Memories of Mars

It was 1993, while working at Caffé Mars, that I first tried [or heard of] Chai Tea.  Mars was an amazing coffeehouse and live music venue [later, it was also a winebar], tucked down an alley off the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, CO.  I worked there for two one-year stints and to this day, Mars remains my all-time favorite job.  Why?  It wasn’t about the money – it was about the vibe, the music, the cool factor, and above all, it was about the people.  We had an amazing [musician] boss, coworkers we loved, plus countless friends of Mars, regulars, musicians and artists who flowed in and out, all day long.  Thank you to Rick, Sacha, Dan, Kim, Sebastian, Joy, Aimee, Kat, Patrick, Peter, Kathleen, Philip, Anthony, John, David, Nils, Casey, Fred, James, Mike R., Mike W….  for all the laughter and the incredible memories.

Sadly Mars no longer exists, due in part to a Starbucks opening mere steps away [I boycotted them for years], but the aroma of this spicy tea takes me right back to that special place and the friends I still hold dear to my heart.

4 green cardamom pods
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
4 or 5 cloves
1 small cinnamon stick

1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups water
2 Tbs. local honey (here’s why) – I buy mine from Betterbee
3 bags or 3 Tbs. black tea such as Darjeeling, Assam
1 cup reduced fat milk

In a medium saucepan, lightly crush the cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves and cinnamon stick, add the ginger and water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

In a small saucepan warm the milk, then whisk until frothy.

To the saucepan with the spices in it, stir in the honey and the tea, turn off the heat and steep for 3 minutes.  Stir in the warm milk.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve, coffee filter, or if you have one, plunge the mixture in a French press.  Serve the Chai in your favorite mugs.

A little ditty about Mars from our buddy Fred.

Anecdote from the Coffee Culture –
Boulder, Colorado
© 1995, Fred Drake

Saturday night slowly melts into Sunday morning in Boulder, Colorado.  Caffé Mars teems with life – a veritable microcosm of life in a town renowned for its uniform diversity.  Divergent philosophies, attitudes, and dress collide in a sea of caffeine and herbal tea.  At least thirty years of culture is evident.  Yuppies, yuppie wannabees, hippies, hippie wannabees, winners of Sid Vicious look-alike contests, combat punks, crystal heads, preppies, and just plain folks mingle cautiously but everybody plays darts with everybody.

Rick, the owner and chief workaholic, is sitting on one of the period sofas which dot the interior, and nurtures another impossible romance with a woman he knows isn’t right for him but whose aura and sensuality are overpowering.  Torn between business etiquette and hormonal overload, he lusts while struggling to maintain his equilibrium, meditating all the while on her amazing thighs.  He is a prisoner, held captive by his professional ethics while being barraged by loneliness and his desire for companionship and tender mercies – two things the object of his passion would freely give him if he would only ask.  But business before pleasure.

Heather, the lovely Heather of the seductive eyes, lip-syncs Annie Lennox as she prepares her seventy-third latté of the day.  She secretly hopes that Rick will get a liquor license to deliver the premises from the growing number of adolescent granola punk-rockers who are increasingly darkening the door and taking up space and buying very little coffee.  As she prepares her seventy-fourth latté, the teen brigade continues to act studiously “coffee house” upstairs, yakking away and still not buying any coffee, much to Heather’s dismay.  She spends most of the next half hour dreaming of ways to murder adolescent granola punk-rockers.

Annie Lennox’s greatest hits is replaced by Roxy Music’s Avalon, a change which causes many of the over-thirties in the crowd to daydream of loves lost and mystical experiences long-forgotten in the haze of day-to-day existence.  The adolescent punk-rockers don’t even notice and don’t even care.

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