[I have realized that writing a blog requires immense discipline, which my Wiser Half possesses and I sorely lack. My sole excuse for starting but not finishing several entries (so when it rains, it may indeed pour) is that I procrastinate in every other aspect of my life with the thing called work. It's the end of the academic year here, which means there is enough work to fill all 24 official hours of each day and then some. Being 2 inches close from Paradise does not mean that one is there. However, when my schedule becomes more flexible and I am in a better mood because I'm focusing on research rather than juggling all three "spheres" of my professional workload, I will probably write more...]
I am an unlikely fan of Katy Perry (my students are absolutely shocked that I know and appreciate her work), but this post is not about her or her mind-numbingly catchy hit song [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms9IxBXuJbs].
Rather, my mind turns to the notion of coffee and gelato being served in the same establishment, as in the Holly Brown stores [http://www.hollybrowncoffee.com/].
As mentioned in my last post, I am still gleefully terrified of Hong Kong island because my mental compass is now squarely centered in Kowloon. However I try to make the most of my ignorance and anxiety about the area to discover new haunts by accident.
I found Holly Brown while I was walking laps around the Central district waiting for a friend. I didn't want to get completely lost since I wanted to return to our designated rendezvous point on time when she called. However I was also starting to feel rather strange taking notes and muttering to myself in front of the Coach leatherware store (normal behavior for an academic, bizarre and troubling for the rest of the world).
The storefront attracts customers seeking cold refreshment with the broad counter on the right-hand side of the entrance. Holly Brown offers the typical 10+ flavors in barrels and two or three more "on tap." One can get several toppings, ensuring a typically pleasant experience of sweet, icy, and if one chooses the frozen yogurt rather than the gelato, milky dessert.
I entered the place with my friend when we met up, and only after ordering our yogurt snacks did I realize that we could have chosen coffee. The coffee counter is recessed on the left-hand side of the gelato/yogurt counter, arranged so that one must literally walk further into the shop and look around to see the plated desserts, pastries, and espresso bar. If one walks all the way to the back of the first-floor (another floor exists quietly, with washroom), the set of large roasting equipment serves to confirm Holly Brown's claim of preparing their own beans.
The coffee bean menu, an accordion style brochure, features thirteen entries. Each entry consists of the bean type (varietal), relevant flag, and several bullet points, each marked by an indeterminate bean image. Points stress the historical significance of the bean and the commercial value. All the beans seem exquisite and worth the stiff prices that they are sold for.
From front to back, the brochure features:
* Kopi Luwak (coffee beans processed in a civet's digestive system before washed and ground for human consumption, which MarshalN says is ample proof that coffee drinkers are strange)
* Jamaica Blue Mountain
* Hawaii Kona
* Brazil Bourbon
* Cafe de Cuba Serrano Lavado
* Nepalese Terai
* Ethiopian Harrar
* Ethiopian Yirgacheffe
* Guatamala (that's it...?!)
* Indonesian Sumatra Mandheling
* Panama Bouquet (a first for me, supposedly "one of the finest coffees to be found, but sounds suspiciously like a blend of random beans)
* Papua New Guinea Sigri Estate
All of the bean varietals are packaged in the same signature blue and brown bags bearing the Holly Brown logo. Unlike Starbucks and Pacific Coffee, among other chains, Holly Brown does not provide any stereotypical images of a particular varietal's origins. Consumers cannot readily associate a bean with its homeland. In some ways, this practice is refreshing. One might say that "coffee is coffee" so any national and other loyalties are overstated. Terrain and other environmental conditions do matter, but since we know governments rise and fall, a new name for a country should not affect the qualities of its coffee. On the other hand, the uniformity in packaging inspires suspicions about whether the coffee is properly sorted. Is one really consuming what one buys?
Back to the gelato question, the two-product arrangement in the cafe has expected advantages and disadvantages. Customers in groups of two or more can accommodate varying preferences or prolong their meetings by consuming one thing then another. Both the gelato and coffee sides offer courteous and professional service and keep their goods distinctly separate. There is no self- or cafe-imposed segregation so one must love the aromas of both gelato and coffee, because they co-mingle in the air. Purists who can't stand one or the other will be frustrated.
I had a flavorful latte there with a chocolate croissant for an indulgent dessert a few weeks later, and my innate bias aside, thought it was better than my frozen yogurt order. I will probably go again when I'm worn out from wandering around Central.