forgot); and the coffee containers (I tried tasting the drink the night before) weren't my cup of coffee. 
  • Keurig single cup coffee maker with complimentary coffee
  • Stainless steel kettle with complimentary tea (I did adore this baby.)
So I waited until I boarded the train. 
The nice guy behind the food counter promised me my cuppa joe (more trustworthy than the past men in my love life) was Seattle's best coffee and he did use real milk from a carton. By the time I finished half of the beverage my heart was racing. He was right about the caffeine but I craved my joe back at home in the land of bears and coyotes--Lake Tahoe.

My bedroom with a view
Once in the city, I was back at the hotel I love. In fact, for my birthday I was comped my favorite room to rave about and once there it's difficult to get out and about.  It feels like home but more elegant, less earthy.  I walked to Pike's Place and ended up at Starbucks on Pine Street. I ordered a salty caramel coffee concoction with mocha sauce, coffee, milk, whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and sea salt. (A special fall treat but the sugar and calories are off the charts.) It was oh so sweet and made me feel energized and on even keel. 
Finally, the weather was grey and cool--the way I like it. After tripping around up and down the streets (like San Francisco, sort of), a few locals talked to me and I felt a sense of belonging. "If I was staying where you are," one woman said, "I'd go back and chill rather than to the Space Needle for dinner."  
Back in my room, a card next to chocolate was on the desk below in my "study"... Not to forget the amazing tea setup. (Another story to share.) I plopped on the bed and ordered the film Jurassic World and watched it on the flat screen TV. The mean-spirited dinosaurs entertained me; as did the doorbell when I was served real grilled cheese and fries. No baked potatoes. Maybe there is a shortage of potatoes in the Pacific Northwest. But sitting on the top floor room with more than 800 square feet overlooking downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, and the Cascades--potatoes weren't on my mind anymore. I was in heaven. 

Later, in the deep soaking tub I soaked and the thought hit me: "I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail like the Cheryl in Wild or perhaps go to Alaska." But then I mulled: "Maybe taking a small plane in the wintertime to Victoria--back to Canada--for tea will suffice." Meanwhile, enjoying the suite with amazing views of the city and bay, I looked forward to a large latte and cranberry lemon scone at SeaTac at 5:00 A.M. And I fell asleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment