A Visit to Fishtown & La Colombe’s Roastery

Back in October, I had the amazing opportunity to visit La Colombe’s Philadelphia roastery and their Fishtown cafe with a few of my co-workers.

Please click on individual images to see descriptions!

Upon entering the roastery, we had to put on hair nets. First, we got to see some green coffee. “Green coffee” is coffee that has yet to be roasted. It’s got a unique green hue and comes to the roaster in large burlap bags. (I asked, out of curiosity, what happens to said burlap bags, and those get recycled in various ways.)

Then we checked out the Workshop station! Workshop coffees are usually single-origin coffees and are roasted in much smaller batches than the Cornerstone coffees, which are blends. (The big exceptions to this are the -Towns, e.g. Frogtown.) The Workshop coffees are placed in beige bags and boxes for retail, whereas Cornerstone coffees are in red/blue bags and boxes.

Next up was the Cornerstone roaster, which compared to the Workshop one, was a beast. Internal temperatures in the roaster can reach up to and beyond 385°F, so it’s important that the cooling tray moves fast so the beans can cool down evenly. La Colombe does not only roast coffee for its cafes, but also the entirety of its wholesale business, so your favorite cafe in Houston just might be brewin’ up a cup of Corsica!

After we viewed the rest of the roastery and got to watch as boxes were labeled and prepped for delivery, we headed over to the Fishtown cafe. It’s the largest cafe and comes with a full food and drink menu along with selling a variety of La Colombe merch. They make their pastries in house, and I had some amazing French Toast with a dirty chai (one of the latest company offerings!). It’s a full service cafe, but the first thing that I noticed was that they have oat milk located on the bar for guests to use. I hope more cafes will have alternative milks readily available, because it can be annoying to have to bug a busy barista for the oat milk.

While chowing down, we got to chat with several La Colombe employees, including one of the founders, Todd Carmichael.

His passion for coffee really comes through and he is a super interesting guy. If you’re interested, he had his own show on the Travel Channel called “Dangerous Grounds” and you can watch it here.

Before we left, they popped open two cans of the then-newest offering from La Colombe: Hard Cold Brew Coffee. While I enjoyed it, I don’t think I could drink a full one.

It was a fascinating experience and thank you to all who helped! (Special shout-out to Ali!)

Kpop Music Monday #11: BigBang, “Fantastic Baby”

It was recently announced that powerhouse K-pop group BigBang will be playing a couple of dates at this year’s Coachella, and to that, I only have three words to say:

Wow. Fantastic Baby.

I previously highlighted BigBang on my Music Monday #6, with their collaboration with girl group 2NE1. I’ve listened to BigBang for ten years and while I might prefer some of their older material like “Lies” and “Haru Haru“, “Fantastic Baby” will always be a song that I use to introduce people to K-pop.

BigBang has been a 4-member group since the departure of member Seungri in 2019. Seungri was the focal point of one of the largest scandals to rock South Korea, known as the Burning Sun scandal. Burning Sun is the name of a nightclub in Gangnam, closely associated with Seungri, and after the assault of a male club-goer, the nightclub came under investigation for prostitution, drug trafficking, and corruption. The investigation brought several Korean celebrities into the spotlight, most disturbingly for allegedly filming themselves having sex with women and then posting the videos to chatrooms.

Both G-Dragon and TOP have been embroiled in drug (marijuana) scandals, and Daesung was involved in a tragic car accident back in 2011 that left a motorcyclist dead. The only member that seems to have escaped any major scandal is Taeyang, who is also the only married member of BigBang, mentioned here because that was somehow not considered much of a scandal at the time it was released.

Hollywood has a dark side, and Hallyu (or “the Korean Wave”) does as well.

Kpop Music Monday #10: Lim Kim, “Awoo”

I’ve been following 1theK’s YouTube for several years now, and occasionally it’ll give me a gem of a song from someone who is either signed with a lesser known label or known domestically but not internationally.

Back in April of 2015, I was working at a very horrible job with an abusive, alcoholic boss. The business was failing; we never had enough money to pay our vendors, let alone our employees. This song caught my attention for the usual reasons: colorful video, black cat, catchy chorus. Even though at the time I had no idea that it was a love song (with a few questionable homophobic lyrics), it was catchy enough to keep me distracted while I told my boss to shove it and started a new line of work in specialty coffee.

After falling off the face of the planet, Lim Kim came back. Kinda. It’s not the shiny, rainbow pop of her previous releases, but something more artistic, something bolder, and something that seems a little more “real.”

The Bedbug Club: My Experience with The Little Buggers

Congrats to Washington, DC, which just usurped Baltimore as bedbug capital of the US!

(Warning: there will be pictures of bugs in this entry.)

Bedbugs are a big worry when traveling. They can hide in the seams of mattresses and attach themselves to your luggage.

They can also be lurking in the corners of your new apartment, as I found out last year. The apartment had been empty for about two years, which proves how hardy the little buggers can be. I noticed a bug the very first night after we moved in, and fearing the worst, googled “bedbugs” only to be assured that we definitely had an infestation.

Image: flat brown bedbug on a white wall

The next morning, I gathered up some of the little critters (including a live one I found) in a plastic ziploc bag and we headed to the leasing office. It was all very dramatic, I assure you. The leasing office gave us a couple of options: we could immediately move into another unit or stay in our current one, and they would waive the lease breaking fee if we found a new place to move into by Friday.

Image: blurry photo of two bedbugs in a plastic bag. One has obviously had a blood meal, as its torso is elongated.

We decided to search for a new place and just leave our belongings in the apartment. In the meantime, the leasing office assured us that they would start the extermination process immediately the next day.

My roommate managed to find a new place and moved out by that Friday. I was not so lucky.

I am eternally grateful to my friends Karin and Jim, who so kindly allowed me to stay in their home the first few days and then periodically while my cat and I had to be out of the apartment while the extermination process was happening. They knowingly took a risk by housing us.

During my experience dealing with the bedbugs, I often wondered if I would rather have scabies again or bedbugs. I still don’t know the answer. A couple months after returning home from India, I discovered I had a bad case of scabies, presumably something I picked up on the train I took to New Delhi. While bedbugs live in small dark places like mattresses and come out at night to bite, scabies live in your skin and make you itch at night. The recommended treatment for scabies is a pesticide, applied from the neck down, and left on for 48 hours. You also must wash all of your bedding at very high temperatures, like with bedbugs. Bedbugs are notoriously hard to exterminate and when I say it was a process, I mean it was a process. The exterminators came into my apartment no fewer than five times over the course of the next five weeks, applying pesticide and diatomaceous earth.

Image: my right arm, with four small groups of three bite marks

Those five weeks were pure hell. I would wake up covered in tell-tale bedbug bites: three small bites in a small area, known as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” I was now alone in the apartment, unsure if I should even bother unpacking anything. I had to wash everything I own, which was costly and time-consuming, and I had to throw out hundreds of dollars of yarn that I had accumulated over the years because I didn’t want to take the risk of reinfecting my apartment.

I reached out to a few friends and discovered that some of them had also dealt with bedbugs. One friend told me that when she got them while she was living in NYC, she was embarrassed to wear shorts that summer because of the bites. The more common that bedbugs become, the more important it is for us sufferers to come forward and share our stories so that no one feels as hopeless as we once did.

Bedbugs don’t happen just while traveling. They don’t happen because we’re poor or dirty. They can happen to anyone, and I realize that I was very lucky to have an understanding leasing office that did everything they could to exterminate them. I was also very lucky to have found an amazing new roommate who didn’t seem to mind that the apartment had been infested with bedbugs, as she had just had a friend who also dealt with the little buggers.

My infestation was not nearly as bad as it could have been. The carbon dioxide from my roommate and I had awakened the bedbugs, and my first roommate was lucky in that none of the bugs hitched a ride on her furniture. The infestation was contained mostly to my bedroom, and in one particular corner–that I dubbed “The Bedbug Club.” When I noticed I was sweeping up a majority of bugs in that corner, I put out a little note for the exterminators, which they thought was funny.

Image: corner of my room with a tent note set up that reads “The Bedbug Club/(no seriously, I swept up a bunch hanging out here–be brutal!)” with two crudely drawn images of bedbugs waiting outside a door. One of them has a top hat.

As much as I’ve traveled, it was only time until I got bedbugs. And hopefully, that will be the last time.

Kpop Music Monday #9: ReacttotheK

This week’s Music Monday features youtube channel ReacttotheK.

Back when I first started listening to kpop, it wasn’t popular. At all. No one could understand just why I loved it so much, especially since I didn’t speak Korean. Had this channel been around then, I would have felt a lot less alone and had some armor to fight with. Sometimes good music is really just… good music.

The channel is fairly straight-forward: a group of classical musicians sit down and are shown a kpop music video. Some members are regulars and might be familiar with the groups shown, and others are approaching the genre for the first time.

It’s so refreshing to see people who know music theory be surprised by a tempo change, or give a reason why you loved that one particular part of a song.

What I appreciate the most about the channel is the carefully curated songs that they react to. Some songs aren’t necessarily that musically interesting or ground-breaking but may be a fan favorite so just one or two of the guys (usually the founder Umu and another guest) will react to it; other songs are chosen because they are

Take a listen below to hear some of the musicians playing a kpop medley from 2018!

Kpop Music Monday #8: Mamamoo, “Wind Flower”

Let’s shake the skeleton outta the closet: many of us listening to kpop don’t understand Korean. If it’s not the lyrics that are resonating with us, then what is it?

Today’s Music Monday is one of my favorite songs by my favorite girl group. It’s a breakup song, but before I knew that, all I understood were the few phrases I could pick out in English and Korean. For lack of a better term, I loved the “color” of the song and it resonated deeply with me. The video is also beautifully shot and does a good job expressing the song’s emotional journey (such as illustrating the girls’ isolation by featuring them alone in busy street scenes).

2018 was a year of change for me. A long term relationship ended, which led to a new living space. Unhappy with where I was, I took a friend’s lead and moved to a different coffee company. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew who I was doing it with: myself. Oh, and my cat.

At some point, a little whisper came back to me. What if I… haven’t fully given up on the idea to move to Korea to teach English? It was an idea I had ten years ago that was abandoned for various reasons, but what if I couldn’t backtrack and try to do it now?

This song encapsulates what I hope for each day: that it gets better (day by day). It recognizes the pain that we suffer in hushed tones, but sings out loud anyways through it. Sometimes you don’t need to understand the lyrics to understand the message.

Drink soju. Eat ice cream. Be happy.