LPLE #2: We Like Coffee

Jesse and Andrew talk about their coffee and tea preferences, and what it was like to experience tea and coffee in different countries.


Intro [Jesse]: Hi everyone. My name is Jesse Robbins, and welcome to LPLE from Dialogue FM. We're the podcast that lets you practice listening in English. We speak English slowly and clearly so that you can follow along and understand native English speakers more easily. I'm excited to help you improve your English listening skills, as well as help you learn new vocabulary, grammar, and idioms commonly heard and conversation among native English speakers. If you want to practice listening in English, then we invite you to join our conversation.

Andrew: Last night, my girlfriend and I went to dinner and a movie, and we went to eat at an Indian style restaurant. And, at this restaurant they serve tea Indian style, which they called chai, and they're very nice about making sure that you always have a full cup, so I love going there.

But, while we were eating, it made me think about all of the different ways that coffee and tea are served in different cultures and places in the world. I take my Indian tea hot with milk and sugar so it's sweet and creamy, and I've always had it that way. My girlfriend asked me at dinner why I like drinking tea with milk and sugar when I like drinking my coffee black without any milk and without any extra sweetness in it. And, she's right; I like my coffee bitter but hot, and I like my tea creamy and sweet.

But, there's actually a lot of different ways to take coffee or to take tea and it varies by custom. When I'm in Vietnam, for example, or eating at a Vietnamese restaurant even in the United States, they serve Vietnamese coffee, which means a different kind of coffee; it's brewed stronger they brew it into the glass that you're going to drink it directly, and they pour it over condensed milk, so again it is creamy and sweet, and usually you serve it with ice, so it's actually cold. So, I like coffee and both of these cases.

But, in my morning routine when I am having breakfast and getting ready for the day, the kind of coffee I want is black and bitter, and I only want coffee Vietnamese-style when it is served at a Vietnamese restaurant with a Vietnamese meal or when I'm visiting the country directly. And, I think that's true of most people, so I wanted to ask you how you take your coffee and how you like to drink at another places.

Jesse: That's a really good question. Let me just say that on rare occasion will I ever drink drip pour coffee straight black. So, if I go to Starbucks and I ordered a tall drip [coffee], I will always put a little bit of half-and-half [milk] and one package of sugar--raw sugar, the thick, brown granulated sugar.

Andrew: This is raw sugar, but it's not molasses sugar, right? This is just...

Jesse: Right, it comes in that brown package, I think, it's called Sugar In The Raw. I can't remember the name.

Andrew: Right. This is a form of unrefined white sugar.

Jesse: Right. Whenever I have drip coffee, it's always with that small combination; a little bit of cream or milk and a little bit of sugar--just the right taste. When I'm in Vietnam, it's always iced coffee with condensed milk. On rare occasion if I'm in someplace cold like Da Lat or in the winter time, then I'll remove the ice; then you could take it just straight drip coffee with condensed milk, hot. Generally speaking, when I'm at a Vietnamese restaurant here in Seattle, it's always the iced...Vietnamese iced coffee. In fact, that Vietnamese iced coffee is very popular among non-Vietnamese, because they know it is very, very strong right.

One of my favorite memories with coffee and tea was when I was in India. So, remember, back in the MBA program at the University of Washington, we had Study Tours, right?

Andrew: I went to Brazil and you went to India, yes?

Jesse: No, well you went to Brazil and I led China...I co-lead China. Right before, in our first year I went to India as a participant. And, in India, by luck, I was going to be in India during the time that one of my friends was getting married--one of my Indian friends was getting married.

Andrew: You got to go to an Indian wedding?

Jesse: I got to go to a traditional Sikh wedding. So, when we think of Indian weddings we think of the big parties, very, very elaborate. And, I'm sure he had that, but, from what I remember and what I understand, this was a wedding that took place over a few days and the Sikh part of it, this one was more religious, a religious ceremony at his house. Smaller, intimate; close friends and family.

Andrew: How many people, about?...

Jesse: I want to say about 50 to 70 people there.

Andrew: That's the "small" version?...[hahaha]

Jesse: And then, after that, there was a wonderful banquet afterwards in his backyard. And, I remember one of the wait staff coming around with a big jar of chai tea.

Andrew: This is served hot with milk?

Jesse: Hot with milk, correct. He'll give you a clay--a very, very rough feeling, very rough clay cup. A small cup. A very, very small cup. If you think of that Chinese tea cups that you get at a Chinese restaurant--about that size, if not smaller. And then, he'll pour it, and then you just sip it. Unlike my natural tendency to shoot it as if it were an alcoholic shot, use just casually sip on it. And, mind you, it is a very hot day, so you're not trying to consume a lot of hot liquid at one time. That was delicious; I made sure to find him again multiple times during my visit to my friend's house to get more of that chai tea. Very, very good!

Andrew: Excellent. I think it's funny, the different ways we expect to receive our drinks depending on where we are and our circumstances. Even in the United States, the way people drink tea is different by custom. In Seattle, here, we're usually drinking tea as a substitute for coffee because we have a strong coffee culture.

Jesse: Right.

Andrew: And, so, we take our tea hot in water and maybe with sugar. And, that's different from, for example, how it is taken in the United Kingdom or in Britain, where the expectation is that tea is served hot with milk, for example. Or, even in the south or the southern part of the United States where tea is served as a refreshing drink in the hot summers where it's almost always iced tea and it's very, very, very sweet. So, they add lots and lots of sugar. And, if you asked for tea in, for example, Georgia in the middle of the summer and you're expecting to get a hot chai or chamomile, potentially served with a little bit of sweet, you would be very disappointed to receive this, this cold beverage, instead. 

Jesse: That's right. You raise an interesting point. For example, you go to--let's say you are an Indian native from India. You come over, you come to Georgia, you're invited to someone's house. And, someone asks, "would you like some tea?" And, in your mind, you have one definition of the word "tea." You--when you think of tea, you think of it based on your culture and the context of your culture, based on your experience with tea from your native country. And then, when you're served, chances are it's cold and in a big glass with lots of sugar and a slice of lime.

Andrew: Right. Think about how disappointed you would be, right?

Jesse: Absolutely. One of the interesting coffee-tea combinations here in Seattle that I really enjoy and that I also want to recommend is 'matcha latte.'

Andrew: 'Matcha latte.' What goes into a matcha latte?

Jesse: "Matcha" is Japanese-style green tea. That takes care of the 'tea' side, right? And then, 'latte' is your standard form, your regular espresso-style drink.

Andrew: Regular in Seattle. So, that is pressure-brewed coffee, very strong, mixed with hot steamed milk.

Jesse: Right, exactly.

Andrew: And then, so, matcha co-... matcha latte?...

Jesse: Yes.

Andrew: A matcha latte, if I'm understanding right, is tea instead of the coffee? Or is it tea plus coffee and the steamed milk?

Jesse: Tea plus coffee--... matcha green tea powder mixed in with an actual latte with the caffeine. That's my understanding.

Andrew: OK. So it has both. You're getting a little bit of both sides at the same time.

Jesse: Yes. And the matcha latte comes out green. So, for anyone unfamiliar with drinking anything that has a green color to it, I think people who drink matcha latte for the first time are a little scared.

Andrew: Right. Of the color...

Jesse: Of the color, right. However, when you drink it, it's--... it's absolutely delicious. A little sweet. It has the green tea flavor and yet has the warm texture and feel of a latte. Overall, I highly recommend it. There's a few places in Seattle that serve matcha latte.

Andrew: Is this a Starbucks option or do you have to go somewhere locally?

Jesse: No. You have to go to a small café. The café I like to go to is called Panama Cafe. Panama Cafe is in the International District in Seattle, and there, that's the only place I know right now that has matcha latte. Now, before, a few years ago, Starbucks used to sell--and I still think that they do sometimes, maybe during the summer--Starbucks sells a matcha Frappuccino, and that came from Japan. I remember--... I remember--this is going to sound very hipster--I remember drinking matcha Frappuccino in Japan before it was ever introduced to the American Starbucks.

Andrew: ...And then you came back and they brought it to the stores in Seattle.

Jesse: Yes. I think they brought it back from me. I don't know.

Andrew: [hahaha] But you like them. The Frappuccino is a sweet--... Almost like a sweet milkshake kind of drink, right?

Jesse: Yes. Coffee milkshake, yeah.

Andrew: ...With whipped cream on top?

Jesse: Yes.

Andrew: And, so they added the matcha power to that, as well.

Jesse: Yes. So it's green. It's very green. It's tastes delicious. I highly recommend it. If you're ever in Japan or here in Seattle during the summer, I recommend you try it.

Andrew: I'll have to try the matcha latte or matcha Frappuccino soon.

Jesse: Great.

Outro [Jesse]: Thank you for listening to this episode of LPLE, Let's Practice Listening in English, from Dialog.FM. Subscribe to LPLE on iTunes to hear the latest episodes, or listen to past episodes on our website, Dialog.FM. That's d-i-a-l-o-g-dot-f-m. If you have questions or comments about English, or if you would like for us to use a word, grammar, or idiom in our conversation so you can learn how to use it correctly, we would love to hear from you on Twitter at @dialogdotfm or Facebook at