Sunday, March 28, 2010

Post Race Coffee

As you may know we have recently achieved the most honorable of Chinese positions, the drivers position. This means that Amanda and I will soon be joining the ranks of Taxi Cabs, Private drivers, trucks and the like by unanimously throwing off the shackles of two wheeled (bicycle) oppression and buying a car. Not just any car will do though, we will need something rugged enough to get through the urban jungle that is Chengdu and still retain some sense of civilized society. This means we will probably be getting an SUV of some sort. We however do not want to spend a small fortune and so will likely be getting something from the used car market.
The used car market is southeast of the University and costs about 20 yuan to take a cab out there in the middle of rush hour traffic, which could happen at anytime on any given day. The market itself is along a street between the second and third ring roads. Near as we can tell there are two main lots that have used cars for sale, each lot being made up of several small dealers who consign themselves to cleaning vehicles in the up times and drinking tea and playing cards in the down times.
The vehicles themselves are an interesting array of new and old new. Meaning that there are cars here that have been built in the last five years that were the latest model on the road in 1986. If I ever wanted to revive my dream of owning a brand new 1990 Volkswagen Jetta I could easily do it now and it would be licensed as a 2010. As you may have guessed this makes for an interesting cross section of vehicles. To have a three year old Citroen with all the fancy bells and whistles and the newer body styling sitting next to a boxy old looking carburated volkswagen with cloth seats. The worst part being that volkswagens weren't carburated in 1990, at least not in the states, so I don't even know what to make of the situation.
What's even more troublesome is something that was pointed out to me by someone. That is the fact that some vehicles that have the badges of say a toyota or a mitsubishi along with all the requisite stuff inside are not actually even made by those companies but are in fact rebranded versions of chinese produced vehicles. Worse yet is that they are mostly SUVs and they all lack what is the basis of an SUV. The Sport and the Utility and in some cases they even lack the Vehicle portion. How that is I don't know but it is paradigm shifting.
I digress however, this is the challenge that lays ahead of us in the next few days.

Now on to a much more interesting topic: Coffee.
Yesterday Amanda and I ventured into the coffee district, see in China everything is made up of districts. There is the hospital district, the Mao district (aka the center of town), the Car district (see above), the cell phone district, the computer district, the karaoke district (below our flat), and of course, the coffee district, the city is actually one big huajiao district. Amanda informed me that the coffee district would be a good place to get a coffee grinder and maybe even some coffee. Though we are not currently running low it is always a good idea to be prepared.
We rode out to the coffee district on our trusty new city steeds.

This is my new Chengdu city bike, not to be confused with a dutch city bike. Personally I am quite pleased with the bike although I have had to make some minor modifications to it since I got it. The seat post on their now is about three times longer than the one that it came with. It is equipped with anti-lock brakes, meaning no matter how hard you pull on the brake levers the wheels still won't lock up. The cranks are also now attached to the bottom bracket. As for the headset this was the bearings optional model and the original owner opted out. Anyway back to the coffee district.
Upon entering one of the many storefronts advertising their coffee wares I was surprised to find that this was no ordinary coffee retailery. In fact this was the hoity toity upscale variety that sells interesting and different ways of making coffee. Fortunately the prices were of more the Wal-Mart variety that us mouth breathers won't scoff at. After consulting with the wife about our coffee needs we decided on the little number in the picture below.

Even though it may look like something out of a chemistry lab, this glass menagerie makes a mean cup of coffee.

Here is the completed setup with water, coffee (in the top), and our new hand grinder on the side.
How does it work you ask? Well it's nothing short of a miracle or maybe it's just scientifintastic. As you can no doubt see there is a small alcohol burner under the spherical glass vial. The upper glass holder is connected to the lower via a rubber stopper and a glass tube. The coffee grounds are placed on the filter that covers the hole over the glass tube. Now the cool part. As the water is heated by the alcohol burner it creates steam in the area at the top of the vial. As more steam is added and the temperature raises the steam which is a gas pushes down on the liquid water forcing it through the glass tube. The liquid is thus mixed with the coffee grounds and starts the steeping process. However the process is not complete. Once all of the water is pushed up into the upper glass container the burner is removed. The gas in the lower chamber begins to condense which creates a vacuum pulling the liquid through the filter and back into the lower chamber. Leaving you with the perfect cup of coffee.

Isn't it beautiful, just remember to stir the coffee in the upper container before removing the heat.

Stay tuned for the following posts:

Help I'm being attacked by a crazy laowai

If Life's an adventure could you please let me know when the movie is out

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