Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Home-Cooked: Matcha Soy Latte V1.0

A few years back, I tried a life-changing drink. One which quickly became an all-time favorite of mine. That drink, was an Ochacha Silk, so named because the cafe serving it was called Ochacha. (I even did a blog post about it agesss ago and I'm sure you can see I loved it so much even then and was omggg so much younger) Definitely a twist on the word Matcha, because that cafe served all things Matcha related and with soy milk as well. There were iced drinks (Ochacha Silk On the Rocks was a great one to have on hot and humid day/any day of the week), warm drinks, little Matcha madeleines, healthy porridge sets that actually looked pretty decent, and a most amazing Matcha Azuki soft sponge cake (layer of yummy azuki interspersed with matcha sponge and cream cheese layers). Basically, it was my haven. My oasis. My sanctum sanctorum. I went there so many times in university especially during the exam period because it was such a treat. A beautiful, peaceful escape from everything in life. One of the things I loved most about it was the quiet. It was never really that crowded and I would be able to lounge there leisurely, sipping on a mug of warm Matcha Soy Latte while enjoying a book or writing in my journal. If I wanted to spend a little more time there, I'd just order another. Because one mug was often not quite enough.

But to my utter horror and shock, I walked by one day for my usual cuppa and it was closed. For good. All boarded up with a sign for a new up and coming fruit juice stall I did not recognize. Boy, was that a painful day. My heart's still on the mend.

For a long time after, I wondered how I could re-create that favorite drink of mine. It looked simple and I had watched the staff concoct it countless times. Of course, though you know it's do-able, sometimes you just want to have the pleasure of having it prepared for you in a cafe. It's the atmosphere, the pomp and pageantry. Finally, the time came when someone bought me a packet of Matcha powder and I thought, ok let's give it a try. Amazingly, it was much easier than I thought it would be, to achieve my own little OChacha.

 photo ochachav1.0_zps5x9wfsmd.jpg

Matcha Soy Latte v1.0 (a.k.a my attempt at an Ochacha Silk)

Haven't quite progressed to other superior versions yet though there have been some attempts at latte art which have not materialised. One big reason is because the quality of soy milk makes it very difficult to get appropriate microfoam which is the basis of good latte art. A work in progress ;p.

But the taste is pretty much the same. And to achieve that, you only need one key ingredient. THIS Sobe milk (the blue one at the bottom of the page). It's the same one I saw them use in the cafe. It's a specific taste though but if you prefer yours sweeter or less sweet, you could go according to the brand of Soy milk/whole milk that you like.

This is basically the recipe for the most basic of Soy Lattes. ;) Beginner's level stuff.

Matcha Soy Latte (Basic Recipe) 


- Matcha powder, 1 teaspoon 

- Soy Milk of choice (I personally like the blue Sobe Trim Soy Milk brand), 3/4 cup 
- 1/4 cup of hot water 
- a mini electric whisk (as shown in this video) (mine was a good $2 buy from Daiso! :D)


1. Heat up your soy milk in a milk pan or in a microwave oven (usually for about 1 minute). Be sure to watch the milk because it burns much more easily than regular milk so once the edges are almost ready to break into tiny bubbles, it's good enough. You can stir it regularly to prevent it from burning as well.

2. To a cup, add in the Matcha powder (you can even sieve it if the powder you've got is a little stuck together in clumps because it's tough to mix Matcha well into your soy milk once it's formed tiny clumps), followed by the hot water (not boiling, just hot).

3. With a bamboo Matcha whisk, whisk the Matcha and hot water till evenly mixed and no clumps are seen.

4. Pour in the hot soy milk to your Matcha, stirring evenly, leaving about 1/8-1/4 cup of soy milk left in your pot (depending on how much foam you want eventually).

5. Use the electric whisk and give the remaining soy milk a good whirr for about 20-30seconds. Usually it creates a decent stiff foam.

6. Top your cup of Matcha Soy Latte with the foam. Decorate it in whatever style you'd like with some Matcha powder (I use a mini whisk for mine to get the powder out smoothly on the surface of the foam).

So far, that's one of the easiest designs I've been able to come up with. Just a straight line across. Not much I know, but the other one that's easy is just an even dusting to foam a circle. Of course you could also try to use stencils as my friend suggested but...I've been lazy to buy/make one. XD

Even though taste-wise it's pretty much an exact match to the Ochacha in my memory... of course it's not the same. I miss that cafe so badly. It was really one of the best cafes I loved going to which gives me such good warm fuzzies whenever I think back to times spent there. Whenever I walk by I secretly hope that I'll see the cafe back and re-opened like before. No luck yet.

Will just have to enjoy home-made Ochacha for the time being.


on Time and Robin

Have you ever had an afternoon of free time and before even starting on anything, feel this slow creeping sense of...guilt? Even before embarking on any afternoon project. Sometimes I get this feeling. Because every before starting on any activity, I already instinctively make a quick mental calculation of its 'net worth' in my mind. Is it a productive use of my free time? Or is it something that I will probably regret doing because there were other things that I could've done using that block of precious free time?

It's such a strange way to live. On the one hand, when I'm at work I just crave so badly the weekend...or any free days that might serendipitously come my way, when I can do the things I've been meaning to do in a leisurely, guiltless manner. I suppose that's the thing about anticipation. It's often the most amazing when you're anticipating something great. But when the time comes to actually go through with the activity, it's often a little different than expected. I sometimes look at the list of things I want to do and think, which one is not so important? Which should I make my priority and which should can be relegated to another day? Sometimes I have trouble with that dichotomy and end up crawling straight back to bed into the lovely comforting cocoon of blankets and pillows, where I don't have to do anything but be still. I call it being lulled into inactivity. The paradoxical prison of choice. Where there are so many possibilities one faces that one can't help but freeze in inertia. It's happened on more than one occasion. After which I just go, what on earth am I doing?

I think sometimes we're simply not accustomed to doing nothing. We've been brought up to think that being productive is better/you've only got one life to live so sleep when you're dead!/stop wasting valuable time. But so much of that advice is geared towards us simply living the best life we can live since it's such a precious gift we've been given. If we spend so much time running around chasing a goal, we're bound to slow down in our tracks some time or another and go, what the heck am I chasing? Those roses actually look nice. Is it ok to slow down and smell them? Am I wasting my time? It seems like only when I'm on vacation do I really allow myself the luxury of just...not bothering with what I'm doing with my time. I don't need to be working on anything. I can just look around...people watch (a completely underrated hobby really, because people are probably still the most fascinating subjects in the world), be in the moment, wherever I am.

I think I've started becoming a lot more selective about things in the past few months. Or perhaps it's been a gradual shift towards self-preservation after starting work over 2 years ago. With limited energy and time after work, there came a point when I became very conscious of how my body and mind would feel if I overdid things. It used to be that post-call I would just head straight to town, get some shopping done, fit in a hearty meal, maybe get a massage/pedicure/anything pampering (all in a sort of artificial caffeine induced high) and then get home late only to crash in bed...wake up the next morning for work. And be ok at the start. But after awhile, I started to get tired more early...and would not be able to recover so well the next day. I remember a period of waking up, the main thought in my head being, oh man, can't wait to come back home after work for a nap. Thankfully, it's not so bad anymore. But it's also been a much more conscious decision of saying, I need at least XX number of hours in a day for full rest for myself, to not go out with friends or go out to town and wear myself out unnecessarily. It's true what they say that as you get older, your circle of friends grows smaller but stronger, because you only focus on the relationships you really want to strengthen. Life selects itself for you, in that sense. Sometimes subconsciously.

But after reading Marie Kondo's book on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it's definitely something I'm working on. Decluttering...pruning away the unnecessary elements of my life. So far I've only managed to declutter my wardrobe! And that was quite an exercise. ;p But that's only 1/10th of the way. I still need to move on to shoes, books, papers, random items etc.... Still a long way to go. No wonder she said her typical client can take an average of 6 months to go through everything. I wonder if I'll be able to do that by the New Year. Or maybe the Chinese New Year, if all else fails.

Back to the whole idea of how we should spend our time... I remember asking D once, how are we supposed to know whether what we're doing is something that's worth our time? It's so easy to worry if what I'm spending my time on is worthwhile and meaningful, or is it going to be something that doesn't amount to anything at the end of the day? Of course, he comes back with an answer that's reasonable and comforting, as he so often does. His answer was, that we just can't. We can't know for sure if what're doing right now will be the right way to spend our time and more importantly, we can't live like that. We'd go crazy.

It seems so simple when put that way. Sometimes we just need to have faith that whatever we choose to put our time and energy on right now, will amount to something in the future. That's life isn't it? Believing and hoping that all will turn out for the best. And at the end of the day, what happens in the end is not going to be as important as the journey of getting there. Because well, we may never get to our intended end point. We might end up at someplace different/better. And if we choose to believe that the way we spend our time now is right for us at this point in time, we're leading the life we've chosen. That's one of the most beautiful things I can think of that we should be grateful for.


This brings me to my other topic of interest actually, a most amazing woman, Robin Roberts.

It's funny because while she's most popularly known as one of the anchors on the tv show Good Morning America, I only discovered her a few months back through some Ellen Degeneres and Michelle Obama videos (oh those two are also great women I admire so much). I'd never actually seen a full episode of GMA before.

But wow, after finding out about her story, I've been a huge fan. From humble beginnings growing up in Mississippi to wonderfully supportive parents, she ended up first as a sports journalist on ESPN (after initially wanting to be a professional basketball player but always jokingly saying she lacked something called... ability!) then transitioned on to become a successful news anchor and reporter. She's had to battle two huge illnesses in her life, the first being Breast Cancer which she defeated in 2008, and then Myelodysplastic Syndrome which she overcame through a bone marrow transplant from her older sister in 2012. Since then, she's been in the clear, inspiring so many people with her story, myself included.

One of the things I love most about reading and watching her shows is all the wonderful quotes that she's shared. I've just finished reading her book, Everybody's Got Something, which is incredibly inspirational. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in finding out more about her, about her journey, or anyone who simply would like to get a renewed zest for life. She has so much zeal for living; it's palpable through her words. Reading it is almost like listening to her talk in a one-on-one conversation. It's hard not to feel blessed with what you have and grateful to be living after finishing her book.

Robin's Book:

Some videos that I really enjoyed watching: 

This one's the main one that's a short documentary on her journey. 


Another one (narrated by Tom Cruise! lol):

I really liked this interview because she talked about some more personal stuff that led her to becoming a journalist/TV anchor which I hadn't heard in other interviews:

Another great one:

Here are some of her quotes that I find so meaningful:

1. "When fear knocks, let faith answer the door."

I love this one. You don't need to be religious or have to believe in a particular God to let this quote work for you. You could be simply be more spiritual or just have faith in something larger than yourself. It's a very comforting notion, to be able to take a deep breath, park your worries somewhere else, in the hands of something/someone, and hope for the best.

2. "Your story is no more important that anybody else's story. When you strut, you stumble"

How true, isn't it? Whenever we start feeling like our issues are more important than someone else's or that the whole world revolves around us, we'll start making decisions that only serve to trip us up in the end. 'Our hubris will be our undoing', as Rick Castle wisely said ;p. And besides, if we only knew what someone else was going through, we wouldn't be so quick to judge. I like what she said about how if we all put our troubles into a common bowl and saw what else everyone was putting in, we'd pull ourselves back within a jiffy. The grass is always greener on the other side. Nothing is as it seems. Always good to keep in mind.

3. "A setback is a setup for a comeback." 

That comes from her background in sports, for sure. But so much of what happens on the court is applicable to life outside the court. Whenever we're facing an obstacle in life, be it something related to our job, a relationship, what have you not, instead of moping about it and letting it win, we could slowly but surely, try to position ourselves in a way that allows us to move forward in the direction that we want. Every setback is a time for reflection; an opportunity to examine your values, your priorities, and thereafter head towards something better and new.

4. "The tragedy is not so much the experience that you're having. The tragedy is that we don't take the time to understand the meaning and purpose behind what we're going through."

Wise words once again. Sometimes we go through rough patches and can't understand why we need to go through it. But it's similar to the previous quote. If we can, we should take time to retreat into someplace quiet, to be in touch with our 'inner pilot light' as Lissa Rankin would say. Might sound like a load of hippy hogwash to some but if you believe in such things, you'll know how it can work like magic.

5. "Everybody's got something, but it's also true that everybody, and I do mean everybody, also has something to give."

Instead of focusing always on our problems, sometimes focusing one how we can help others can be a quick solution to making us feel better. I always feel better when I'm taking care of someone I love. To me, that's always going to be a meaningful way to spend time. Nurturing relationships often has far greater positive effects on both parties than we realize.

So have I convinced you enough that she is an amazing woman? ;)

Two things that are apparent throughout the book are her great capacity for gratitude and her incredible zest for life. Both are truly infectious. Almost every page is a word of thanks from her to someone who helped her along the way in her journey. Living life with gratitude is a way of living life well. Her words are a constant reminder to be infinitely grateful for all that we have.

One bit that I really loved at the end was when she talked about her experience being able to fly the same fighter jet that her late father (a member of the famed Tsukegee Airmen) flew in his military days.

"As I stood on the tarmac, I felt like I was five years old again. There was no music, but I did a little swaying happy dance. The kind of dance that a kid might do if you announced that unexpectedly, there was no school."

It made me smile so much. How often do we let ourselves feel the sort of unadulterated happiness we used to feel as kids? Simple things that made us happy. For me, I remember things like catching the 7.30am Akazukin Chacha show on Cartoon Network every Sunday as being such a great Happy pill. X) Time to let ourselves feel that sort of joy more often when we have the chance.

So take a minute to check out these videos and if you're inspired as well, let me know and we can have a chat about love, life and all things Robin. ;)

Have a great week ahead.