coffee

Canadian National Barista Championship in Globe and Mail by Jessica Lee

Jill Hoff from Calgary presents the coffee she made at the National Barista Championship in Toronto.

Jill Hoff from Calgary presents the coffee she made at the National Barista Championship in Toronto.

Last week, I got to photograph the best baristas in the country at the Canadian National Barista Championships for The Globe and Mail. It was a dream assignment for me because I love coffee culture and also geeking out to delicious coffee. It was also interesting to chat with people who love coffee so much that they devoted a significant amount of their lives to perfecting the skill of making coffee. What drives them? Why are they spending so many hours preparing for a competition?

Here are a few photos from the event, but also check out the interactive feature the Globe put out here.

TORONTO - (March 17, 2019) The twenty-two best baristas in Canada gathered at The Artist Factory to battle it out for the title of best barista at the 2019 Canadian Barista Championships. The event was held to select a Canadian representative to compete in the World Barista Championships in Boston next month.

To earn their spot to compete with the best of the best in Canada, the baristas spend months taste-testing and selecting the coffee bean they will use, rehearsing their routine and practicing to make the perfect cup of coffee. At the competition, each competitor has fifteen minutes to present to four judges their coffee creations. The baristas are judged by the taste and presentation of the cup they brew (latte art), their preparing technique, how accurately they describe the flavour profiles in the coffee they present, their efficiency and cleanliness of their coffee station and also the creativity of a signature drink they create. The event is a fun celebration bringing together fans of the steadily-growing third-wave craft coffee culture in Canada, which uses high-quality Arabica beans, usually sourced directly from a farm in a coffee-growing region, with many cafés roasting their own beans in-house.

Cole Torode, 27, from Calgary, presents his coffee creations to the judges at the 2019 National Barista Championship in Toronto. He was the 2018 and 2019 winner and will go on to represent Canada in the World Barista Championship in Boston later this year.

Cole Torode, 27, from Calgary, presents his coffee creations to the judges at the 2019 National Barista Championship in Toronto. He was the 2018 and 2019 winner and will go on to represent Canada in the World Barista Championship in Boston later this year.

A judge marks down flavour notes of the coffee he is tasting at the 2019 National Barista Championships in Toronto.

A judge marks down flavour notes of the coffee he is tasting at the 2019 National Barista Championships in Toronto.

Nelson Phu, 29, from Calgary, grinds coffee beans while judges look on.

Nelson Phu, 29, from Calgary, grinds coffee beans while judges look on.

Derek Hamers, 37, Toronto Independent  “I’m originally from Regina, Saskatchewan, so there’s not really a specialty coffee scene there, at the time. I think it’s now starting to happen but before there was nothing really for me so I moved to Toronto. It broke my mother’s heart. I had to tell her, it was like ‘Mom, I’m moving to Toronto to become a barista, she’s like ‘Oh my god, Dewey’ [laughs]. But it was the right decision and I met an amazing community here and we’re all good friends and I’ve worked at many places here since and it’s been an awesome journey.”

Derek Hamers, 37, Toronto Independent

“I’m originally from Regina, Saskatchewan, so there’s not really a specialty coffee scene there, at the time. I think it’s now starting to happen but before there was nothing really for me so I moved to Toronto. It broke my mother’s heart. I had to tell her, it was like ‘Mom, I’m moving to Toronto to become a barista, she’s like ‘Oh my god, Dewey’ [laughs]. But it was the right decision and I met an amazing community here and we’re all good friends and I’ve worked at many places here since and it’s been an awesome journey.”

Jann Meneses, 23, Toronto, Independent  “I’m really looking into finding myself a mentor. It takes some time to find the right one for me and I really need someone to look up to who’s going to guide me through my path and so it will just take some time. I want to meet someone that is very knowledgeable about the craft, knows the craft as much as I do and will teach me his ways.”

Jann Meneses, 23, Toronto, Independent

“I’m really looking into finding myself a mentor. It takes some time to find the right one for me and I really need someone to look up to who’s going to guide me through my path and so it will just take some time. I want to meet someone that is very knowledgeable about the craft, knows the craft as much as I do and will teach me his ways.”

Meaghan Biddle, 31, London, ON Locomotive Espresso  “I have a degree in anthropology and a degree in classical civilizations and also in fashion design. I started working in coffee at a Starbucks about ten years ago, I worked there and worked my way up the company in a couple of years, but then I moved into just coffee so I started working at a small café in Toronto.”

Meaghan Biddle, 31, London, ON Locomotive Espresso

“I have a degree in anthropology and a degree in classical civilizations and also in fashion design. I started working in coffee at a Starbucks about ten years ago, I worked there and worked my way up the company in a couple of years, but then I moved into just coffee so I started working at a small café in Toronto.”

Nelson Phu, 29, Calgary, Rosso Coffee Roasters  What makes a good cup of coffee?  “You need some acidity, ‘cause it’s interesting, definitely some sweetness and a couple notes, distinct flavor notes, make it amazing. A super long finish is also super nice.”  What does that mean? ‘Super long finish’?  “So imagine eating a caramel, and when you’re done the caramel, you’re still tasting the caramel. That’s the super long finish. It’s really rare to find that in coffee so it’s really nice if you do get one.”

Nelson Phu, 29, Calgary, Rosso Coffee Roasters

What makes a good cup of coffee?

“You need some acidity, ‘cause it’s interesting, definitely some sweetness and a couple notes, distinct flavor notes, make it amazing. A super long finish is also super nice.”

What does that mean? ‘Super long finish’?

“So imagine eating a caramel, and when you’re done the caramel, you’re still tasting the caramel. That’s the super long finish. It’s really rare to find that in coffee so it’s really nice if you do get one.”

Sameer Mohamed, 37, Toronto, Fahrenheit Coffee  “I competed about 15 years ago, that was my first competition, since then rules have changed, methods have changed and so there’s been a lot of adaptation, a lot of, I guess the industry as a whole has been steadied.”

Sameer Mohamed, 37, Toronto, Fahrenheit Coffee

“I competed about 15 years ago, that was my first competition, since then rules have changed, methods have changed and so there’s been a lot of adaptation, a lot of, I guess the industry as a whole has been steadied.”

Cole Torode, 27, Calgary, Rosso Coffee Roasters  2018 and 2019 National Barista Championship Winner  “We live in a very fortunate place in the world and coffee is not grown here but we appreciate coffee and I think the more, from a specialty coffee side, the more people we can bring into specialty coffee, the more we can pay premiums backward toward the supply chain to developing nations and to people who are just less fortunate than us, based on where they were born.”

Cole Torode, 27, Calgary, Rosso Coffee Roasters

2018 and 2019 National Barista Championship Winner

“We live in a very fortunate place in the world and coffee is not grown here but we appreciate coffee and I think the more, from a specialty coffee side, the more people we can bring into specialty coffee, the more we can pay premiums backward toward the supply chain to developing nations and to people who are just less fortunate than us, based on where they were born.”

Karine Ng, 32, Calgary, Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters  Describe how you trained for this competition:  “It’s almost like choreography. Kind of like if you’re a dancer you know exactly what moves you’re making at what time, at what point in time so it’s kind of like that, so repeating those movements a lot so you get to be very automatic about it. …all my spare time goes towards preparation for competition.”

Karine Ng, 32, Calgary, Phil and Sebastian Coffee Roasters

Describe how you trained for this competition:

“It’s almost like choreography. Kind of like if you’re a dancer you know exactly what moves you’re making at what time, at what point in time so it’s kind of like that, so repeating those movements a lot so you get to be very automatic about it. …all my spare time goes towards preparation for competition.”

Judges taste test coffee at the Canadian Barista Championships in Toronto.

Judges taste test coffee at the Canadian Barista Championships in Toronto.

My favourite memories of Toronto by Jessica Lee


In honour of TBEX (travel blogger conference) happening this weekend (May 31st- June 2nd) in Toronto, I decided to write an entry about my hometown and my favourite memories there.

I was extremely privileged to grow up in a city where there were always big cultural events happening and lots of different niche groups where I could explore my interests with a supportive community.

My favourite things about Toronto would be:

1. We have a diverse and impressive food scene. There are literally dozens of cafes and eateries littered around the city. You can have your choice of any culture of food here.

My ideal day would consist of breakfast (caramelized banana pancakes) at Saving Grace in the west end, then a pho lunch in Chinatown, a coffee break Merchants of Green Coffee (great atmosphere) and I would finish off with either pasta at La Bruschetta near St. Clair or most of the entrees at Glow Restaurant (Don Mills) or pretty much any of the restaurants run by Mark McEwan and Oliver and Bonacini (Luma at the top of the TIFF building is fancy and great for desserts).

Here are said pancakes from Saving Grace:


The atmosphere at Merchants of Green Coffee:


Desserts at Luma:


For a comprehensive list and photographs of dining places I recommend in Toronto, follow my Twitpic account here. Or alternatively, feel free to message me at @jessicaology for specialized recommendations.

2. My second favourite thing about Toronto is its festivals.

Since I love jazz music, the Beaches Jazz Festival which takes place around July is my favourite.

It's a lovely atmosphere where bands play on the street and you go and dance with your friends. It's completely free.

This is what it looks like, but the lead photo represents the feeling.


This is Buskerfest, which happens at the end of summer.

It's a gathering of international buskers (singers, street performers, acrobats) and it's a free event.



This is Nuit Blanche, which is also free and takes place at the beginning of October. It's an all-night arts festival which aims to promote artists and to stimulate the minds of attenders. But really, it's fun to just hang out with your friends and do novel activities such as watching these performances and wandering into random buildings which are usually closed off.



One of my favourite instalments took place in the film building beside OCAD where they played an old silent Max Weber film and had a live pianist accompany it. It was like the 1930s! Isn't it strange how surround sound is supposedly an improvement to film but watching a retro film is now a treat for me?

3. Neighbourhoods

Toronto has many diverse and fun neighbourhoods to explore.

Here are my favourites:

Harbourfront


Harbourfront is a lovely place to hang out with friends or with a date. During the summer they hold free swing dances with a live band down by the Harbourfront Centre and during winter, there is free skating. It is a great place to watch the sun set or to go for a walk.

Here is another photo:


Other neighbourhoods you should check out that I don't have photos of include:

A) Kensington Market/Chinatown
This is a hip neighbourhood with great patios for the summer. Back in high school, I used to love Kensington Market because I was going through a hippie stage and I loved the vintage t-shirts I could pick up in one of the many vintage stores there. Nowadays, I hang out in Kensington during Pedestrian Sundays, where they close off the road in the summer. It's a great place for cheap food, meeting artsy people, eating on a patio and of course, vintage shopping. Wear: a flower in your hair and dreadlocks.

B) Yorkville
Back in high school, I used to love Kensington Market because I was going through a hippie stage and I loved the vintage t-shirts I could pick up in one of the many vintage stores there. Nowadays, I hang out in Kensington during Pedestrian Sundays, where they close off the road in the summer. It's a great place for cheap food, meeting artsy people, eating on a patio and of course, vintage shopping. Wear: a flower in your hair and dreadlocks.

C) Queen Street West (for edgy shopping and fashion)

D) Distillery District
The Distillery District is a really nice, classy place, great for romantic walks at night (they have cobblestone roads), or ice cream breaks during the day.

I lied, I actually have a photo of the Distillery District. Here I am with my friend Josh and his sister during the Christmas Market festival in December.


I also feel like I should mention Roncesvalles (little Poland) and Little Italy because both of these neighbourhoods are fun to walk through and explore. There are many little cafes and eateries to discover and lots of boutiques to shop at.


While you're in town, you should also see which bands are playing shows. Since Toronto is one of the larger cities in North America, pretty much every band that makes a Canadian tour will stop in Toronto. I've been lucky to attend the shows of many of my favourite bands because of this.

Also, the MuchMusic Awards take place every year in late June, it's a riot. You should definitely check it out if you're still here by then. It's free. Teenyboppers flood the streets and there is a red carpet, paparazzi and celebrities. And free music of course. Even if Top 40 isn't your cup of tea, the whole spirit of it is fun.


There are literally lists upon lists of places to explore in Toronto.

I have decided to pick my top three tourist attractions (outside of the neighbourhoods I just described to you). I am a bit of an artsy person.

1. Royal Ontario Museum (go see the T-Rex)
2. Casa Loma (For architecture fans)
3. Art Gallery of Ontario

Also, if you have time, bring a group of friends to Snakes and Lattes, which is a board game cafe. They close at 2 am, which is ridiculous! It makes for a fun and inexpensive night of bonding with buddies. It's just $5 for admittance.

I know this list just seems to go on and on, but while you're in town, don't forget to check out some Toronto theatre. Many nights, you can get rush tickets for as littles as $5, or pay-what-you-can. Theatres that have this include Tarragon Theatre, Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Factory Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille- to name a few.

Readers: What do you think of this list? Did I miss any of your favourite places in Toronto?

Exploring a Newtown cafe in Sydney by Jessica Lee


I took a break from studying today to hang out with and say goodbye to my friend Matt in Newtown.

What's crazy is that I may never see him ever again. I've never had this problem before. Most of my friends live in the general Ontario area so I've always assumed we would eventually bump into each other at some point in time. I've met people in my travels before but our interactions would be small and it wouldn't matter much anyway if I never see them again.

In movies or novels when people are parting, the narrator will sometimes say something along the lines of "that was the last time we saw each other again. He moved on Arizona, made it rich, then died of a cocaine overdose." In the story, the circumstances will be quite dramatic, but the narrator usually passes this information off nonchalantly. I however, am pretty sure I will be heartbroken if I never see some of my Australian friends again.

I met Matt at the Pastizzi Cafe on King street. I had walked by there plenty of times on my way home from the rock climbing gym and I liked the menu on the door.


We decided to order a pastizzi for an appetizer because the place was called the Pastizzi cafe after all.

This is what a pastizzi looks like: 


It is a tasty savoury pastry. The one we had was chicken and mushroom, however there was also a spinach and feta one and a chilli con carne one as well.

This is the mocha I had. So far in Australia, I haven't had a single bad coffee. It's been a great experience. However, is consistently good coffee a worthwhile tradeoff to the crappy internet and rampant cockroach problem here? I am not so sure about that, Australia! (These are just the facts, don't get mad Aussies!)


Usually at Italian places, I have a routine established where I order either the seafood pasta, carbonara or spaghetti bolognese. This is because it is extremely difficult to screw up any of these dishes and I love eating these dishes anyway.

Needless to say I am not a big risk-taker when it comes to eating out since I like to repeat things that work for me. In psychology, this is called the Law of Effect, according the father of cognitive psychology, Ed Thorndike. He discovered this while playing with cats and decided it could apply to humans. It's silly how he didn't study humans right from the start. I'm sure he could have found lots of people with similar eating strategies to mine. Maybe he just liked playing with cats.

I think animals are different from humans though. For my main, Matt convinced me to try something new, so I ordered the cannanoli, which is pasta sheets filled with minced meat in between.



Picking something new on the menu was a pretty big move for me but I'm glad I did it. The cannanoli was really delicious and seemed authentic (unlike that chain-restaurant pasta crap you can order in North America). If I stayed in Sydney longer, I could definitely see myself coming back to the Pastizzi Cafe often and trying out all their dishes.

We followed up our meal with a tiramisu. Just lovely.

If you look at the photo below, you can make out Matt's face in the reflection of the spoon (how mysterious!).



I haven't had the opportunity to fully explore (read: shop) Newtown yet, but walking by the shops cursorily, I get a sense that I am going to regret not browsing this area when I leave Sydney. Newtown is like the Queen Street West of Toronto- a really fashion forward, hipster-y place filled with bookstores, skate shops, clothing stores, thai food and cafes.

There are so many thai places that I would like to try, but sadly not enough time.

Skateboards and social media by Jessica Lee


The themes of the day were social media and the other one I'll reveal further down in this post.

It was a good day. It started out with Myra (my housemate) and I grabbing free coffee at Campos in Newtown, which is known as one of the best coffee places in Sydney. I'll explain why the coffee was free in a moment.

But first; the coffee was excellent! They did not disappoint. I had a flat white (finally!) because flat whites were invented in Australia, so I figured I should get it. The first taste took a bit of getting used to because I usually get a mocha which has a bit of sweetness in it (I love chocolate too much) and this coffee was mostly bitter. Flat whites are basically espresso and steamed milk. As I got used to the taste though, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

How to get free coffee at Campos:

Campos had this social media promotion where if you follow them on Twitter, you get free coffee! I saved $4!

But that's not all. Keep reading to see what else social media can do for you...

Before that though...

I bought a freakin' skateboard! (that was the second big thing of the day)



It was kind of an impulse, kind of a planned buy.

When I first came to Sydney, about two months ago, I was browsing a surf/skate shop at Manly beach not expecting to buy anything when I first laid eyes on this beauty.

It was love at first sight. I hadn't even planned on getting into skateboarding when I moved here. But you know when you see something so amazingly designed, it inspires you? That would be my skateboard. I don't have a clear photo of it, but it has a nice natural wood finish and great graphic design. It also rides really well.

I spent the last two months regretting not buying the skateboard and thinking that I would go back to the shop and get the skateboard or order it online. And then fate led me to this board again at an entirely different shop and I knew we had to be together.

Skating is amazing. Not only do you feel great cruising along the street at a faster pace than everyone else with the wind in your hair, the breeze skimming your skirt... people in Sydney seem to really support girl skaters.

I had random strangers cheering me on, giving me high fives, complimenting me, chatting me up...

Despite almost wiping out (Sydney has lots of hills) several times in the course of the day, I had a genuinely great time.

After hanging out with my friend Dan at Bondi Beach (after skating) for the day, we hit up the Buckler's Canteen for $3 tacos.


And free wine.

Can you guess how? Starts with an "S" and ends with "ocial media".



There was this deal where if you "checked-in" on Facebook at the Canteen, you get a free drink.

Smart phones can be pretty handy.

This is a photo of the bar, which we thought was pretty cool.


Lessons of the day:

1. Don't be afraid of social media. You can get lots of free stuff.
2. If you see something in a store that you really like, buy it! It could change your life and make you incredibly happy.

Day 5: A solo walk through Melbourne by Jessica Lee


I never really feel I've travelled to a city unless I navigate through it by myself on foot.

It was great having Tom, Lachlan and Scott showing me around the city and relying on them find places throughout this week but it was just too easy.

I needed to get lost and to panic and to find my own way through the transit system.

Today was the day.

Tom and Lachlan had gone back to their hometown and Scott just never came home one night- leaving me to explore the city on my own.

I had the idea that I wanted to go out for a nice fancy breakfast so I headed to Hardware Lane in the CBD, which is a cute little street with patio seating.


I never found the place I set out for (I wasn't really trying anyway), but I found out that Hardware Lane is one of my favourite places to shop.

It had a lot of camping/outdoor equipment shops. Lately, I've been into the whole camping/outdoor rock climbing adventure thing so naturally, shopping for camping gear excites me.

I just bought yet another backpack for hiking last week so I didn't really need anything (not urgently at least), but I really do like to look at things.

For example, I know in the near future that I am in the market to buy a warm sleeping bag (not the summer ones) and possibly a tent. I'm probably going to buy both these things back in Canada at Mountain Equipment Co-op just because it's cheaper there, but I like to be an informed shopper and to look around. I'm also in the market to get a bunch of climbing gear (carabiners, bolts, etc). It's nice to check out what colours everything comes in, how much it costs, if it's cheaper to buy in a bundle, etc. and take note.

I also found out they sell funky rock-climbing jewelry. (tiny carabiners or quick draw earrings!)

For everyone else not into camping gear, there's also a lovely selection of cute little stores scattered around the area.

Lately I have been interested in shopping for mugs and teacups and dinnerware so I only took photos of the aforementioned, however, in these stores, there was also stationary, clothing, bags, accessories, etc.


So far, I think I prefer Melbourne more than Sydney if we were to compare shopping.

I enjoy mall shopping, which Sydney represents well with Westfield, but I like shopping at quirky little independent shops like these in Melbourne much more.


More cute little stores:

(This was in Fitzroy)


I didn't want to be the weird girl taking photos of every store, so the photos I've shown you are only a small selection of the shopping here in Melbourne. Trust me, there's lots more.


After a while of shopping, I just gave up on breakfast and settled for lunch (it was 2 pm at the time).


I had Japanese Udon noodles with beef. I ate this on their patio while reading Kerouac's On the Road. It was perfect.

For those of you who don't know, On the Road is a classic travel novel written in the Beat generation. A must read for anyone backpacking. It really gets you into the mood of winging it when you're reading about the main character Sal, who hitchhikes his way across America with only $5 in his pocket. 

After that, I was ready for something sweet so I scouted out a coffee shop Scott was telling me about the other day, Manchester Press.


As far as indie coffee shops go, this coffee shop was pretty hidden and underground. The entrance for this coffee shop was in an alleyway and wasn't advertised from the street. You had to have heard about it from someone or read about it online.


Still, there was a good crowd going.

I ordered a mocha (I love chocolate too much) and was quite satisfied.


After that, I was on the road again.

It was 3 pm and I had a mission. I wanted to get to the Melbourne Museum before they closed at 5 pm.

This is one of the cool buildings I walked past on the way there.


The architecture in Melbourne is just lovely.

I got to the museum at 4 pm.

Here is a photo of the inside:


The outside of the museum is nicely designed as well but I couldn't get a decent photo since the building is so big. I couldn't fit everything into the frame. You will just have to take my word for it that the outside of the museum is nice as well.

Here is a photo of the exhibition building beside the museum. They were having a quilt exhibition. Needless to say I did not check it out.


 The insides of the Melbourne Museum were quite impressive. I really liked its minimalistic design.


It reminds me of the Ontario Science Centre we have back home.


Except this museum has a more modern design.

If I spent the whole day here, it would have been fun to bring a sketch book. But sadly, I do this thing called "waking up at 10 am and finally leaving the house at noon" and it really limited my day.

I really enjoyed the rock exhibit. It brought back memories of our "Rocks and Minerals" studies from grade 4. If I didn't like arts and culture and literature so much, I quite possibly would have become a geologist.

There is a great 10 minute 3D film in the rock exhibit. It's free to watch.


 I should also mention that if you have a student concession card, entrance to the museum is free!

I think this is great because it gives students an incentive to visit and see cool things, possibly learn a thing or two.


Look at this architecture:


I thought this room was the most impressive. I think these are all stuffed animals because they looked quite real from close up.


There was a psychology section in the museum and I flipped out! Loved it. I really wish I went there earlier before they shut at 5 pm.


There were also many other exhibits like the human body exhibit and a dinosaur bone exhibit. It would have been nice to visit with a science major and to feel their enthusiasm.


Look how freakin' artistic this museum is!


And here's a last photo I took while leaving.


This is Southern Cross station where I left from to go visit a friend in her hometown. I love the wavy detailing of the roof.


Melbourne, I am not done with you yet!

I am coming back sometime and going to:

1. Eat a really nice meal out for dinner or "tea" as Aussies call it
2. Go to the Australian Museum for Contemporary Art
3. Finish walking through Melbourne Museum
4. Go rock climbing at the gym below
5. Eat at Hardware Cafe
6. Rock climb at the Grampians

Coffee in Melbourne + a little bit of everything else by Jessica Lee


In the early 2000s, Starbucks opened up 84 stores in Australia, only to have to close down 61 of them by mid 2008. Why?

Because there was already a thriving coffee scene in Australia.

Before coming here, I had heard and read that Aussies are pretty picky with their coffee and as a result, most of the coffee here is really good.

I haven't had a single bad coffee in Australia so far, but I wanted to check out more of the cafes in Melbourne before leaving and seeing how the scene compared to Toronto.

I was pretty happy with the result.


We went to Seven Seeds cafe which is in a warehouse-like room. I liked the vibe there. It was busy and there were lots of people chatting.


(The photo at the very top of this post is a mocha from Seven Seeds)

Something else that was really hip and urban about this joint was its bike racks! In the corner at the entrance, you can just leave your bike there.


Here is an obligatory photo of baked goods you can get there.


They also make meals there as well.

I took a picture of this guy eating and reading because I thought he was really hip. (Not creepy at all)


Next, we headed to the Victoria Market because it was close by and I was told that this was one of the attractions of Melbourne.


It was okay. Reminded me of the St. Lawrence Market back home. It's basically little shops that sell cheeses and meat and fresh fruit.


They also sell soap, which smelled excellent-all nice and fruity. I couldn't afford to buy them all so I took a photo.


After that, we headed to our next coffee shop stop to do a cupping.

This is De Clieu, in the Fitzroy suburb.


I liked how the atmosphere was nice and casual. Everyone was really laid back. There was even a nice breeze blowing through the window while I read my book.

We sat there and waited until the cupping, which is like a wine-tasting except with coffee.


Previous to the cupping, the barista who described it to me said at the end of it all, I would be able to distinguish between different coffees- possibly become a bit of a coffee snob.

I was excited by the prospect of this! Imagine going to a coffee shop, sipping an espresso the barista has handed to you and casually saying "Ah, this tastes just like coffee from Burundi!" and being right about it! Of course, you would come across as a real snob or a refined connoisseur , depending on how you said it.

I was extremely enthusiastic about the taste testing. Over the summer, I spent two days covering a coffee-making competition, which you can read about here. It was amazing hearing the baristas describing the different flavours and tasting notes while they brewed and added subtle flavourings. It made a difference where the coffee was roasted and what region it was from.

At the cupping, we were given six coffees to try. Here is a score sheet on how we're supposed to rate them:


I'm not sure if you can see the words really well, but we had to rate each coffee on sweetness, acidity, mouthfeel and the aroma the coffees gave off when they were dry.

We first did a sniff test when the coffee was dry and we were told to circle what smells we could identify. Some examples of smells would be flowery, fruity, herbal, citrus, caramel, nutty, chocolate or spicy.


Then, hot water was poured into the samples and we were encouraged to try each brew.

We were given spoons and told to slurp the communal pots and spit out the brew into a cup after tasting. This prevents you from getting caffeine poisoning from having too much coffee.


I had a slurp of the first one, I thought it was great. Then after that, everything tasted the same to me.

According to the barista, the more caffeine you have in your system, the more bitter and acidic the next coffee will taste and so on. This is probably why everything started tasting the same for me.

Everything was just sour and bitter and acidic all at once!

I was pretty frustrated because I had hopes of becoming a coffee snob and now I will probably never be one.


It's okay though. I learned a lot about coffee. 

I loved hearing the barista describe the different cups. He used phrases such as this one has a "honey sweetness" or that one is "grainy", this one is "a little aged or woody", that one has a "clean transparent body". I throughly enjoyed it though I didn't know what he meant.

One day I will though.

This is a chart of all the flavours you can get from coffee.


I will have to try a flat white in Aussie before I leave. It is basically just espresso and steamed milk. It was invented in Australia, so it has to be good.

Driving, coffee and a comedy festival! by Jessica Lee

Today's photos are all going to be black and white!

Because everyone needs a little excitement in their lives...

And it's always good to try new things as long as you're not harming anyone or yourself.

Or so I was taught...

Today started off slow with us leaving the house at around 2 pm.

Tom and Scott (the other housemate) had some script writing to do (they are filmmakers) so I sat around and played some guitar, did a bit of reading and did a little writing.

And then I was bored out of my mind sitting around waiting for them to finish so I grabbed the car keys.

(This is what I was talking about when I mentioned excitement in people's lives)


It was the first time I had driven an Australian car where the driver is on the right side of the car and the roads are on the left side.

It's completely opposite back in North America.

I think I did pretty well. We didn't crash into everything and everyone is still in one piece.

This is Lachlan and Scott in the backseat of the car.


What can I say? They are just anxious people.

After driving around the neighbourhood for a while (I drove through roundabouts!), Tom took over again and we went to the city.

We headed to a cafe called Pellegrini's, which was recommended by two guidebooks (Lonely Planet and Rough Guides).


I was a little disappointed.

The food was just average.

Don't get me wrong, the food (I had lasagna and a mocha) tasted great, but it wasn't worthy of being mentioned in both books.

It seemed like to me one guidebook author just copied the other. There was just too much hype for a regular mom and pop store.


Back in Toronto, we have so many options comparable or even better than the cafe we were at.

From this day forward, I am going to rely less on guidebooks and more on my own intuition.

And maybe more on Urbanspoon.

But then again, I like to discover indie cafes for a less-crowded atmosphere where I can read in silence.


I wonder if all these people are locals who actually enjoy this place or just tourists fooled by the guidebooks.


After fuelling up with carbs, we headed to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

It was great for laughs, but not spectacular until...


Tom got picked by the comedian to be a part of the show!

We were all so proud of him (and also laughing our heads off).

Here he is second from the left doing a disco dance:


I have always wondered how performers decide how to pick people from the crowd to be volunteers.

Tom says they pick the good looking ones but now that I think about it, I think they just pick the ones who are silly enough to allow a performer to order them around to do ridiculous things with people laughing at them.

(Of course I am just kidding Tom. I think you are really cool. Please drive me to the zoo tomorrow! Yes they definitely pick the good looking ones!)

Since he was feeling good about himself, for dinner, Tom made me Australian "tea". That is what they call dinner in Australia according to him.


We had Kangaroo meat, a balsamic salad with feta cheese and also Australian beer. It was a pretty good end to the day.

Coffee in Hong Kong by Jessica Lee

Today was a pretty lucky day for me- I'll get around to why later.

I went to check out the coffee shops around Hong Kong.

At first, the coffee shop I originally wanted to go to was closed on Mondays. (These things usually happen to me- shops I always want to go to will be closed- I can recount so many times this has happened.)

But it turned out it was good that the shop wasn't open that day, because I discovered another coffee shop. And they recently opened, it turns out.

I discovered Rabbithole (that's what they're called) while walking up the mid-level escalators in Central. The location is really neat and lets you people watch.

But of course, something more interesting was going on inside the shop that day.

They were having a photo shoot!

I think a magazine or blog was featuring the coffee shop because there was a guy to take photos and another guy to ask questions.

And because of the press, they took out all these fancy coffee-making machines besides just espresso machines. That in the picture up there is a siphon. The photo below looks like a French press, though I don't know for sure. The silver metal plate thing is a thermometer I think. Baristas, can you help me out?


I have no clue what the below machine is, but everyone looks like they're having fun.

I also got to talk to a Danish gentleman there who happened to be a coffee aficionado. I told him I was going to Australia in my travels next, and he confirmed that the coffee scene there is thriving, which makes me excited.

But here comes my favourite part (and also explains all the cups of coffee at the top picture): because they had press over and maybe because they are a pretty new shop, they made lots of samples and I got to taste test a couple of them (for free)!

I discovered that the Kenyan brew was a little too acidic for me. The Ethiopean roast was way too strong for me. (It has to do with how they brew it as well)

This is their menu and everything you can order from them:

And this is the mocha I originally ordered:

I also have to point out the lay-out of the place. It's quite ingenious.

It is open concept, and they serve you in the middle.

And this is looking out:


Taking a closer look at the view:


And this is what it looks like if you happen to like drinking your coffee while poking your head out.

Doped up on caffeine, I headed out into the world again to Causeway Bay and did some errand shopping (this is what I call shopping for essential items like my hairdryer, as well as gifts for loved ones).

Afterwards, I wandered around looking for a coffee shop I had read about in Wallpaper guidebook.

I did not expect to be wandering around 2+ hours however, as I kept getting lost- however, I got some good photography out of being lost (will show in a later post).

What I wanted to do was "stumble" into this coffee shop, called After School Cafe. I wanted to be like "oh, I was in the area and I discovered your hip little coffee joint" when I walked in.

No such thing happened as the place was terribly hard to find. (I wandered to the same mall three times before even finding the street this place was on)

However, when I finally got there, it was worth it.

1. The entrance is shared with a furniture store, and you have to walk to the second level to get to the shop.
2. You have to ring a doorbell for them to let you in.
3. There is no sign on the outside that even says this coffee shop exists! You have to know the exact address.
4. They were "closed" on Mondays as well, however...

...the guy who owned the place saw that I was a tourist and he probably appreciated the fact that I searched long and hard for his cafe. And he was also there working on his things as well.

So he welcomed me in.

All you design fans, prepare your eyes! (The guy is an interior designer, which is why the place was so cool.)

One side of the cafe is the barista's studio (since he is also an interior designer), but take note of the little school desks and chairs at the back!

Theatre seats! (And my Hong Kong guide book and map haha)

This is what the bar looks like (with my cappuccino):

And a close-up of my hazelnut cappuccino complete with tiger-striping:

This looks like an ordinary exercise book...


But it actually is a menu!

I stuck around to doodle in my new sketchbook.

And this is what I came up with:

It is my interpretation of Hong Kong. It is buildings and buildings and buildings.

The barista and I had a little chat at the end, he thought I was half Japanese!

He also told me about all the things you can do in Hong Kong. At the end, he wished me luck with my travels.