Jeannie and I have watched many Hallmark movies over the last 1 year or so as it sort of gave us a sense of being closer to our daughter, Laura: who was studying in the U.S.
Most of the cafes depicted in those movies were small, able to accommodate 15 – 20 people at any one time businesses. People usually had coffee to go, on their way to work; or on their way home after work. The baristas, waitresses and waiters usually knew all their customers by name. And so did the customers, they knew each other, too.
Apparently, Decatur, Illinois, is not that small a town as it is made out to be.
Laura and her college mate Pete; were going to grab coffee and do some work there. She asked if Jeannie and I would like to tag along.
Apart from the usual very commercial, run-of-the-mill “Pak HaiLam”, “OldTown”, “NewTown”, “Railway line” and “Setarbak” (1) which we are usually accustom to, we popped in at “Coffee Connection”.
Coffee Connection was not quite as what we (more like I) would have expected, which was a small set-up with some old fashion charm. Old fashion charm includes lots of wood with some leather thrown in here and there for some good measure. The setting / atmosphere was modern, with a sit-in arrangement for about 35 people.
Definitely a place where one could get some serious work done. There was a good age group mix of people when we were there. Some of whom were like us, were there working on their computers and other devices.
There were a couple of others who seem to want to resonate with the original form of writing, no not chisel and stone; but pen and paper.
Aside from work or college assignments; people were there just to chill (pun intended) with outside temperatures at -6deg C. The coffee and beverage menu offering was wide and have met most peoples’ requests. You can order from a nice selection of cakes and cookies to go with the beverages. Laura and Pete ordered their usual as they are regular customers there.
Jeannie and I ordered their house signature coffee. There was a choice of 4 house specials. The barista explained the 4 variants and suggested a couple of choices to us . Jeannie had the more traditional mocha coffee. Tasted as good as it looked.
I had a peppermint coffee variant. Smooth. As you take a sip of this coffee, the peppermint reaches your senses first, relaxing you as you take in the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, which then perks you up. Then, you take the next sip…and the next…and the next.
We busied ourselves with our own work and things, sitting inside a comfortable place, nice atmosphere with Christmas songs softly playing through small speakers in the background. The city of Decatur stares at us through the cafe’s wide glass frontal, shivering in its very windy -6deg C temperature.
Coffee Connection is the closest we re going to get to a Hallmarks movie type café. So far. This café is worth visiting again. Now, to zoom into the Christmas festivities here..🎄🎅
NOTES: 1. Mainly popular “kopitiams” (mainly refers to Chinese coffee shops) brands in Malaysia. Setarbak Kopi is based in Kelantan, an eastern state in Peninsular Malaysia.
The budget has been announced. There are some “ooos” and “aaahhhs”… carrots behind tall glass panels. Oh yes, that is where the hippity hopping comes into play…and here, we’ve been thinking about dance music of the 1960s and frogs. And I remember seeing a picture of this announcer…the scene… the floods of late 2021. It was a few days after the heavy rain. People were still on rooftops and stranded without food.
The picture was of the announcer in a large wide motorized raft / boat, standing at the front end of the raft / boat and pointing…”the flood, the flood…look at all those people stranded and suffering! It is a pity we did not bring any relief or supplies because we do not have space on this vessel. What with all you 10 or 15 media people with cameras and equipment crowding out the space.”
Back to the budget…what was that again? People are generally excited about the coming budget due to the hype that builds up leading to the day. This year, the hype was intensified by daily bombardment of news in almost every nook and corner that one would be hard-pressed to escape it for even an hour.
Budget 2023 is better known as an election budget. Up to 80% discount as the sale of big stores would advertise. Thousands of items to choose from – 107 inch televisions, flying cars, furniture, electrical items and the list go on. People rush to these stores hoping to grab that mega tv or super-luxurious, expensive leather furniture sets hoping to get 80%. They search and search for these items hoping to get them with the 80% discount or close to it.
“Up to” 80%. You will find the 80% discount on items such as a $1.50 wall plug, a plastic vase costing less than $5… The big ticket-priced items have a 5% or 10% discount only.
So, election budget… carrots behind glass panels.
While the greenback is strengthening against the local currency, and the central bank is raising interest rates to curb further consumer spending; the consumer is enticed to spend more.
Where does the average man go from here? Reduce spending. It only makes sense. (Haha, get it?) Will this affect the country’s coffers? Yes, for a short while… in the transition period of being a spending nation to one that saves. Otherwise, our financial position will head south.
Speaking of south, we have our southern neighbor as an example to emulate. It may be too drastic to do an about turn and head north to be debt free. Who came up with these “head south” and “head north” idioms.
I am all for working with the finance minister, central bank governor and all those that have an interest in helping re-build the nation’s wealth and people. It may look like a tough balancing act to follow, walking on a tight rope. Just make sure the balancing pole of ideas keep growing longer and evens out on both ends.
Purely coffee shop talk with just a couple of sips of coffee, today, so far.😉
Coffee, coffee everywhere. Many people enjoy a coffee or two…or more (yes, me😉) a day. You noticed I said “a coffee”. Does not work for tea. It does not sound quite nice if you say, “Many people enjoy a tea…”; but if you say “a cuppa”, people know you are talking about tea and not coffee.
When I talk passionately about coffee, it is not because I must have it or my day will be ruined. It’s just that it works well with me.
There are so many coffee establishments both big and small, everywhere. And, more keep opening. I welcome all, especially the startups; as many are creative with their “coffrings” (coffee offerings).
Themed outings seem to be the fad these days, at least that’s what I thought.
Then, I remembered rather vaguely, the preparations that were put into my wedding with Jeannie, 26 years ago. It started off with “we’ll do this” and “we’ll do that”… lot of excitement with lots of planning as ours was of two cultures coming together. Seemed so complex. Then, somewhere along the way, some smart alec suggested a wedding planner. All those around us seemed excited that we did have a wedding planner…initially…all with the exception of me, perhaps.
Here, was this stranger, fussing and telling (commanding?) us what we had to do and not to do. I could not recognise the original idea we had for our wedding. And, he kept tossing this word, “package” around with a loud cash register ringing almost every second he opened his mouth or flapped his hands in all directions. I thought I was getting married. Instead, I felt like I was a “prop” in a themed event; and I was paying for it! We decided he had to go as he was stressing me out.
Coming back to coffee. I wanted a change of scenery and to possibly try out new coffees. I ogled up for cafes and found what looked interesting – Gardenage by Craftman in Kota Kemuning. It is a cafe decorated by plants around it and within the cafe.
Getting to Gardenage (more catchy than its full name) can be a bit tricky, even for Google Maps. Once you get in the area (there is a “Gardenage” signage at the road entrance, pointing towards the direction of Gardenage. Then, it is easy as there are two or three rows of shop-lots, on their own. It is housed in a couple of shop-lots. Now, I know why they call it the “secret cafe”.
A head’s up: Best to make reservations. On the day we went, we did not make reservations and had to wait half an hour to get a table. Looking at the menu, this was more a restaurant than a cafe. Fancy food on the menu, commanding premium prices.
Coffee on the menu – not much of a choice. On the subject of the menu, you have to scan a QR code to view the menu on your phone. To me, that is a bit of a loss on the personal touch. Richard Kok, a fellow swimmer parent; laughed when I complained that the process of having the menu on your phone instead of a physical one, had it’s meaning lost, when a waitress had to come take down our orders. I think it would have been easier if there were checkboxes against the items on the menu. In that way, it would have saved us time of waiting for a waitress to show up and take the order.
The food was generally good.
There was a continuous flow of customers streaming in, which proved the food was good. It did give us the feeling that they kind of hinted we overstayed our welcome, that we could not really take our time, “chilling out”. We were there for about an hour and a half only.
Gardenage is also a nursery where you can purchase plants, pots and garden items. It is worth checking out if you are in the area and want something different in your garden.
A few days later, we were on a hunt for a new joint for our fix. To say we needed a fix perhaps is stretching it a bit too far. I am on coffee throughout the day. Leaving my workstation which is “live-streaming coffee” throughout the day, to go to another place for coffee is more for a change of scenery and try something new with coffee in it.
Tiennielicious (a tongue twister name) in USJ 4/1, in which I stumbled upon by accident is a fairly new start-up. It was one evening, after 5pm, that we, Jeannie and I; wanted to “ronda” (“ronda” a Malay word, sounds better than the English equivalent “galavant”) for coffee. I thought we’d go to Foliage Coffee, a first for us.
We arrived at Tiennielicious Cafe at just after 6pm, that Friday evening. We were kind of excited to have found a cafe that was so close to home, our own neighbourhood cafe. They had their range of coffees and cake. We decided we’d try their specials – I had their pineapple ice-coffee and Jeannie had their lychee ice-coffee. This was a sort of a fizzy coffee with fruit blended in it. Not sure if I have described it right but it was nice. The pineapple version does change in taste a bit when the drink gets warmer.
Their Lotus Biscoff brownies are worth talking about. It was totally yummy. From what we were told, it was homemade. In fact, all their cakes are. The waitress did not rush but spent time explaining when the cafe started, all the items on the menu and what their business philosophy was about. Though it was nearing closing time for the cafe, their customers were still at ease and relaxed. This cafe is on top of 7-11 in USJ 4/1. Worth going to for coffee and cake, especially if you are in the neighbourhood.
Foliage Coffee – the saga of having coffee amongst the lush, green surroundings of plants. It all started when an article of Theresa de Silva popped up on one of my social media sites. She was talking about coffee and plants and this “Foliage Coffee” she was a part of. She posted several pictures of this what seemed like a unique decor-ed cafe (at least to me). Jeannie loves plants. So, it was settled. This was where we would go next.
I phoned Theresa, telling her that we’d be at her cafe at 7.00pm for dinner. She told me the cafe operates till 7.00pm daily. It was then that I realised that many of these one or two store, personalised cafes have their business operating till 7.00pm to cater for those who just ended their day’s work and want a coffee to unwind and escape the daily going home traffic jams. This was when I searched for other cafes and found Tiennielicious (it is a mouthful to pronounce) and Gardenage.
Our first visit to Foliage Coffee was for lunch on Labour Day, a public holiday. Located in Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur; it was pretty easy to get to with the use of Google Maps. Jeannie and I were impressed by it being a standalone building or sort of garden, lush with natural greens everywhere.
I told one of their employees that I would like to meet with Theresa. Their employee said that she was not coming in that day. I texted her that Jeannie and I were at her cafe and we liked it. The next thing we knew was that Theresa and her husband, Edwin; showed up to meet with us. It was a nice gesture of them.
I had a burger and ice coffee. Jeannie had a fish (I think) dish and hot coffee. When I looked around, I wondered how the meals were going to be prepared as there did not have a kitchen there. A while later, the waiter brought our meals from outside the building. I thought that they got our meals from a nextdoor restaurant. But hang on… they are on their own.
Edwin and his family, started a business called “Rent a Pot” around 40 years ago. It is a business where they provide leafy, green decor to offices and look after the maintenance of these plants. Their customers can opt to change different plants, if and when they want a “new look” in their offices. Edwin said their business is doing very well as their customers like this type of “exchange” arrangement.
Theresa said they thought of this idea of a cafe in the garden as they had the perfect setting and locale.
Jeannie went on a self-tour of the place. She found the outdoor toilet rather fascinating. It was greens, greens everywhere, plants and more plants, even in the toilet. When we were leaving, I took a quick self-tour myself. Then, I found that their kitchen was outside in the garden, tucked away amongst the plants. Nifty idea.
Our second visit to Foliage Coffee was the very next day. We had Richard Kok, our swimmer parent good friend; join us for lunch. Like (here I am using this word in its proper context) Jeannie, he has an interest in plants. As for me, y-e-e-ea-a-ah, sort of; to a certain extent.
We had to settle for lunch that did not need a cook’s on-the-order preparation as the cook was on Raya (2) break. Mine was a sort of sausage roll (I had two – one a jumbo(?) and 1 normal), Jeannie and Richard ordered a sandwich, each. We had some sort of tortilla (I think) chips.
The double shot expresso was good. I enjoyed slowly sipping it. Though it got cold after a while, I still enjoyed it till the last drop.
We knew we were going to be at Foliage Coffee for lunch. So did the mosquitoes. I was bitten several times by them. The portable battery operated insect repellents were not working. The main one, hanging in a tree nearby, was not working, too. Minor issue. Their other patrons did not seem to mind.
We enjoyed the atmosphere and ambience of Foliage Coffee, both indoors and in the garden. We like the very relaxed mood it provided. Mind you, it is very conducive to have small business meetings there.
There are many writers who blog about all the cafes around. Many of these articles are “static” sort of propped for photos and the right words and things to say. They have their target audience.
I attempt to write on my feel and those around me, their experience at the time we were there – an objective view. Going to the same place again, as we did at Foliage Coffee; gives us a new angle to look at things. At Foliage Coffee for instance, our second visit was having lunch and coffee in their garden – a different experience.
All three establishments: Gardenage by Craftman, Tiennielicious (yes! Got the spelling by memory, correct) and Foliage Coffee; have their own reach of customers (I prefer this word to “patron” – sounds more engaging). If you want to try different things with “coffee” as a pull factor; all three are definitely worth checking out.
Back to the story of our wedding preparations… In the end, we had a wonderful wedding, simple…the way we had originally planned. The Rolls Royce Silver Shadow that was to be used as our wedding car broke down a couple of days before the wedding. We ended up with a friend’s BMW 7 Series which was just as good.
Click “following leatherpotato” for more stories and happenings.
Gardenage by Craftman, 8, Jalan Anggerik Aranda A 31/A, Kota Kemuning, 40650 Shah Alam, Selangor
Tiennielicious Cafe, 20A, Jalan USJ 4/1, USJ 4, 47600 Subang Jaya, Selangor
Foliage Coffee, 9-1, Jalan Desa Utama, Taman Desa, 58100 Kuala Lumpur
Kupat ketupat, or tipat is a Javanese rice cake packed inside a diamond-shaped container of woven palm leaf pouch. Originating in Indonesia, it is also found in Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and southern Thailand. Wikipedia
It was a moonlit night in old Mexico I walked alone between some old adobe haciendas Suddenly, I heard the plaintive cry of a young Mexican girl …
“La la laaaa,” (the guitar strumming rapidly a tune); “La la la la la la la la laaaaaa” (The guitar continued with its rapid strumming but in F#m (chord change) …
“You better come home, Speedy Gonzales”…. hang on, … going off track…😅. The sun this evening must have gotten to me on my long walk.
I have reverted back to my usual 15 kilometer (km) walk per day starting yesterday, from the 15,000 steps which covers 11.9km. This is to work at reducing the gained 2.2kg overweight from 2 days ago. Signs of progress – weight is down by 0.4kg after yesterday’s exercise.
While walking, my mind wonders off at times (I am a dreamer) … Speedy Gonzales? How did that come into the picture?
At the same time, I was treated to battle royale: The time was after 6.00pm in the evening. The sun was out strong, but not as scorching as over the past few days. It was slowly making its way to the west for its sunset. There were some clouds from the North-East, gathering and building up overhead slowly. They didn’t look like rain clouds. A short while later, I heard the rumbles of the sound of thunder in the distance. The sun was still shining brightly at this time.
There was a sudden thunderclap. It looked like the sun was not going to have a peaceful sundown. But it didn’t seem like it wanted to give up. The rain clouds showed force by dropping a drizzle of rain. The sun retaliated with all its might by shining even more brighter, and thus evaporating the raindrops. The clouds could not respond to that move and just remained where they were.
The sun had a peaceful and beautiful sunset, shining radiantly and faded away slowly, thus creating a beautiful sunset.
At the same time; I was also thinking as to what my next essay would be on. I had several topics in mind and I was already framing my storyboard. Hey, why not I write about my trip to Taiping? No, no… Not the one in southwestern China. (1)
Jeannie and I visited the “Taiping” in Perak, Malaysia on an overnight trip last Friday (October 15th, 2021) evening. We were invited by Dato Devan to stay the night with him and his family.
Pronounced as taipen by Malay, thaipin by Chinese and thaipeng by Hokkien (a Chinese dialect); Taiping is made up of two Chinese characters (tai – “great”) and (ping – “peace”). (2)
Being a true Malaysian; the first thing on the agenda is food. It can be the only thing on the agenda for most Malaysians.
This is char kuey teow. It is neither Penang nor is it Ipoh char kuew teow. This is “Taiping” char Kuew Teow with a twist. It had a slight hint of lime added to it when it was being “char” or fried; making it unique; not the usual limau kasturi (3) squeezed over the already prepared dish.
Friday evening was light and easy. It was dinner, then back to the house for chit-chat, drinks and some snacks.
Saturday morning, Jeannie and I began with breakfast with Dato Devan and his wife Datin Poonam; at a coffee shop near a Chinese temple, reputed to serve good, simple food. Then, they took us on a tour of Taiping
One of our first stops was to St Louis Catholic Church – the oldest church in Perak. It is a beautiful church with a stone style architecture. It reminds me a bit of the Holy Rosary Church in Sapa, North Vietnam.
We drove around the Taiping Lake Gardens. Being a Saturday morning, this park was full of people.
The famous 134 year-old giant rainforest tree near the lake, which is a tourist attraction; had just died recently. The authorities had tried to keep the tree alive and maintain it by placing metal beams as support to keep it from falling.
Since it was a dry spell even for the wettest town in Malaysia (Taiping attracts the most rainfall every year); the waterfall was suffering a “falling water” shortage.
We stopped by at a famous shop, selling a wide variety of Chinese biscuits and cookies – a must for tourists, local and foreign alike.
Visiting Taiping as a tourist without visiting the most famous Aun Tong coffee mill in Assam Kumbang, is like not having visited Taiping at all.
The picture of Chen Cuifen caught my eye. She was beautiful and powerful, too. This little museum room is a must-see. It is history, but not from too long ago. In the museum, there are a lot of artifacts, each with a story behind it.
You get the mint flavour at the beginning and at the end of the sip. It is something like being on the surface of the coffee. Designer coffee?
Another old charm of Taiping is the Nagaria Steak House restaurant in the heart of the city of Taiping. Why old charm is because it has that original Coliseum Restaurant (now closed down) dark and rustic look; having been left behind in the era of the 1950s; in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, minus the old rude and rough waiters which gave character to Coliseum. The western food served at Nagaria is supposed to be the best Taiping has to offer.
It was past 2.00pm when Jeannie and I decided to make our way back to Subang Jaya. When we on the highway, just out of Taiping; we could see it was already storming in the hills of Taiping behind us. There were also drops of rain beginning to fall on us, too. So that’s what rain looks like. It has been so long since the last time we had rain that we almost forgot what they looked like.
Taiping may seem to be like just about any other city or town in Malaysia. But it does have a lot to offer in terms of sight-seeing and things to do. No major mega shopping malls here, though. It may take a bit of getting used to in living a simple, yet happy life there. Heavenly peace.
Taiping, China; is a subdistrict situated in eastern Anning City, Yunnan province. southwestern China. Wikipedia.org
“Limau Kasturi” is Calamansi. It is also known as Philippine lime and is important, econimically . It is predominantly grown in The Philippines but it is also easily available in South East Asia, Southern China and Taiwan in East Asia.
Sun Yat-Sen’s lover Cuifen and her Malaysia villa, Chia Yei Yei, 16 Oct 2019. thinkchina.sg/sun-yat-sens-lover-cuifen-and-her-malaysia-volla,
“Speedy Gonzales” – This music and everything in it is owned or licensed by Believe and UMG