COFFEE ALTERNATIVES

Coffee beans ground up to make a latte

“Hello dark roast, my old friend …”

Ahhhh, coffee.

Sweet elixir of life … or vile, unsatisfying habit: which is it?

After years of coffee consumption, I’m at a crossroads.

I didn’t start drinking coffee until I had kids. You kinda have to. They have youth and vitality on their side; on your side, you have age, treachery … and coffee. Caffeine levels the playing field.

I made up for lost caffeine pretty quickly.

It wasn’t long before I was quaffing upwards of a half dozen cups daily.

By noon most days, I wasn’t sure if the earth was shaking or if it was just caffeine jitters. Regardless, these personal earthquake drills were a small price to pay for boundless energy.

Initially, coffee wasn’t a morning ritual, but something I did with friends. I was a social drinker.  

But it’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? Soon, I couldn’t leave the house without a full traveler cup. I swore I couldn’t write without a steaming bucket of joe poised at my right hand. I went from coffee abstainer to coffee addict in record time. 

Before I went over to the dark side, I drank tea. According to tea aficionados, the tea I favoured barely qualified as tea. I liked the palest, blondest, weakest of teas. Ideally, I liked my tea in a bone china mug. Clear, unsweetened; faintly tinted – hot water, really.  The sort of tea the English call ‘gnat’s pee’. I could get a week out of a single tea bag. In fact, my preferred cup of tea was made with a once-dunked tea bag; I liked that first rinse of tannins to be washed away. When someone would ask me how I liked my tea, I took pains to make them understand.  With a flick of the wrist, I would demonstrate how swiftly the tea bag was to be removed from the cup. It didn’t matter. Rarely was I served a cup of tea that I found drinkable. Airline tea was the worst.  Bitter, cold and visually indistinguishable from black coffee. They might serve it somewhere over the prairies, but they started brewing it as soon as the blocks came out from behind the wheels.

Photo from Unsplash

Twinings is reputedly the oldest tea company in the world and has been conducting business from the same address in London since they opened in 1706. Twinings offers master classes and bespoke blending sessions at their flagship store on the Strand. Perhaps you can concoct something to rival their enduring favourite, the Earl Grey blend?  Richard Twining created this beloved custom blend for Prime Minister Charles Grey back in 1831.  It’s from this beloved bergamot-infused black tea that I find myself now jump-starting my mornings. My morning go-to has evolved to something called a London Fog. You’ve probably seen this foamy drink listed in various coffee shops all over the world. What you may not know is that this drink was created in Vancouver.  The back story may or may not involve a pregnant woman looking for a milder caffeine buzz. The only thing we can be sure of is that the drink calls for Earl Grey tea, vanilla extract, and frothed milk. If you’re ordering one of these in Scotland, however, ask for a Vancouver Fog.

It only makes sense that a local company would offer a lovely version of this Earl Grey derivation. Vancouver-based Domo Tea makes a stoneground version of a London Fog that offers the advantage of consuming the entire, antioxidant-rich tea leaf. 

Slowly, my stockpile of espresso is dwindling to make room for similar products. Domo makes one called Elixo which claims to be a ‘cold blaster’ but I love it any old day.  With these healthier alternatives, there’s been an evolution in the most dangerous drinking game at my house: seeing just how long I could go without coffee.  

The answer is, apparently, weeks!  

Who knows?  

Maybe even forever?


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This week’s question for readers:

WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO HOT BEVERAGE?  HAS IT EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?  AND IF SO, HOW AND WHY?

Send your answers by email text, not an attachment, in 100 words or less, along with your full name to Jane at thebooklessclub@gmail.com.  We will print some next week in this space. You can leave a reply below.


Responses to last week’s question:

CARS, CABINS, BOATS: DO YOURS HAVE NAMES? HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON THOSE NAMES?

My uncle is a Fire Chief in Washington state. I always liked the clever name of his boat: Fire Escape.

Amber Stewart

Our current boat is called “Good To Go”. We were trying to come up with a name and one day while we were preparing for a trip with the boat, my wife asked if we were done and out of nowhere I said yup, good to go. Our last boat was a yellow boat that we affectionately called “The Banana”. A friend has a Harley and his boat is called “Hog Wash”. Hog being a nickname for Harleys and the wake a boat leaves behind, sometimes referred to as the wash. My friends had an old cabin in White Rock from when the area was recreational. It was old and rough but a great place to spend time. It was called the Barnacle

Mike Perkins

My family has had a great tradition through the generations of finding interesting names for our boats.  The strangest one belonged to the 8’ Toro sailing dinghy that my father made for my sister and I to learn how to sail in as small children.  Hi Cockalorum Jig Jig IV took up the entire stern.  We had as much fun sailing that dingy as we did saying its name!  Apparently it is an old English children’s game.

Julia Baker

I knew of someone that named their boat “My Uncle’s Boat”. If someone suggested maybe going out on this boat the gentleman could say “that’s a great idea but it’s my “uncle’s boat” if he didn’t particularly want a certain person to go out on his boat. His cabin was named “My Uncle’s Cabin”

Brian Simonson

The only car I ever named was an old beater I bought for $100 back in the seventies.  Don’t ask me why, she just looked like a “Martha”.  Many years later, a lawyer friend of mine told me of his encounter with a colleague at a gulf island’s resort where his friend had his yacht anchored in the harbour.  His friend was a fellow criminal lawyer, and his boat was named, what else? “Crime Pays”!  

Terry Taylor

Back in the 1960s my sister drove a huge all-white American station wagon that she had named Moby Dick.  And when my brother made his millions in the high-tech field and sold out, he retired, bought a boat and named it Free@Last.

Geoff Eldred

I have come across some very clever names for boats. Here are three.

1. My favourite is “Running with Scissors”.

2. An architect had a boat which he called, “The Site”. When clients phoned on Fridays, his receptionist could say, truthfully, that he was on the site.

3. Another architect/contractor reference was in a photo of a large cruiser towing a small dingy. The name of the dinghy was, ”Contract”. The name of the large boat was, “Change Order”. This photo may have been photoshopped, but was clever nonetheless

 Carol Jones

Here’s another name which still makes me laugh. Years ago, when boats were still moored near the Bayshore Inn, I saw a small motorboat, painted red and aptly named “Blood Vessel”. I would love to know whether it’s still in use.

Fiesta de Vries

When we had first bought my car, it was a tremendous milestone.  No longer would we have to tread through during downpours, and getting, just to fit the strict bus schedules. As such, we thought it would be fitting to name our new ride. I wanted to go for the name of a goddess; it had a powerful engine deserving of a powerful name. We spent many nights discussing, settling for no less than perfect. Nike, the goddess of victory, was an option, but we discarded that idea since the brand was a lot more renowned compared to the actual goddess it was named after. We considered Athena, the grey-eyed goddess of wisdom, seeing as it was a silver Ford. However, my mom remembered the story of Persephone, in which she was abducted and her mother would only get her back for half the year, thus bringing spring to the world. It was still bitterly cold, and the fact that we now had a vehicle to take us places, gave us hope for the arrival of spring. Coincidentally, we had bought our car on the day of the Chinese Spring Festival, so it was too perfect to pass up. Some things are just fate, I guess.

Annie Kwok

When we bought our recreational property 31 years ago, it was a bare lot. It took us a couple of years to build some structures, so we always referred to the property as the lot.  Hence, our cabin is “The Lot”.

Linda Kask

22 thoughts on “COFFEE ALTERNATIVES”

  1. Although we like a good stong cup of coffee in the morning, when I was growing up, it was tea that ruled in our house, my father being British. I have been drinking tea – proper English tea, not the herbal kind – ever since I can remember. Although all my friends always request my ‘special blend’ – mixing three different blends of (black) tea, including Earl Grey – what is important about ‘tea’ is this: no matter what terrible ‘woe’ one might be suffering from, “Have a cuppa tea”, and all would be right. With a few exceptions, that still mostly works.

  2. Okay here is my hot beverage saga. I had my last cup of coffee 50 years ago. My cousin made a strong cup and I put tons of sugar in it. I was sick all day. I turned into a tea granny after that! I am super fussy about my tea. I measure out l/4 cup of 1% milk. I put it in the bottom of my cup. Then I add an ice cube. Oh ya and the boiling water and tea…Tetley’s or Red Rose…
    p.s. I love the Bookless Club…so fun reading all your stories! Diane:)

  3. You know the “once dunk tea bag” preference you have? Well, my uncle (who was born and raised in Britain) refers to it as “touch and go” whenever someone asks him how he’d like his tea made….way better than “gnat’s pee,” don’t you think? Lol

    I’m a sucker for London Fog. Thanks for sharing its origins! I feel like this pregnant woman is a kindred spirit, because London Fogs are all I’m drinking these days (being in my 3rd trimester!)
    After university, I switched back to coffee, since it’s more accessible and requires less instruction/explanation to the barista when I’m in a rush to get to work!

    I started drinking LFs in university with my roommates, as we would log hours of studying for our pharmacy school final (think 11 final exams and assignments in 2 weeks!)
    We each couldn’t tolerate too much coffee for various reasons: the taste, the fact that your heart feels like it’s gonna jump out of your chest after that 3rd cup, and knowing we’d still be cooped up in our residence.
    Going to the local coffee shop to grab a cup of LF was a good excuse for us to get some fresh air and connect with humanity outside of our small bubble.
    I also think LFs bonded us! To this day, more than a decade since we all lived together on campus, whenever we get together, it MUST include grabbing London Fogs – whether it’s accompanying us at brunch, or we’re walking the seawall, browsing stores, or sitting at someone’s home catching up in the living room.

    Take care!

  4. Hi Jane,

    I am a Tea Granny – gave up coffee years ago.

    I have tried many varieties of tea and am at the stage of
    blending two different brands to see how those taste.

    At present I am using Tea at the Empress tea bags and
    combine with Yorkshire tea leaves. Delicious!
    Try it, you may like it.

  5. Mmmmm matcha is my hands down one and only true favourite. I started probably 12 years ago drinking Starbucks matcha lattes. Then one day a brilliant girlfriend, who shall remain anonymous, Laurel, showed me how to make my own. I am now a purist when it comes to matcha sipping, no milk or sweetener, just hot water and beautiful green matcha. I cart my matcha powder , whisk and bowl wherever I go when away from home. Gotta have matcha !!

  6. Hi Jane: My go-to hot beverage routine is orange pekoe tea, two large mugs with breakfast, whilst reading the Sun and doing the crosswords. After 12 noon only decaf such as lemon-ginger. After dinner peppermint tea and before bed, “Sleepytime”. The equivalent of this in the U.K. is “Snore and Peace”. For my elderly friend “P” I sometimes pick up “Smooth Move”! Love these names!

  7. Ah yes, coffee, the most commonly used “drug” in the world. I grew up in a tea drinking household. Good old black Indian Bee tea, brewed to a coffee like strength, the way the Scots like it, until I was a teenager. It was then we discovered hanging out at the local cafe gabbing and guzzling cup after cup of coffee with free refills for hours. It’s a wonder we didn’t put them out of business for the amount of coffee we consumed at 25 cents a cup. As I got older I took a short respite from coffee to tea again but I missed the “jumpstart “ I got from coffee. Tea relaxes, coffee kicks. Now as a senior I enjoy coffee and the many new “variants “ available today as much as a necessity as it is a pleasure as I jumpstart my day with a cup o’ joe while writing this.

  8. My favourite hot beverage is the cup of tea my husband delivers
    to me every morning during our 59 years of marriage, even whilst travelling on the Trans Siberian Railway. Always milk in the cup first!

  9. Dear Jane,
    My favourite hot beverage is green tea, made from loose leaf. Nothing added. My preference is Gunpowder or Green Land Blend purchased from Naked Teas.
    For many years, I was a coffee drinker & looked forward to it every morning. Was trying to solve an eczema problem, so changed to decaf. I discovered there was something in regular coffee that made me feel off. Switched to green tea for its antioxidants, about 15 years ago.
    Sincerely,
    Joanne Jahner

  10. Hi Jane,
    I used to hate coffee until I returned to teaching in my forties. I would just have one cup per day though. Now I like more flavor so have graduated to dark roast and love to heat up milk and creamer which I froth up and add. Yum! It’s such a treat for my day. I do like Tim’s coffee too with lots of cream.

    Cheers
    Elaine Francis

  11. I had my first cup of coffee when I was sixteen years old and beginning to feel very grown up. I was eating out with my parents and younger brother. When the server came to take our dessert orders, I asked for coffee. My brother gaped, my parents looked at each other and then nodded their agreement. I managed a few sips but hated it so much I never had coffee again. It’s nothing but weak tea for me.

  12. I started seriously drinking coffee, after nursing my colicky baby during the night. Its fragrance was my incentive to wake up and greet the day. I used to buy coffee to start the office work-day and sip it for hours. Nowadays, I turn it into a latte with my little frother. I also enjoy tea, especially Earl Grey, but only when shared with friends. For me, coffee represents both a solo and social beverage. I cherish my coffee mug collection from memorable trips – moose from Cape Breton, puffins from Newfoundland, and Highland cows from Scotland. However, my most special cup now, has a smiling baby face, with the words, “World’s Best Grandma”!

    PS: I submitted an article near the beginning of the Covid pandemic about how my dogs were helping me cope. It was published June 12, 2020. I mentioned how my 11-year old Golden Doodle was diagnosed with an inoperable liver tumor and was told in March 2020 to just go home and spoil her. I guess my spoiling has worked, because 17 months later, she is still alive and well.

    Thank you for the opportunity to express our thoughts and feelings through your Bookless Club!

  13. Hi Jane:

    My evolution from coffee to tea was similar to your own, although I have always been a one (giant) mug in the morning coffee drinker. Since coffee is a diuretic, I found increasingly that my morning errands would be interrupted by an urgent need to find a urinal about half an hour after I left the house — inconvenient. So, I switched to Twinnings Earl Grey tea.

    Why Earl Grey? For the simple reason that Captain Jean Luc Picard would order his tea from the food replicator on the Enterprise with the instruction, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot”. Why Twinnings? Because you can buy a box of 200 individually sealed Twinnings tea bags at Costco in a nice box for a good price.

    I drink mine with a teaspoon of blueberry honey (supplied by a local beekeeper) and a dash of 1% milk.

  14. My go to beverage is steaming hot, black coffee in the morning. During the day I now enjoy Earl Grey tea and Jasmine Green Tea. Tea was something I never liked as people around me always had lemon and tea. One day on the advise of a friend I had an Earl Grey London fog. I was hooked immediately. I now love to sip on Earl Grey tea and have tried many different varieties. When traveling, Earl Grey tea is a souvenir for me to savor at a later time. London Fog is now my special treat.

  15. Jo-Anne Hendeerson

    At crossroads in life…coffee versus tea. Drinking Murchies Storm Watcher Tea after our first rain in a month plus. Iced/cold brew coffee over summer heat. Tea alternates with coffee any given day. The splurge a perfect cappuccino 👍

  16. Mine is coffee! First thing in the morning while I read the Vancouver Sun – electronic edition. Started the coffee habit in later high school in the early 60’s. This continued until about the mid 80’s when coffee seemed to be despised by all the medical experts. So I switched to “tea only” for about four years. THEN – we moved to Port Moody, next door to a gregarious Vancouver City policeman, who worked shifts. I worked from home. Many an afternoon I received a call that “Coffee’s Ready” which gave me a pleasant break. Since then, tea has taken a back seat and, even though he’s passed on, coffee is my morning drink – and it’s not even decaf!

  17. Hello Jane
    Many years ago I ventured off to visit my relatives in Denmark. They served me coffee so strong you could stand a spoon up in it. At that point I wasn’t sure what my go to beverage would be. Coffee wasn’t for me. I then turned to tea. My love of tea has evolved over the years to quite a collection of lovely loose teas. My favourite tea is from a little tea shop in North Vancouver called Tea Time. They have a number of wonderful blends. Their Organic double bergamot Earl Grey is my favourite. Just open the package and you are hooked. But I must mention their French Blend which is flavoured with bergamot oil, lavender, jasmine, rose petals, cornflower petals and green tea. Beautiful!

  18. Hi Jane,
    I read your column about coffee and tea with amused familiarity. I’ve been happily caffeinated for as long as I can remember. Any outing or walk around the office would be accompanied by one of six or eight of my daily mugs. Two months ago, I quit cold turkey. No reason other than boredom combined with a new-normal work schedule.
    I don’t miss it, which I’m shocked about, but my wife says I walk slower, talk slower and think slower. I haven’t……noticed….any…….um…….side effects.

  19. Jane
    Always Tea! Twinings English Breakfast, anytime of day or night, and Twinings Earl Grey in the afternoon.
    Have evolved from strong, milky & sweet to strong & clear and never, ever tea bags. Loose tea, which really does taste better, is so easy now with infusers which sit in your bone china mugs
    “Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.”

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