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Coffee, a Spice of My Life, Around the World

Day 2:  Coffee in Bed from a Tim Tam Mug

Day 2: Coffee in Bed from a Tim Tam Mug

Oh, coffee. We have a love-hate relationship, you and me. Sometimes, I drink too much of you; you make my hands shake and my stomach hurt. Other times, I drink a bit and I’m more productive than I could ever be, writing a zillion words per minute and staying on task. I love you, and I hate you; still you remain a spice of my life no matter where I go.

I remember thinking how strange it was to not be able to find a decent cup while in Guatemala seeing how they grow coffee beans like they’re going out of style. Instead, I would typically be met with a sad little cup of Nescafe, which I grew to enjoy more than I think I should. I found it necessary to have some sort of stimulation of the caffeine kind before the intensive Spanish lessons I took. Hours of being bombarded with another language takes a bit out of you, so Nescafe became a good friend.

guatemalan breakfast and coffee

A Guatemalan breakfast with a cup of Nescafe.

Macaw Mountain in Honduras was like hitting the jackpot as they had a lovely cafe where they roasted and sold the beans to help the bird sanctuary. I sat and enjoyed that coffee like it was my last.

In Kyrgyzstan, I wasn’t surprised that coffee — real coffee — wasn’t the fashion. I’m not even sure where they’d have to get theirs from to begin with (did they bring it back from their Turkey holidays?), so Nescafe became an even better friend for the months I was there. After so long, finding a real, fresh cup became increasingly worth the price tag a few cafes put on it, and it tasted like Heaven in a cup when we splurged.

On my trips to Almaty, Kazakhstan, the taste of fresh coffee led me to whiling my time away in Gloria Jean’s — that and FREE Wi-Fi (Australia, come on man!). I didn’t want to leave, and I think I dropped more money there than I did on getting to Almaty in the first place.

My Eastern European jaunts (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Ukraine) meant Double Coffee became my place of worship. Double cappuccinos to cure hangovers and just have nice chats with other travelers entered my daily routine, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

double coffee

Enjoying my mug of cappuccino at Double Coffee. Photo by Sam Chhay.

But, it was there that I heard stories of coffee in Australia. I never knew that a country could be so stuck up about their beans and baristas until I met Aussies telling me stories of how crappy European coffee tasted. “We do it right in Australia,” they would tell me.


I must say that coffee does come in varying degrees in Australia; it’s either really awesome or really shitty. See, they consider a coffee something like a cappuccino or a flat white. The drip coffee that we know and love in America and other parts of the world is their idea of Nescafe — crap. Baristas and baristos are taken very seriously here, and there are coffee schools and classes so that people can pursue their coffee passion.

brooke heather coffee

Sydney coffee festival 2010.

I’ve tasted more coffee here than in any of my travels, and I’ve done a lot of it with Heather Rudd. We went to a coffee festival together, and then made it a goal to stop off at tons of coffee plantations while in northern Queensland. What we learned: coffees from coffee plantation cafes ROCK.

However, getting outside of the major cities has often left me disappointed after being served over-milky and way-too-hot-to-drink cups that scald my tongue. These, sadly, make me wish I had just been given a cup of always faithful Nescafe. Funny, ain’t it? Traveling the world has made me appreciate a good cup of coffee, but I also appreciate a good Nescafe just as well!


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41 Responses to Coffee, a Spice of My Life, Around the World

  1. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World January 2, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    We just came back from Indonesia and even though coffee shops were abound they were all pricey (as much as Starbuck costs in rupiahs — which is a lot). Instant coffee, however, was everywhere. That’s what my parents drink and serve us for breakfast (to Jack’s dismay). It’s funny considering that Indonesia produces really good quality coffee…

    • Brooke January 4, 2011 at 3:32 am #

      Yeah, they must produce it for export like Central and South America – sigh.

  2. kelly January 2, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    Hey Brooke,

    I can’t believe this is my first visit here! Your writing is so cute and fun! It’s funny, I’ve always liked the smell of coffee but never the taste… it’s probably for the best, seeing as I’m already a smoker and part-time drinker! But, the free wi-fi in coffee shops is always a perk!

    • Brooke January 4, 2011 at 3:33 am #

      Aw, thanks for the compliments, Kelly! I’m so glad you stopped by πŸ™‚ Are you a tea drinker by chance?

  3. Heather January 2, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    Come to think of it, I haven’t had coffee very often when traveling until Australia…and I’ve had more than I can count while here πŸ™‚

    Will never forget the foam we had on that cappuccino at the farm….*cue angels singing and a light beam from above*!

    I like that you’ve taken coffee photos on the road πŸ™‚ And your new photo documentation project too…excellent idea!

    • Brooke January 4, 2011 at 3:35 am #

      Thanks, I’m now 3 days in and so far so good; I hope it can last!

      Mmm yes, that foam was absolutely fantastic, even Pat would have approved.

  4. Emily January 3, 2011 at 1:25 am #

    NescafΓ© is big in Chile too. I just can’t do it – I am not an equal-opportunity coffee lover and only like fancy espresso drinks with steamed milk.

    My favorite part of this post, however, wasn’t the coffee but that picture of Guatemalan breakfast. I had those beans every day when I was there and oh my god, I never knew beans for breakfast could be so delicious!

    • Brooke January 4, 2011 at 3:36 am #

      Oh my goodness, I LOVE those beans, too! Breakfast tipico FTW! I ate so much when I was there.

  5. Kyle January 3, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    Hey, that’s a familiar face! Nice to see Heather around in the blogosphere even during her holiday hiatus πŸ™‚

    I have to admit that I’m a Starbucks fanatic. I can’t help it. I love my Caffe Mocha Frio and I love that it’s familiar in every country I go to. I’m not one of those people who’s scared to try local foods or anything like that, but when it comes to coffee, I want what I know I love.

    • Brooke January 4, 2011 at 3:39 am #

      Hey, there’s no shame in that πŸ˜‰ Sometimes getting something familiar is just what we need! If that means going to Starbucks, then I’ll join you πŸ˜‰

  6. Michael Hodson January 3, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Bad coffee in good coffee countries — I have written about it often. Panama. Colombia. Brasil. Guatamala. All of them. Arrrgggg.

    • Brooke January 4, 2011 at 3:41 am #

      Yeah, it is definitely frustrating to not be able to get a good cup in those places!

  7. Kirsten January 3, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    I can happily agree with this post on every account, with one exception. When I was in Jamaica – their coffee was the best I’ve ever had. Ever. Their “blue mountain coffee” was so naturally sweet I didn’t need extra sugar or even creamer. Drank it black no problem. Jamaica is a large exporter of coffee. Just not as large as the other countries. Yet what you find while there is the real stuff. The good stuff!

    • Brooke January 4, 2011 at 3:42 am #

      Ok, you’re now making me want some Jamaican coffee! YUM

    • Michael Hodson January 13, 2011 at 1:58 am #

      Ummmmm. I want. now.

  8. Annie January 3, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    It’s always shocking to to hear that it’s hard to come by a good cup of coffee in S. America but I hear it’s because they pack all their good beans into exporting because it’s so profitable.

    Being in Italy where they are surely coffee snobs (as the Australians are) I have to admit, I do my best to find the American coffee sellers! The espresso sure is tasty, but I like to enjoy my coffee (for lengthy periods) and the Italians just don’t get it! I don’t like the cappuccinos here much either πŸ™ but I have been lucky to find a couple of great places for both American coffee and Cappuccinos that I actually can sit and enjoy!

    • Brooke January 4, 2011 at 3:44 am #

      Oh my, those standing tables where you drink the espresso at in Italy are just not right. I hear you on the sitting and enjoying aspect of coffee. It’s therapeutic πŸ™‚

  9. Diana January 4, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    I loved this “Ode to the Coffee” post! A trip to Vietnam in 2006 locked in my love for its coffee – my coffee pot here at home only knows the Vietnamese bean (I’ve tried a few others in between, but keep coming back). Love that you also go full circle and return to the trusty ole Nescafe. πŸ˜‰

    • Brooke January 5, 2011 at 10:03 am #

      I don’t think I’ve even had a Vietnamese coffee before! I’ll have to add that to my must-try list!

  10. Donna Hull January 4, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    Give me a flat white from New Zealand any day, or an Italian cappuccino. Great coffee post. Enjoyed the read with a cup of coffee, of course.

    • Brooke January 5, 2011 at 10:07 am #

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Donna! I love how a good coffee can make my day πŸ™‚

  11. Abby January 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    I don’t even drink coffee, and I loved this! I lived in Costa Rica for a year and brought back the best coffee for presents… But I honestly have no idea what the joe purchased there tastes like!

    • Brooke January 5, 2011 at 10:12 am #

      No coffee? I love coffee so much I can’t imagine not tasting it πŸ˜‰

  12. The NVR Guys January 5, 2011 at 3:47 am #

    We hear you on the Nescafe front. We have learned to love it when on the road because it is SO prevalent. Being from Seattle, we tend to be absolute coffee snobs, but we will drink just about anything when push comes to shove.

    I remember being horrified by the coffee in south america – costa rica to be precise. It is a shame that so many coffee producing countries export all of their best product.

    • Brooke January 5, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      Yep, same way. I will basically take what I can get when it comes down to it πŸ˜‰

  13. Lola January 5, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    The best coffee I’ve ever had was in Venice. Sitting on the Grand Canal sipping on espresso… Ah, memories.

    • Brooke January 5, 2011 at 9:48 am #

      Sounds like a fantastic memory — a great coffee in an awesome location.

  14. Roxanne January 5, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    So thrilled to have found your blog through twitter! I, too, worked in Colombia and Guate and was disappointed to find that they export most of the best beans. I love the idea of narrating stories through coffee cups and I will certainly be back to your blog to follow your journeys.

    • Brooke January 7, 2011 at 8:27 am #

      Thanks for stopping by, Roxanne. Seems that a lot of people found Latin America a bit disappointing in terms of coffee *sigh*. Hope to see you around these parts again!

  15. Cam January 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    Not a fan of the Nescafe but desperate times call for desperate measures! In the middle east, when you order a “latte”, its really warm milk with nescafe… boooo! Although Germany and Austria don’t disappoint

  16. Brooke January 7, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Gross… that should not be considered a latte! haha.

  17. kevin January 8, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    I try hard to be understanding of cultural differences as I travel, but for the love of God– How on Earth did Nescafe manage to pass itself off as coffee around the world?!?

    And trying to get a cup of coffee “black”-without cream or sugar- seems to throw the planet off of its axis?

    When I arrived in Taipei last summer after a month in SE Asia and saw a Starbucks, I wept with joy!

    Does this mean I can never make fun of Americans who eat at McDonalds around the world?

    Safe Travels!

    • Brooke January 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

      Nescafe has really done something right to be found everywhere! Would you hate me if I told you I love to eat at McDonalds when I travel? Not all the time, but just to see how they change from place to place πŸ™‚

  18. marvin January 23, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    nescafe? may as well drink tea.

  19. Culture-ist December 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    This post is right on point! Guatemala was quite disappointing when it came to coffee. The abundance of Nescafe was inescapable, with the exception of one cafe in Antigua in the main square which had fantastic coffee.


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