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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Tao of Café

If you're wondering what the title of the blog means, I'll break it down abit. "Tao" is an ancient Chinese word from Taoism meaning "The way of". As for the word "café" I don't need to be translating to you what café means! So "The Tao of Café" would mean "The Way of Coffee" and I don't think that there is phrase that describes any better the coffee culture here in BA

This is a city that literally lives & breathes on café and it isn't hard to see why. With good coffee (whether ground or whole beans) being available anywhere from grocery stores to coffee shops, café is the other commodity that is about as plentiful as meat is in this country. Recently I had a very interesting encounter with the coffee culture of Buenos Aires when I went out for coffee with my friend Valeria Pasmanter of Spare Rooms BA We met at a cute little cafe in Palermo and it was there and then that it became obvious the differences between how North Americans do coffee and how Argentines do coffee.

She order a "café con leche", coffee with milk served in a demitasse, traditional style. In that moment I was craving quantity, not quality so I ordered a cup of coffee that was more or less "american style" in average sized mug. When the orders came, her café came to her in a tiny demitasse while mine came to me in 16-20 oz american style mug. I will never forget the look on my friend's face when she saw the size of the mug, her eyes went wide for a split second. For an Argentine who is accustomed to thinking of coffee is something that gets served in a petite demitasse, my 16-20 oz mug must have looked like the empire state building. I had a good chuckle when I thought about my friend's reaction. 

So tonite I did a little experiment involving both the coffee culture of BA and North America. I had bought some coffee at the local grocery store. When I was buying it, I consulted with the people at the store to which brands were really good. I wasn't about to buy the most expensive stuff but I did want something good because this coffee was also for my friends and students that are coming to my home to study english. I ended up picking a brand that wasn't the most high end but was still definitely a step above what you would find in our grocery stores in North America.

I was in the mood for some coffee tonite after an intensive week so I broke open the bag that I bought from the grocery store. The moment I opened the bag, I knew I was in for something special. The smell of coffee wafted up from the bag and wasted no time permeating the air around me. Like a snake to a snake charmer, the aroma worked it's hypnotic charm onto each one of my fast succumbing senses.

The apartment came with a coffee maker and I decided that it was time to make good use of it. I scooped 2 small heaping tablespoons of that glorious stuff in to the coffee machine and added enough water for about 4 cups of coffee and then pressed the button to get the machine going. While the coffee was brewing, I had an idea. Originally I was going to have coffee american style in a mug but why don't I try having coffee in a demitasse like they do here?

As soon as the coffee was done, I poured it into a demitasse with a little bit of milk and sugar. Then I sat down to sample my magnificent concoction. All I can tell you is that it was heaven in a demitasse. My café con leche tasted almost exactly the way it does when I order it from a café. I didn't hesitate to pour myself a 2nd cup of coffee into that little demitasse. It tasted just as good as the first time.

There was still quite abit of coffee left, just enough for a mug of coffee American style. I wondered if the taste would change if I poured it into a mug. So I grabbed a mug from my kitchenette and proceeded to pour the rest of the coffee into a mug and make it the way I would do back home. And the results were to be expected, there was a much more watery taste in the coffee when poured into a large mug.

My conclusion is that "less is more", just like everything else here in BA. Pouring café into a little demitasse actually resulted in the coffee having a sweeter, creamier, richer taste that is commonly associated with European style café. This little experiment has once again proved that here in BA, you don't need alot to be alot. If the path of enlightenment can be found through the Tao of Café, then consider me a faithful follower.

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Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas