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ristretto, espresso, machines, grinders, latte art…

trip to Taipei and Shanghai

It’s been a while since I put up a real post, my daily Twitter digests took up the first page of my blog quickly.

I’ve always considered moving to China, or Asia in general, to do startups or consulting. Our friend Jimmy decided to go to business school in Shanghai, so I went there to check out the city and to see how are things there. I hadn’t been to China for over 10 years. Before that we stopped by Taipei as Sherry had to be there to help her mom purchase an investment property in her name.

Other than the extremely humid and hot weather it was a great trip. Taipei is really growing on me, the food and the shopping are pretty decent. Tuan Tuan had most of the brands I like: N(N), UC, Margiela, Hysteric Glamour, CDG, etc. There is also an Undecover store that is always fun to visit. I was in Taipei on the Olympic opening day, but I missed the broadcast as I was jetlagged and pretty much passed out after watching part of the parade.

We flew from Taipei to Shanghai, and with EVA airline now you can fly direct! Well, the plane still goes over to Hong Kong and then back up, but it doesn’t have to stop at Hong Kong. So the flight now is only about 2 and a half hours, before it takes pretty much the whole day to travel from Taiwan to Shanghai as you would have to land in Hong Kong and then take off later, and Hong Kong is a pretty busy airport so that takes a while.

Maglev ticket
Shanghai Maglev at 417km/h

We got off the plane at PVG and got on the Maglev, it was a pretty cool experience, the train went up to 430km/h (~269mph), and took only 6 minutes to get to the middle of Shanghai, I believe the distance is about 18.6 miles. (on our way back to PVG the train didn’t go nearly as fast, not sure why).

We spent a day in Shanghai and then went to West Lake (??),a famous fresh water lake in Hangzhou. The first night in Shanghai we went out with Jimmy and went to a the German theme bar in Xin Tian Di (???), we were pretty tired from traveling and just had a few beer there. The band there was really terrible that night. Xin Tian Di was a really nice area to hang out though, it pretty much feels like you’re in the States, they have cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating and shops like Shanghai Tang.

West Lake was gorgeous, although it was really too hot for sightseeing. We stayed at the Hyatt right on the lake, our room got the lake view and the hotel was really nice (great A/C too obviously). I definitely will go back when the weather is cooler. Most of the trip I didn’t carry my SLR with me, but I had it with me when we toured around West Lake:

?? ???? ????

After we got back to Shanghai we spent most of our time sightseeing, eating, and we also went out with Jimmy pretty much every night. First we went to Bar Rouge, it’s on top of the famous Peace Hotel (????) at Bund 18. The patio offers great view of the Pudong side, they turn off the lights of the buildings, including the Oriental Pearl Tower (?????), at 11pm though, so if you’re gonna hit up a place at the Bund to check out the view make sure you get there before that. Snapshot of The Bund with my digicam, I brought my tripod to Asia but never got to use it:

?? (The Bund)

The highlight for us at Bar Rouge wasn’t the view of Pudong, it was observing how the Shanghainese “pros” work the bar. It was really efficient, they approached mostly foreigners, most of them look like they had never been in a lounge/bar/club before, started dancing with them closely within a few seconds, and in a few minutes they’d start making out, in about 15 minutes they would leave together. We were all pretty shocked, and that was everywhere around the bar!

The Bund from Pudong
The Bund, taken from outside Häagen-Dazs.

The next night we went to the Pudong side for coffee at Häagen-Dazs, the place was right on the river and you could see The Bund from it. After that we hit up Muse, a club owned by a Hong Kong actress, our friend knew someone there and hooked us up, had a few drinks and played dice at a table, Chinese-style clubbing experience. I read on SuFu that the best place was Guandi, but we couldn’t find it, maybe it closed. So the next night we went to G-Plus, a relatively new club at Xin Tian Di. The place was nice, huge and they had a nice DJ there that night. At around 1 the bartenders lit the bars on fire and poured free shots. I got that on video:

The coolest area we visited was Taikang Lu(???), it offers art-influenced shopping from up-and-coming artists. It maintains the original old Shanghainese buildings, and you would see people’s houses/apartments right next to remodeled store units. There are also quite a few restaurants and bars that offer outdoor seating, possibly a great place to hang out in the evenings when it’s not as hot.

Our last night there we hit up a place called People 7, I found it from reading the Shanghai thread on superjetset. It was one of the coolest bars I’ve been to. To open the door you have to figure out which 2 lanterns to place your hands into. The place was Taiwanese-owned, they have a couple bars in Taipei as well.

at People 7
jimmyjam x ayn at People 7

We spent another day in Taipei, didn’t do much that day, went to Orange (?????) for some really good shabushabu. I didn’t take any pictures of the food but this guy took some great ones. After dinner we stopped by the Audio-Technica store to auditioned the ATH-A900’s. They were highly recommended by my headfi friend Steve. I’ve wanted to check those out for over 4 years and never got a chance to. They sounded great, so I picked up a pair. They could be had for a bit cheaper online here in the States but I got to audition them there with proper source and their service was great. They also threw in 2 A-T cable organizers. Over the ears closed cans are much more suitable for using at home than my custom in-ear monitors. Also other people can use them as they’re not customized to my ear canals like my IEMs.

Internet access is kindda important to me, especially when I couldn’t yet unlock my iPhone 3G to use in Taiwan and China. In Taipei pretty much anywhere you go within the city limit you can get WiFi via WiFly. You can get access cards with username and password for daily usage for about $3 USD at any Starbucks. There are other plans that are all dirt cheap, like an annual unlimited plan for iPod Touch for about $33 USD. In Shanghai we found free wifi at all Coffee Beans & Tea Leaf locations, Cafe du Paris, Esy Cafe in Taikang Lu, and another coffee chain that I can’t remember the name right now. They have paid wifi at all Starbucks and I believe McD as well, but it was hard to pay for access without a Chinese cellphone (or SIM card). Part of the Taiwan airport has free wifi as well. One thing I found strange was that most stores in China don’t accept credit cards like VISA, MC, or AMEX. Even a Nike store didn’t take them. If you have a Chinese bank account they have something like our debit cards that is accepted at a lot of places, I believe the taxis also take those. btw, taxi in Shanghai is really really cheap, a 30-minute ride (maybe around 20 miles?) costs only about $6 USD.

I brought my running gears there but only ran once, and it was only a 5-mile run. The main problem was that I didn’t know the places and routes well enough to do more than that. Even with the 5 miles I had to loop around the same area a few times. In SF I can easily run 10+ miles by going half of that one way and just turn back. My favorite route is from my apartment in North Beach out to the Wharf, up toward Fort Mason, down to the Marina and then out to Crissy Fields and the Golden Gate Bridge, the view is spectacular.

It’s a shame that I didn’t really get a chance to check out the high tech and startup/business scenes in China. Next time I go there I’ll have to setup some meetings first. This is about it for now, I have more updates to post but I will save those for another time. I am typing this up 4am in the morning as I went to bed at 10pm and got up at around 3am. I am still a bit jetlagged.

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At Last, a $20,000 Cup of Coffee – New York Times

Was just at the new Blue Bottle location yesterday, will def try the siphon thing when I stop by today. This location is great coz I now won’t have to go all the way to Hayes valley to get their Hayes Valley Espresso beans… I pull ristretto (with my triple bottleless PF) with those beans and it’s divine.

Actually it would be awesome if Starbucks start doing siphon, not gonna happen though. I haven’t seen a Starbucks location with a
La Marzocco machine for a long long time, the SA machines are taking over, sadly…

So far, the Clover is still something of a cult object, with just over 200 machines scattered around the world. But it might soon become a common sight: Starbucks has just bought two.

[From At Last, a $20,000 Cup of Coffee – New York Times]

updated Rancilio Silvia from Chris’ Coffee

I got this newsletter from Chris’ Coffee:

First there is a NEW Rancilio Silvia on the market and Chris’ Coffee Service has them in stock as of today. The NEW Silvia has an adjustable expansion valve, different group, different drip try cover, and is POD adaptable. We will have images of the NEW Silvia up on our site by the end of the week, which will show the NEW features. If you are in the market for a Silvia we are offering a $50.00 discount with this Discount Coupon Code 5000. Simply order on line, enter the code, and receive an instant $50.00 discount on the NEW Silvia.

Now, POD adaptable? That is pretty lame, my previous cheapo KRUPS machine was POD adaptable, I even got some Illy POD to try it out, and it tasted like shit! (well actually Illy tastes like shit in general)

The adjustable expansion valve is a welcomed update, he said that grouphead was different, but didn’t say if it would be an E61-ish grouphead or not. Still no temperature or pressure gauges, or a heat exchanger, so if you’re looking to get a Silvia, then sure, wait for the new version and use that discount coupon to get 50 bucks off. But for those of us who already has one, a real upgrade would be to a machine with an E61 grouphead, a heat exchanger or dual boilers if you make milk drinks, and preferrably with a rotary pump.

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doppio ristretto at Barefoot

I’m at Barefoot right now to pick up some coffee beans, they give you a free cup of coffee or a shot when you buy a pound of beans. So I got a doppio ristretto, it was GOOOOD. They know their shit here at Barefoot, all of their baristas are capable of pouring perfect rosetta latte arts. Very impressive indeed. It was cool, after the girl pulled my shot she announced “double ristretto?”, I went to pick it up at the counter and the guys next to me kindda gave me a serious look and I overheard them saying “damn, that is some serious stuff”. LOL…

Last Saturday we went to a place in SF’s North Beach area, I’m not gonna mention their name, but it was supposed to be a very good coffee shop. I asked if they knew how to pull a ristretto and the guy was like, sure. As expected he just gave me a regular and poorly-prepared espresso shot that tasted sour.

btw, I just saw that Little City got a new website, looking good! I miss their Little City Blend, the blends here at Barefoot are top-notch though.

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Reaching Espresso Nirvana

CoffeeGeek – Reaching Espresso Nirvana

This a truly great article by Mark Prince on the evolution of espresso machines and grinders, and coffee itself. He also talked about how water quality is equally important and that we don’t fully understand the perfect way to obtain and/or filter it for the perfect shot… His prediction on the how next wave of grinders will be like:

The concept is simple, really. A machine that separates the motor area from the grinding area. Vertical, new concept designed burrs. A delivery mechanism for the whole beans to the grinding area. And a straight fall through path for the ground coffee.

I think I’m gonna PID my Silvia instead of upgrading to a machine with dual boilers or a heat exchanger (HX). I pull mostly triple ristretto with my bottomless portafilter.