it’s all about the convenience of coffee 

It is no secret that I am a big fan of cafes. I wanted to say that I am a coffee fan but then again I think I can’t really lay claim to that because as a friend rightly pointed out one day, to my dismay, that despite me being a self-professed / so-called aficionado of coffee, I did not know the difference between an Americano and a Long Black. I now know the difference, thanks to that episode, so I shall just say that I love hanging out at cafes because they are convenient for the lone ranger who is out to seek some caffeine boost and nosh to keep the energy going.

Despite that there are tons of great cafes out there with a uniqueness that chains like Starbucks can’t ever emulate, I seldom check them out, whether locally or abroad. Locally, their locations frequently are prohibiting for me because I do not want to caught in a situation of taking a taxi all the way to some Ulu Sembawang place to look for a cafe only to find out that it’s full, with patrons not seemingly likely to leave anytime soon, or worse, that it is no longer in operation. The latter could be a very real predicament, considering that businesses in Singapore do come and go quite easily due to the competitiveness of the scene. Even overseas, there are times when I stick to the tried-and-tested places because I know I can hang around for a fair bit of time without being ‘chased’ out of a small cafe, and they are easy to locate for someone who might have been walking for hours and just need to get some sustenance.

So anyway, these were some of the ‘convenient’ places that I grabbed my daily coffee and bites at when I was in Tokyo recently.

Some of my friends are coffee snobs, and they turn their noses up at Starbucks’ coffee. Since I used to can’t tell an Americano or Long Black apart, it is also safe to assume that I can’t really distinguish between good or bad coffee. Wrong. If it’s very bad, I certainly can taste it, but my body is not accustomed to very good coffee, which I often associate with strong, acidic coffee that leaves a bit of a bitter/sour after taste at the back of my tongue. They also leave me feeling a little light-headed or high thereafter. So a tall or even grande sized brew coffee or Americano from Starbucks does the trick for me on days when I want to have more fluid in the cup rather than the usual smaller cup of coffee that I would otherwise get from these standalone small joints.
A short-sized Americano with some Cranberry Granola Toast. I don’t think the toast is that healthy, but then I love breads in several, scratch that, many forms, so this makes for a nice morning snack.  A short latte with a cup of Granola and Cranberry Yogurt, something I had just before I took the Airport Limousine Bus to the airport on my way home. These days, we are also starting to see Starbucks Singapore offer more of such options, but they already pre-mixed the granola or whatever else fruits or compote they have into the yogurt. I would have preferred if they were separate because otherwise the crunchy/crispy bits would have lost all the crunch and become too soggy.   On one drizzly evening, before I went for Bikram yoga class, I killed time at Excelsior Cafe with a cup of Americano and a slice of Sakura Tea Cake. Somehow, butter/tea cakes that come in plastic packaging like that creates a preconceived notion in me that the cake won’t be that great, as compared against buying tea cakes that are displayed in a sliced loaf, encased in a glass container. I know it’s weird, but I always get that kind of feeling, and have yet to ascertain the veracity, if those cakes are really not as nice. Who knows?  The weather in Tokyo during the week that I was there was on the overall, great. But there were still moments when the city was shrouded with drizzle. There was just one day when the weather was bad because it rained almost the whole day and made us feel lethargic and tired, but otherwise it was generally ok. I am always spoilt for choice whenever I pop into Dean & Deluca in Tokyo, where the array of pastries and breads available all scream at me to buy them. Their muffins are really good but they are huge, and I am quite wary of these sugar bombs even if I still do give in to the craving sometimes. But then again, this slice of Caramelized bread probably isn’t much better, except that the interior didn’t feel/taste as sweet as a muffin would, and I kind of tore off the sticky parts. :p And lastly, on my last morning in Tokyo, I finally found Mister Donut! I didn’t have this when I was in Bangkok last year because the donuts on display then looked kind of sad, so I made sure I went there to have my favourite Pon De Ring. But I was a little disappointed, and started to wonder if this was my usual because the glazed ring didn’t taste as good as I recalled. Perhaps the one I used to have wasn’t this variant.. Hmm. Oh well, at least I tried it and maybe the next time, I can give it a miss already.

Mister Donut

With all the talk about town of Krispy Kreme finally making its way to our shores after such a long time, I got into some doughnut discussions with friends recently. Actually, it wasn’t anything much other than me stating my preference for another brand of doughnuts, Mister Donut, which I think hails originally from Japan. I think the first time I tried this brand of doughnuts was in Taipei, many years ago, but it was that particular type that I first tried and I think it is probably the only type that I have always bought and ate whenever I come across a Mister Donut.

So on this trip to Taipei last week, I made my way to one Mister Donut store I knew, located in the basement of the A11 building of Mitsukoshi Department store (or in Chinese, known as Xin Guang San Yue). Unfortunately, it being a Sunday, the limited seats in the store were fully occupied, so I had to takeaway and eat it along the way. I was totally frustrated at some point about finding seats in cafes because seats were so limited everywhere and people were just ubiquitous, that is a problem of solo travelling which I still have yet to find a solution to. Anyway, there are plenty of Mister Donut stores in Taipei, much more than I can ever recall seeing anywhere else, more so than even in Tokyo, so it shouldn’t be hard to get your doughnut craving satiated.

Back in 2006 when I was in Taipei, I took a picture of the display case, and while my friend also tried to snap some photos, we were told it wasn’t allowed due to some copyright issues, which kind of baffled us. What is it about a doughnut display case that can be copyrighted? Anyway, it made me cautious when I tried taking pictures this time round, so I ended up with just the signage of this store outside Hankyu Department store.


The only type of doughnut from this chain that I really love is the Pon De Ring, pictured below. These two were from a trip last year to Bangkok (yes, they have this in Bangkok too, but Singapore why aren’t you bringing in Mister Donut), and generally the one that I’d order would be the original version. I always feel that the best way to know if something tastes good would be to try the original, much like how a friend decides the goodness of ice-cream based on the taste of the vanilla-flavoured ice-cream. It’s quite fun to eat it when you have the luxury of a seat or if you don’t mind having bits of the icing sugar stuck to your hands while you walk and eat, because as you can see, you can break off the doughnut by the balls that make up the ring, and it is chewy dough, not like the usual doughnut that is more bread. This tends to be denser in texture so one doughnut is more than enough to fill you for a while but of course, I always want more after eating one.



And this is the other attempt at the Taipei store outside Hankyu (or Taipei City Hall station), where you get to see a bit of the display.


This is the picture of the display case that I took back in 2006 in Taipei. This shop was in the then-New York New York building, which no longer stands.

And this was what I had in Fukuoka sometime back in 2010!

I don’t think there is any Mister Donut in Hong Kong, not that I can remember coming across anyway, and even Krispy Kreme couldn’t survive there I think. Perhaps doughnuts are not so in favour with the Hong Kong people. But doughnuts, whether it’s Mister Donut, Krispy Kreme, or Dunkin Donuts, are widely-available in Seoul, though of course nothing beats the concentration and density of cafes there.