Department of Coffee and Social Affairs coming to Canary Wharf

While out for a walk this morning, I noticed that there’s a new coffee shop coming to Westferry Circus here in Canary Wharf: the brilliantly-named Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. I’ve only visited one of their outlets, the one around the corner from Liverpool Street. If memory serves, the coffee was delicious – but I was in a rush.

I’ll check them out once open and will of course report back here. It’s a short walk from my apartment and could be a new Saturday morning routine hangout, if they don’t mind me hanging around the place…

Again, what a superb name for a coffee shop!

Finally! Matcha green tea frappuccinos in London

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They’ve been a guilty pleasure on every trip I’ve taken to Asia…a visit to a Starbucks for a delicious matcha green tea frappuccino. Malaysia. Singapore. Japan. It’s always the same.

That said, I’m not normally a frappuccino drinker – if I go to Starbucks, I have a very ordinary coffee. No syrups, no cappuccino, nothing flash. And especially no pumpkin spice abominations!

But the green tea frappuccino is something else. Made with matcha, ice and some cream, it’s ice cold, definitely not too sweet and very refreshing. I know that matcha is an acquired taste – but it’s one that I acquired on my first visit to Japan four years ago.

And despite the extensive menu in London’s Starbucks coffee shops, they’ve never offered this delicious green tea concoction here.

It was purely by chance that @FrankDJS came across them within the Starbucks app. A couple of hours later, we were in our local Starbucks in Canary wharf, quaffing one each and reliving some very tasty memories.

I’ll be honest. It doesn’t taste 100% the same, but it was enough to trigger happy memories of drinking one while looking out on Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo and that’s fine by me.

They’re definitely not an ‘everyday’ drink, given how calorific they are, but for an occasional treat, they’re excellent. Let me know if you’re a fan or if you’ve been inspired to  try one!

Sleepless in Sitges…

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I’m back in Barcelona for business today, but spent yesterday afternoon and evening in Sitges, just a little down the coast. What started with a lovely walk by the seafront, followed by some delicious tapas at L’Avinyet, ended with me kept awake half the night due to noisy neighbours in the hotel.

It was one thing after another, including some idiot who had managed to lock himself out on his own balcony, as well as other guests arriving back to the rooms (loudly) at 1am, 2am and 3am. I’ve not stayed at this hotel and don’t think I’ll be back. While the staff are friendly and it has some nice facilities, the walls seem to be paper-thin and it’s just too noisy to get any sleep.

And I like my sleep…

My alarm this morning went off at 6am, but to be honest. I’d been awake since 5:30am. Which, in UK body clock time, was really 4:30am. Ugh. No opportunity to grab a coffee before I got the train from Sitges to Barcelona Sants, so I made sure I swung by the Starbucks closest to my client’s offices before coming in. Cue one very large Americano – the first of many today, I fear.

(I didn’t even care that the Starbucks barista called me ‘Richie’… )

There’s a reason they use sleep deprivation as torture… Still, I get to spend today with some really amazing people, before heading back down to Sitges for another evening. And hopefully, some more sleep…

Heaving breathing, flashing lights

So I had my sleep-deprived EEG this morning. I fell asleep after about 1am (after staying awake by catching up on the massive backlog of comics I haven’t read) and my alarm went off at 5:30am.

Groan.

I freely admit it was tough to get myself out of bed. Harder still to avoid the coffee machine. I was under strict orders to avoid caffeine before the test. So I woke up at the kitchen table, sipping sparkling water and wishing I was somewhere – anywhere – else.

The test went fine, but was pretty unpleasant. Firstly, you get a load of electrodes glued to your scalp. Then I had to complete a series of exercises, while my brain activity was monitored, including:

  • Hyperventilating, until I got pins and needles in my face and my hands
  • Staring into a strobe light, going against every natural instinct to look away

Ugh. Nothing painful, but unpleasant all the same. I also had to work from my laptop while being monitored, to see the impact a computer screen has on me. I also had to sleep, but – wouldn’t you know it – it took me over an hour to nod off. And then it was in a strange position, so I woke up with an s-shaped neck.

The clinical physiologist that took care of me was brilliant. Very professional,  but also very friendly. We bonded over our shared love of travel while she attached the electrodes to my head.

(A sentence I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d type).

I’m now back at home, shoving coffee into my face and working on staying awake for the next few hours. I’m not sure I’ll manage without a short nap, but I’m determined to catch up on my sleep tonight. Big work day tomorrow.

And now, for your delectation, a selfie of me – complete with electrodes. A valuable lesson in why you should never take a selfie while lying down.

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I’ll get my results in a few weeks, after I get back from South Beach. Fingers crossed for a helpful result. Whatever that is…

Mission impossible

 

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My last EEG test – aren’t those electrodes just the most attractive thing ever?

I’m going into hospital for a sleep-deprived EEG test tomorrow morning. I’ve had a few EEGs on my long journey through the world of epilepsy, including being monitored all night while I slept.

 

Tomorrow, I need to go in having had about half the sleep I normally get.

Oh.

The letter I received recommends going to bed two hours later than usual and getting up too hours earlier than usual. That is, by definition, the worst of both worlds. And to cap it all, I’m not allowed to have any coffee tomorrow until after the tests are complete.

No coffee?!
Tomorrow is going to hit over 30C  in London and I have to brave rush hour public transport short on both sleep and caffeine.

I can tell you one thing: it won’t be pretty.

The sole upside is the possibility of spending a few hours in the afternoon sunshine in our garden by way of recovery. After which I’ll spend far too much time trying to scrape the disgusting electrode glue off my bald head, inevitably leaving some somewhere…

Ironically, my sleep has been pretty good over the last week. Just when I could do with some insomnia, I’m sleeping like a baby.

See you on the other side.

Caffeine monster

I had to visit my GP yesterday, who recommended I get some blood tests. But this required me to fast overnight before going back in this morning to have the precious blood ripped from my veins.

Fasting while sleeping is easy – even for me! – but not being able to have any coffee as soon as I woke up this morning was more than a chore. I had to survive a window of 0630 to 0830 without caffeine and I honestly can’t remember the last time I had to do this.

It was tough and illustrated just how much I rely on coffee to kick-start my brain of a morning. Having epilepsy, needing epilepsy meds and the resulting regular sleep disturbance mean I’m not a morning person to begin with. But strip out caffeine and I’m a mess. A slurring, rambling zombie-life mess.

I’m pretty sure the reception staff at the surgery thought I was either a) on drugs or b) in need of drugs when I went in at 8am this morning. Slightly slurred speech and an inability to focus my eyes on them left me looking pretty shook up. This wasn’t helped by the fact I couldn’t answer their oh-so-tricky question “When did you book this appointment?”. It was , of course, yesterday morning.

On a positive note, it seems that my dulled senses meant I didn’t even feel the needle going in and that by 0830, I had a hot coffee in my hand, courtesy of @FrankDJS who knew how much I wanted needed one.

I’m on coffee number two now and my body has returned to its usual Saturday morning status. I’m alert, awake and feeling great. All of which illustrates how much I’m addicted to caffeine.

And I have no intention of addressing this – mostly because I have so few vices in life (honestly) and coffee brings me so much pleasure. I just live in dread of a coffee market crisis and coffee rationing. Hopefully it will never come to that, but if it does, you just know I’ll be all over the coffee black market.

Oops I did it again…

Despite promising myself I’d stop doing this, I managed to get to 4pm today without eating a thing.

Let me start by saying I don’t have any sort of eating disorder. Unless you count wolfing down a 1lb burrito at Bodean’s as a form of food abuse. Which it probably is.

No, my problem with food is that I something just forget. I get absorbed, engrossed, distracted. Especially when working from my home office. With nobody there to tell me it’s time for luch. I get stuck into reading or writing to such an extent that there is quite literally nothing else going on.

I started work pretty early this morning as I had a slew of calls to make and wanted to get some documents written for a new project. I sat down with a large coffee and began to type. At least eight extended Skype calls later and I was wondering why I felt so tired.

(Yes, there’s the insomnia, but that’s for another day…)

Then it hit me — I was running on fumes. Coffee and sparkling water all day.

Not good.

Mind you, all I did to remedy the situation was eat a couple of Reece’s peanut butter cups and neck some more coffee. I figure that it’s so late in the day now, I’m as well waiting for a proper dinner rather than trying to squeeze in an exceedingly late lunch.

Plus, I really like those peanut butter cups.

Perfecting the Huel breakfast smoothie

After a little bit of experimentation, I’ve arrived at what I think is the ultimate Huel breakfast smoothie. (For the why and what of Huel, check out this earlier post).

In a NutriBullet (other blenders are available, obviously) add 200ml of sugar-free almond milk, a handful of ice cubes,  scoop of Huel and two lungo measures of your favourite Nespresso coffee. Blitz for 20secs and decant into a drinking vessel of your choice.

I’m not a big breakfast person, so this is enough to keep hunger at bay until lunchtime. I’ve made it up at home and brought it with me into the office, sipping it as I head in on the tube. It’s very simple and takes just seconds to make. For me, it gives me something filling, tasty (coffee!!) and cold.

I’ve been using the metal flask I got from Huel with my first order and it’s standing up to continued use very well. Also, my workbag has a pocket that’s perfect for this flask – it keeps it separate and upright.

Huel: one week in

I’ve been trying out a new meal replacements / space-age food / meal in a bag product called Huel (“human fuel”, geddit?). It’s a little like Soylent, the food replacement powder that was all over the news last year. I’d been very interested to read about it and wondered if I’d ever try it if it was available in the UK. So as soon as I read about I ordered a batch.

I got my first delivery about a week ago and have been having it for breakfast each morning.

This kind of food has always piqued my interest. I do love real food, but I also find myself sometimes skipping meals due to workload, or grabbing something filling but truly awful on my way to appointments. Or, more likely, while waiting on a flight somewhere. (Plus, there’s something undeniably Star Trek about getting your food from a powder.)

Huel fills that gap, for breakfast anyway. I love food too much to go to an all-Huel diet! But for the last week, I’ve been using my Nutri-Bullet to experiment with the powder and concoct various versions of the drink.


Mainly, I’ve been using it with almond milk (my preferred alternative to the cow’s stuff) and alternating inclusion of fruit (banana, blueberries) or a couple of shots of espresso. Everything I’ve made so far has been delicious and has surpassed my expectations of something so bland-looking.

There’s a definite hint of vanilla in the distance, but it’s not what I would call “sweet”.

I’m definitely going to continue to have Huel for breakfast, especially when I have an early start. I can make up a batch the night before, store it in the fridge and take it with me when I leave early the next morning. It’ll help me avoid overly-sweet breakfast yoghurts and mueslis from coffee shops, which are both sugar-laden and expensive.

Huel on the other hand is extremely healthy. I’ve found it a lot more filling than other breakfast alternatives, which means no cravings and no hunger-fuelled snark. It’s tasty, super-quick to make and, when combined with a couple of shots from my Nespresso machine, quite the morning eye-opener.

It’s also definitely cheaper than the coffee-shop alternatives I’ve been enjoying for the past few years. I bought a “week’s” supply – a week if all you eat is Huel. I’ve just been enjoying it for breakfast, so this will probably last for three or four weeks. It came to £45, including a plastic shaker / bottle. And free delivery.

Next challenge? Figuring out a way to take this deeply suspicious looking powder with me on business trips, without looking like a drugs mule.

A “Huel mule”, if you will…