I am a coffee addict. Ever since I was introduced to coffee I have never bee able to live a full day without it. Well, I can, but I wouldn’t want to. Thailand in the 80s and 90s where I grew up, coffee had yet to be a big part of Thai society’s cultural life. My father, for example, also brewed a flask of tea for himself to take to work. He would consume the entire flask (also known as, a hot water thermos) bit by bit through out the day (the flask he used was one of those that the cap of which also worked as a cup). In my vivid childhood memory, he always returned home with an empty flask. The habit of consuming tea made the world goes round for him. He was a hardworking man, and he was obsessed with getting his work done. He got up early, never late for work, spent all his time at his desk getting his job done, took only little time to eat, returned home right afterwards and never went out to socialize, tucked in early in order to get ready for the next day. His work ethics (except the not going out to socialize part) have always been the model of my very own. Actually, I am not being very fair to my dad. Maybe he liked to go out drinking with his friends, but because he’s married and had two kids to take care of, he could only have so much fun with his friends. My father was not perfect, but he was a role model for me and for many people who learned how to be determined, clear, and extremely frank to his own heart, in many ways, but his true essence was probably his honesty and dignity. He honestly loved his job and he never allowed anything to get in the way, including the temptation of corruption.
Drinking tea was my father’s ritual, but I am sure the caffeine in the strong tea that he consumed (the brand was Three Horses, which is still available in any supermarket today) also played a role in his pathological addiction. In the 2000s, even after he had retired, he still brewed his own tea everyday. He would brew a small pot and drink it at home since there was no need to go to work and therefore no need to make a flask of tea to carry with him. But whenever we got on the car, I could always get there would be a small flask of tea in the storage compartment between his seat and the shotgun seat. As a child until when my father passed away a couple years after his retirement, I thought it was funny that every time we stopped in the traffic, he would ask me to pour him a cup of tea so that he could have a sip while waiting for the car to move. “Dad, drinking tea ain’t gonna make the car go faster,” I told him. Although there’s a small cup holder on the right hand side of the wheel, he always trusted me more to hold the cup for him when he had to operate the moving car. The aroma and the light smoke that came out of the top of the tubular flask was the evidence that the tea he drank was always hot. I didn’t like tea that much because as a child growing up in Thailand during the era of global imperialism, I was completely obsessed with the “cool beverages” such as soda water and carbonated lemonade which were always served cold. So, the thought of consuming the very hot water didn’t even cross my mind. That said, whenever my father asked me to pour a cup for him, I couldn’t resist having a sip. It’s also our ritual. It is also something that bond us father and son. What makes my father such a great father isn’t just his unconditional love for s family, but his true devotion to create a better environment for his children – the one that would be much much much better than what he has to live in as a child. This was the stance that both of my parents never once disagreed about. They both loved me and my brother so much that they’d do everything to make sure that we wouldn’t have to build everything from scratch. My father’s childhood life, as he told me, wasn’t all that painful, but he knew, from the deepest part of his heart, that he could be in a much better place had he been provided with better schooling and constructive guidance from someone who really knew how it’s to be a Thai citizen. I wholehearted believe that he had done a great job for himself. It’s almost unimaginable that a son of an uneducated Chinese migrant who would barely spoke Thai could hold one of the most important posts in the Thai government. It took him decades to arrive at his place in the government, and I am sure tea was a part of it.
I never understood why my father liked tea that much, but he was not the only one. Coffee culture came to Thailand, I believe, with the rise of hyper-corporatism such as the arrival of many international chain cafes (i.e., Starbucks) in the early 2000s. I left Thailand in the late 1990s, and whatever happened during the last few years of millennium was pretty much what made me an outsider to Thai culture when I returned. Thai culture had , always been in a large part influenced by the culture of South China from which most of the Chinese immigrants who later neutralized as Thai citizens came. Both of my father’s and mother’s families came from that part of China. Therefore, coffee, then, was petty much a quick fix rather than a beverage to be enjoyed (the same way my father enjoyed his tea). Like Japan, there is an impression that coffee is a highly industrious drink that could get you up in the morning, put you to work long-hour, and give you the “push” that you need to get you to arrive at the very end of the production line. I am sure some of those are psychological but the undeniable fact here is that coffee does have the substance that makes our heart beat and our blood flow. So, every time my father needed to stay awake (sometimes to work, sometimes to watch a soccer match) he would resort to the infamous “instant coffee,” which, I thought, tasted awful. It’s bitter, first of all, and it didn’t have the aroma (of brewed coffee, which I later felt in love with). Maybe it was that reason, that 99% of coffee available in Thailand when I was growing up was all instant coffee, I never liked drinking it. In fact, there’s also a saying that “coffee is not for kids; it is only for adults,” for reasons that I haven’t seemed to be able to figure out, there wasn’t even a small little space in my heart for the beverage that decades after would become something that I can’t live without. When I was in architecture school in Thailand, I resorted to both canned coffee and Red Bull to keep myself awake at night. But to be honest, I never thought that any of them worked. I consumed them because they gave me the impression that they “might work.” It could have been the case that my body was caffeine resistance, but whatever the reason was, all I always knew was that I could never resist sleeping. While all my colleagues were working over night to get their projects done, almost always the case was that I would be in my bed sleeping like a log because I prioritized sleeping over getting my work done (and that coffee didn’t really work on me). Laying my personal story out this way, I can’t he but to feel that I have always indeed been an existentialist!
So, if coffee doesn’t help me getting up in the morning and be industrious, why do I like it? Well, I like the taste of it. I also like the smell of it. Recently, there are research showing that the smell of coffee makes me happier and the taste of coffee makes us appreciate things around us more. Among many, there are also many scientific research that show the benefits of coffee. But really, apart from the taste, what do I like about it? Actually, I have been surprised by the fact that not many people have mentioned how coffee helps your stomach. Yes, I consume coffee in the morning partly so that I would have a much easier time in the bathroom. I am not sure if this is just me, but a cup of morning coffee helps me a great deal in removing the night soil from my physical body (AKA, makes me shit well). I don’t put crime in my coffee because I never like it. Only black coffee, or coffee with soy milk, works for me. I like my coffee also to be very hot.
Lately I just found out another way of making coffee called the cold brewed method. Basically, instead of using heat to brew, the method rely on the fully immersion of coffee ground in cold water for the full 24-hour circle. By doing so, not only the coffee becomes much less acid, but it also tastes much smoother. All I have to do is to store the brewed coffee in the fridge and everything,e I want to drink it I just have to use about 1/3 of it in a cup mixed with hot water. If you haven’t tried, I challenge you to 🙂