Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
In my pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee, I continue to plague cities and coffee shops with new hopes that this may be the one. Of course, they're all wonderful - well, mostly. Somehow, the coffee shops in Paris seem to still hold my heart, and the accompanying pastry perhaps makes the coffee taste all the better. But, when it came to a sense of real, meaningful coffee, even with grounds swirling in the bottom and a thick paste to swallow, Asia perhaps won me over. Not because I thought every cup was brewed in a heavenly fashion, but because they were brewed with heart and love and whatever they had to give a stranger. In 2017, when I was in Asia working with non-profits and NGOs, helping women who'd escaped sex trafficking and building homes for homeless, I was treated to so many cups of warm and lukewarm coffee, all across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. The warmth of the people made up for a tepid cup. That, and the belief that you were contributing to humanity in some way, made for the very best cup of coffee. Traversing these countries, with a backpack and sleeping on dirt floors, urinating in holes, bathing in rivers where villagers watched you - because you were a mysterious American - and trudging 9 hours up muddy mountainsides in the rainy season with leaches crawling up my legs made every cup of coffee more precious than the one before. I continue to frequent new and interesting diners in Chicago. My latest hangout is Fairgrounds; they're ranking fairly high of late, but, as I reflect on my life, my adventures, my moments across 19 countries, I harken back to my hours and days spent with complete strangers, in their small and humble homes, and the efforts the put into their bamboo stew and modest cup of coffee. These are the people who brewed the best because they put love and welcoming into every cup.