Farewell, 20: Becoming legal for the second time

Dear readers, it’s almost my birthday! I will be completing my 21st trip around the sun on the day after this PRL215 course ends. Honestly, this doesn’t feel like a huge deal even though turning 21 is somewhat of a milestone here in the United States. In 2014, I turned 18 when I was still living in China. I already celebrated becoming legal back then but that won’t stop me from having fun with becoming legal once again in this country!

Unfortunately, this means that our time here in this Not 21, No Problem blog is coming to an end. I’ve enjoyed sharing my experiences of being an underage college student with you all. I hope my anecdotes, reflections and non-alcoholic drinks recommendations have made you laugh, nod your head in agreement or even relate to some of the emotions I’ve been going through during my last year of college. I hope these blogs have let you feel less alone in this crazy ride called life and that you’ve found some new places to grab great coffee, smoothies or bubble tea. Dear readers, I want to thank you for letting me share with you my last few months of being underage, exploring homesickness and overcoming a mindless, busy rut.

With that, I present to you my last non-alcoholic drink recommendation: the classic Caffè Misto at Starbucks Coffee on Marshall Street! Mistos are so delicious because it is simply fresh brewed coffee with steamed milk. Personally, I find it tastier than a regular latte because the coffee aroma is more subtle. With equal parts coffee and steamed milk, a Misto will warm you right up during this dramatic temperature drop we’ve been experiencing here in Syracuse. Here’s a bonus: Mistos are much, much cheaper than a latte as well! Check them out.

I like to customize my Mistos at Starbucks to be a blonde roast with coconut milk. This makes my coffee light, sweet but still pretty strong. Just the way I like it.

Please enjoy this last photo of me lying in bed with a piping hot Misto. Bliss.

Cheers, dear readers!


Finding community in chai lattes

It’s been a week into my break from coffee and I must say, I don’t feel more energized. I’d like to have some words with whoever said their body feels cleaner and more awake during a coffee cleanse.

Clearly, taking coffee out of my regular diet has increased my levels of irritability.

Fear not, dear readers, this break from coffee hasn’t been all bad. For those of you without cars but love to explore the Westcott Neighborhood on foot, you’ll love Recess Coffee. As seen above in the short documentary, Recess Coffee has been a staple in the Syracuse community since 2007. The cafe only uses fairly traded beans directly from farms with missions of sustainability and ethical practices. Not only are their drinks and food homemade, their mission is community based. This small business is a proud supporter of the University Neighborhood Preservation Association, Westcott Community Center, the Syracuse Peace Council and Syracuse Grows.

The documentary that is featured in this blog describes why Recess Coffee is so connected to not only their customers but the local Syracuse community. Whenever I’m sitting on one of the comfy couches at Recess, I truly feel like I am sitting in a home away from home. The atmosphere is friendly, the music is light and the people working there are very lovely. Recess’ warm, pleasant vibes keeps me coming back.

I am a big fan of the Homemade Chai drink at Recess. The cinnamon notes are prominent but not overpowering, and when paired with substituted almond milk instead of whole milk, the warm notes in chai blend together nicely. Here’s also a sneaky bonus: the strong black tea that they use contains caffeine! I wonder if this counts as cheating on my coffee cleanse.

I suggest ordering a chocolate chip cookie with your chai. Recess Coffee cookies are known to be large but worth every single bite. When your dark chocolate chips stained tongue meets the yummy cinnamon milk tea, your soul will inevitably feel a giant hug. Stay warm, dear readers, and cheers.

A quick coffee hiatus


Hello, dear readers!

Recently, I came face to face with a reality that every college student fears: the moment your body seemingly becomes immune to caffeine. Over the course of my short 20 years on this planet, I’ve never felt the same kind of fatigue I am currently feeling. I drink about three cups of coffee a day, sometimes even four, and I still find myself falling asleep in all of my classes. I decided it was time for a change in my approach to staying awake and staying alert.

Dear reader, my ongoing love affair for tea has been revitalized!

Growing up in Asia, I was constantly exposed to delicious tea. I was spoiled with organic tea, bottled tea or milk tea. It wasn’t until I came to the United States for college that I realized that tea can be so much more — fruit infused tea can be so yummy. No wonder Teavana is always so popular!

To be honest, the thought of replacing my regular coffee intake with tea made me a little nervous. That is, until I found Salt City Coffee’s Peach Rooibos Tea. With a caffeine level of zero, I approached this tea with a lot of skepticism. But, Peach Rooibos Tea continues to redeem itself. The peach notes are gentle, sweet and enticing. The aftertaste is delightful with a light apricot aroma. Rooibos naturally contains small amounts of minerals, including calcium, copper, zinc and potassium. With this in mind, drinking this tea instead of my regular coffee with almond milk seems like a healthier alternative!

Rooibos also has soothing effects for headaches, sleeping patterns and digestive issues. Coincidentally, I face all three of these lighter health issues, so I jumped on this tea very quickly. This tea is pleasant and light, as well as healthy and filling — for the soul and the body.

I also recommend going to Salt City Coffee if you ever have a deadline to meet or a paper to write. The cafe’s atmosphere is lovely and I promise you’ll get lots of work done. That is, if you aren’t pining over your tea like I am. Cheers!

Underage and car-less in Syracuse? No problem.

Hello, dear readers!

So many of you reached out to me last week after I introduced the delicious Vietnamese coffee found on Kirkpatrick Street. After some reflection, I’ve decided to focus this blog on the many coffee choices that Syracuse University students like myself can access on a daily basis. Exploring non-alcoholic drinks off campus can be tricky if you don’t have a car or friends with cars. However, the good news is that there are so many awesome places you can go to right here on the SU campus to get a delicious cup of coffee. In this blog, I will rank some of my personal favorites. After all, there’s nothing better than grabbing a quick cup of hot coffee in between classes on a cloudy, icky day in Syracuse.

1. Pages Cafe in Bird Library

In my opinion, this is the best place to get coffee on campus. Whether you are getting a soy latte (my personal favorite) or a regular 16oz coffee with a pump of vanilla, Pages is consistent and relatively cheap. Not only that, their staff is always friendly, even during that crazy midterms and finals week rush.

2. People’s Place in Hendricks Chapel

Austin Powers. Mocha Java. Yogi Tea! This cute little cafe is student found and student run, selling small coffees at $1. Yes, you read that right, ONE DOLLAR! As a slow coffee drinker, People’s Place holds a dear spot in my heart because their small coffee is the perfect amount for me. I love it when I reach the bottom of the cup and my coffee is still warm. One negative component is that it can be very crowded so there’s almost always a line. Also, they only take cash.

3. Slocum Cafe in the Slocum Building

This cafe is a solid third place because it’s fast, convenient, with mediocre coffee. Even though they share the same Freedom of Espresso blend with Pages Cafe, the coffee sold at Slocum Cafe isn’t as strong. I only go to Slocum Cafe when I’m seriously in need of caffeine and I am rushing to my next meeting or class.

4. food.com in Newhouse 2

This cafe is at the very bottom of my list of places to grab coffee on campus. food.com coffee is very watered down and often at times tastes a day old. The coffee there is priced the same as Slocum Cafe and Pages Cafe, which is in my humble opinion, a huge mistake. I think food.com can most definitely improve on their brewing technique and should also offer more high end coffee such as lattes and cappuccinos. If they can provide delicious sandwiches like the pesto chicken wrap, they can also provide delicious coffee.

Stay caffeinated, dear readers. But only with good coffee, of course. Cheers!

Still homesick, just more awake

As you see from the video above, there are just so many different ways to drink coffee! It truly astounds me when I think about the hundreds of ways coffee is being consumed in all corners of the world. Also, this video just covers how everyone drinks coffee internationally. Can you imagine how many ways coffee can be incorporated in food around the world? What!?

As I watched this video, I made a mental checklist in my head of all the different types of coffee I’ve experienced. Growing up overseas, I started traveling with my family at a young age. Honestly, I don’t remember many of the incredible cultural sites that we visited or really the localities of many places…but I do remember the food and drinks. When I got to 0:44 of this video, I immediately clicked pause and could suddenly taste the sweetness of the condensed milk mixed in with a thick coffee aroma on my tongue.

Dear readers, I present to you Ca Phe Sua Da, Vietnamese coffee. Before you try this at home, I strongly urge you to go to New Century, a hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant on Kirkpatrick Street that will change your life. Not only is their pho super hearty and delicious, their traditional Vietnamese coffee is probably the best thing you’ll find here, unless you go to Hanoi.

I’ve been feeling a ton of homesickness recently. It’s expanded from wanting to be closer to my family and sleeping in my own bed, it’s an urge to be back in Asia. I crave being back in my element, surrounded by a melody of chaotic sounds, feeling the thick aroma of street food around me and the soothing mountains rolling along the skyline. As I mentioned before, I connect places and memories with food a lot. Naturally, when I went to New Century this past weekend, my heart was filled to the brim with happiness.

Essentially, Vietnamese coffee is a french pressed espresso combined with condensed milk. The ratio is one serving of condensed milk and two espressos. What makes Vietnamese coffee so unique is that they use a phin filter right in front of you at the table, this filter is finer than a traditional french press, making your coffee very smooth and very bold. Personally, I find Vietnamese coffee so attractive because the bitterness of the strong espresso is matched so perfectly with the over-the-top sweetness of the condensed milk, making this sweet coffee so gentle, kind of like a hug from an old friend.

You’re going to want to drink this delicious coffee over some ice cubes — it’s pretty strong! Cheers.


For when I’m homesick

Dear readers, I’m sure you are familiar with the slight but inevitable bout of homesickness that comes with experiencing heartbreak. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I haven’t been home in Taiwan for almost a year and a half now. In times of insomnia, sadness and general frustration over the reality of college life, I crave for the lush mountains rolling by the highway, sounds of motorcycles on the streets and of course, the comfort of my family. But, dear reader, I have to be honest with you. Sometimes, I just really, really, really want a perfect cup of bubble tea.

Growing up overseas, my family made it a priority for us to spend time in Taipei during our long school breaks. For that, I will be eternally grateful. Not only am I grateful for the concentrated time that we got to share with older family members but also the endless variety of street food we experienced over the years. Although my sister and I didn’t grow up in Taipei, we lived through my mom’s childhood as much as we could by eating our way through Taiwan.

To me, drinking bubble tea while living abroad is a temporary break. It makes me feel like I am home.

Today, dear readers, I’d love to share this taste of home with you. Here are my top five favorite bubble tea drinks that I have found in Syracuse.

1. Classic Milk Tea with Bubbles

This is the first thing you should order if you have never tried bubble tea before. Hands down. The combination of frothy milk tea and bubbles will blow your mind. You’re welcome.

2. Oolong Milk Tea with Bubbles

This drink is a personal preference. I grew up drinking all sorts of loose leaf tea and oolong has been a standing favorite. The lightness of this tea when paired with milk and bubbles will leave a wonderful and gentle after taste. Enjoy this drink warm or iced.

3. Taro Milk Tea with Bubbles

Taro is a popular dessert ingredient in Taiwan. Taro is of the potato root family, containing a robust and nutty aroma when cooked right. Taro milk tea is a new, unique phenomenon that is very tasty.

4. Grapefruit Green Tea with Bubbles

I get this drink when it’s very hot outside. The refreshing tangy addition of grapefruit in an ice cold green tea drink is delicious. The sour finish of the tea goes very well with the slight sweetness of the bubbles. Together, they form a harmony of flavors as well as textures.

5. Matcha Latte with Bubbles

This particular drink is delightful but sometimes hard on my lactose intolerant stomach. The sweetness in the matcha flavor and milk can be overwhelming with the sweetness of the bubbles. Drink with caution.

The other day, a close friend of mine held my hands while I was crying and said to me: “You can’t live a full life on an empty stomach.” Thank you for letting me share this part of me with you today. Cheers.

A sleepy girl’s dream latté

As I’m entering the fiery depths of my junior year in college, I have become more and more dependent on coffee each day. I used to think I wasn’t truly drinking coffee for the beauty of drinking coffee in any way. To me, drinking coffee was another morning and midday routine that I needed to accomplish in order to stay moderately alert throughout the day. Coffee was enjoyable but it really was more of a necessity than an extravagant pleasure. Last year, I was still drinking the horrible dining hall coffee that tastes more like the water they use to wash out the coffee pot than the coffee itself. Like I said, coffee is a necessity!

I cannot put into words how overjoyed I am that I no longer have to drink dining hall coffee. At the ripe age of 20, I think I’ve found the perfect coffee, one that doesn’t strike the fear of commitment in me. One that is faithfully delicious, consistent and fun. I found the most yummy latte hidden at Cafe Kubal and my early morning brain is screaming with happiness.

I present to you, dear reader, the iced rosemary latte.

I drink all of my coffee with milk, which means I drink all of my coffee with some form of lactose free milk. This particular latte is delicious with soy or almond, but I prefer almond milk. The flavors complement each other well, building a strong, sensual aroma that lingers even after you’ve reached the bottom of your cup. Being lactose intolerant, I’ve never really enjoyed lattes until I met this particular latte.

Not only is this latte a beautiful marriage between sweetness of the almond milk and the savory touch of the rosemary, the strong espresso shot pulls it together in a special kind of holiness. I also like my rosemary lattes iced, since the cold temperature brings out the unique flavor of the rosemary better.

I’m still a sleepy girl wandering through her classes and meetings on a day-to-day basis, but a much happier sleepy girl with hints of rosemary and almond on her tongue. Cheers.

Being healthy is an investment

Treating your body right on a college student’s budget can be tricky business.

Growing up, I was raised on mostly Asian cuisines rich in vegetable dishes. When I moved to Syracuse in 2015, I came to the conclusion that a lot of my green intake was through cold salads and carrot sticks with hummus. This broke my heart a little. I needed to find a more enjoyable way to balance out my meals.

Here are some reasons eating healthy in college is a challenge for many students:

  • You don’t have a kitchen. For most freshmen and a majority of sophomores, being unable to cook your own meals means you are restricted to what the dining hall offers or paying for takeout. In the dining halls, frozen peas and carrots were a staple everyday. Ick. 
  • It’s expensive! Why would I order a $10 salad over a $5 pepperoni pizza? The “cheap food is good food” mindset is dangerous in situations like this one.
  • There’s really not a lot of healthy alternatives in and around campus.

However, I think I found a small solution to this big problem. On the first floor of Marshall Square Mall, right across from the Whitman School of Management, you will find Strong Hearts Cafe. Strong Hearts is a vegan cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a huge variety of drinks including coffee, tea, milkshakes and smoothies. Their vegan food is nutritious and very delicious but the real hero here is the Green Machine smoothie.

The Green Machine smoothie is a home run of a green smoothie packed with goodness and yumminess. It contains spinach, a banana, pineapple, almond milk, avocado and ice. Since I don’t like my smoothies super cold, I ask to replace the ice with some more almond milk. The consistency becomes thicker and creamier.

What I love most about this smoothie is that it doesn’t feel like I’m drinking my greens. The perfect balance of light and creamy, sweet and tangy really hits the spot. Also, when you finish the smoothie, you feel ten times healthier than you were before. Awesome.

You can order the Green Machine smoothie at Strong Hearts for approximately $6. Worth every penny! Cheers.