Expat Life: The Great Coffee Crisis of 2012

The  Keurig.  If you do not have one, you should.  
(Note:  Today's 'Silent Sunday' post has been superseded by a matter of utmost urgency.  Regular service will resume next Sunday.  Unless we still haven't gotten our coffee. - ed.)

Back in January, when I was suffering through my first real winter in 11 years, I mentioned in this post that we'd bought ourselves a Keurig coffeemaker and had fallen head over heels in love with it.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Keurig system, it's more or less a coffee maker that brews you a cup of coffee - quickly - whenever you want it. The coffee is packaged in these little pre-measured containers called 'K-cups:' you pop one into your machine, press a button, and the machine brews you a fresh cup of coffee in seconds.  It is a Beautiful Thing.

Our absolute favorite crack coffee via

Unlike regular coffeemakers, there's no measuring, no spilling coffee grounds, no filters, no waiting for the pot to brew - you get the idea.  After using one at my friend T's house back in the US in January, I flew back to Korea determined to get one of my own and begin living the good life.

Now, you should know that the Keurig is not yet sold in Korea, which means that  -obviously - the K-cups are not sold there, either.  We were, of course, aware of this, but it did not overly concern us, because one of the perks of MrL's job is that we have the privilege of accessing the US military base here in Seoul (although MrL is not in the military) and the US military retail arm understands that a ready supply of coffee is vital to their mission. We knew that the PX carried K-cups, and, secure in this knowledge, we confidently moved forward with our purchase.

For the first six months or so, things went swimmingly.  MrL and I, in the honeymoon period with our new machine, enjoyed trying the variety of coffees available to us.  Eventually, though, we settled on our favorite:  Starbuck's brand Sumatra dark.  (Readers should know that MrL and MsCaroline like their coffee to be serious:  strong, dark, bold, and just a few chemical changes away from being a solid.) This coffee was so serious, that the other brands fell more or less by the wayside.  Our relationship became exclusive.

And then, the first signs of trouble appeared:  one day, MsCaroline stopped in to pick up her weekly box, only to find an empty space on the shelf.  Reasoning that she'd gotten there the day before the next shipment arrived, she returned a few days later, only to find more empty space.  On her next trip, though, the shelves had been restocked, and she picked up her week's supply, slightly shaky with relief.

But the ordeal - far from being over - was, in reality, just beginning.  As the weeks went by, a distressing pattern of empty shelves (only where the Sumatra Dark belonged,naturally) began to emerge, and MsCaroline and MrL found themselves increasingly short-tempered and bitter with one another in the morning as they were forced to greet the day more often than not drinking lesser coffees.  Weeks would go by when the supply would be ample, and all would be sunshine.  Then - for no apparent reason - the coffee would disappear and simply not be restocked.

After several months of this roller-coaster coffee situation, MsCaroline finally sat down and did what she should have done months ago:  she ordered a case of Sumatra Dark from Amazon.com, looking forward to peace and harmony in her household and a future of excellent coffee.

Naturally, as soon as MsCaroline did this, the PX sorted out whatever the supply glitch had been and began to regularly and consistently stock its shelves with Sumatra Dark.  The Amazon order (which we expected to take several weeks anyway) slid out of consciousness and into the murk in the back of MsCaroline's mind.

Months went by, and, as astute readers will have guessed - the day came when MsCaroline was, once again, confronted with an empty shelf.  Immediately, she remembered the missing case of Sumatra Dark, and was shocked to realize 2 months had passed without a sign of it.

Panicked and righteously indignant, she drove home and sat down in front of the laptop to try and find her missing box.

Amazon claimed it had been delivered less than two weeks after ordering.

But to whom?

After casting quite a few unjust aspersions on Amazon's integrity (sorry Amazon, can we still be friends?)  MsCaroline discovered that the whole situation was entirely her own fault.  She had blithely sent the case of coffee to her US address (no doubt puzzling the tenants presently living there) instead of the one in Korea.  After a series of international emails/phone calls/Instant Messages, MsCaroline eventually tracked down the case of coffee (the tenants did have it) and made a number of arrangements of Byzantine complexity to ensure the eventual safe delivery of the coffee to her apartment in Korea, some of which involved:

  • e-mail to renters, asking if package had been delivered to them and asking, if so, would they mind giving the box to family friends 2 doors down.
  • email to family friends 2 doors down(Thanks, M!) asking if they would mind holding the box and passing it on to Son#1, who is at Uni nearby and would soon swing by to pick it up.
  • IM to Son#1 at University, asking him to contact family friends to arrange pickup time, go pick up the coffee, and mail it the fastest way possible to us in Korea.
So, at the moment, MrL and I are sitting here, drinking insipid coffee and wondering if our son the University Student has jumped up out of bed extra early on a Saturday morning to pick up the case of coffee and rush it to the post office.

We can only hope.  


Muffin said…
Son #1 dutifully came by to pick up the rather large coffee-filled box at friends' home. He did get to leave only after we grilled - asked - many questions to get caught up on his life. Said box and son departed much after the closing of the shipping store. Sorry...son said he was "studying" and couldn't get away. Son #1 looks healthy and is in good spirits!
MsCaroline said…
Muffin - Since it was you grilling him, I'm not going to complain-I'm just glad he did it! I guess if he's 'studying' so much, those midterm grades should be outstanding, right? ; ) Thanks again for holding our 'stash' for us until he could get there!
Stacy said…
I was going to say don't hold your breath for an early rise on a Saturday morning of a university student that doesn't have an actual scary caffeine-deprived parent hovering over him. But it looks like he came through!

Hope you get your coffee soon! I can completely empathize. We haul Cafe du Monde back in our suitcases and now that luggage allowances have been slashed (Airline personnel are heartless, I tell you.) we always have months left at the end of our coffee supply and are forced to source something potable locally. It's a struggle. And working on a caffeine deficit, nigh impossible.

imagespast said…
Oh Ms Caroline, I can empathise. My partner bought a Nespresso machine a few years ago, and shortly afterwards, another two. One for his office and one for my house - he's only here at weekends as we live in different cities. It makes coffee that we love, but getting short on the "pods" causes a rise in the old blood pressure ;-) Jo
MsCaroline said…
Jo - thanks so much for stopping by! I really never considered, when we moved from a regular coffeemaker to the pod-style machine, that getting the pods might be an issue, but it really is! It doesn't seem to be quite as easy to find them as it is to pop out and buy some coffee beans, and I hadn't quite realized that when we made the change. Now, of course, I'm 'hooked' - and it's too late!
MsCaroline said…
Stacy - you were, actually, correct - he did not drag himself out of bed early. It was late in the afternoon in Texas when he got there, and according to Muffin, the shipping store was closed when he left. So - good call. You know, the sad thing is, when I flew back to Seoul in August after Home Leave, I still had ample space in my suitcases to tuck in plenty of coffee - it just didn't occur to me to do so, because I assumed that the shortage was a one-off type thing and not something that would be chronic. In retrospect, I have no idea why I didn't go ahead and stock up anyway - probably because I was too focused on fitting in as many containers of deodorant as possible!
Marion said…
Glad everything worked out! (Or will . . .). Have recently contemplated getting one of these contraptions because during the week I am the only one drinking coffee at home. Is it really worth it? And, do you leave 2 coffee pots on the counter? (I really like our grind and brew with totally awesome Maya coffee from Costco which is great on the one or two days a week we are both drinking coffee. Otherwise am making too much coffee and using the dregs to feed the plants . . .). Sorry to digress into our trials and tribulations! Hope your mornings are caffeine full and wonderful. Hi to you all ( Hi it Y'ALL)
Karen said…
Good morning!
I read this along with MY morning coffee and chuckled all the while! Your (as usual) witty post has started my day off right...along with my coffee of course. I also particularly enjoyed the comment by Stacy referring to actual scary caffeine deprived parents. You are so right, Stacy! We are going away in a couple of weeks for hubby's 50th. Since our trip involves a Sunday football game in Pittsburgh (his heart's desire after me) we will be making the 10 hour return trek on Monday. My 3 teenagers (Leah will be home after her last performance on Sunday-hooray and triple hooray for that last one finally) are fully capable of staying home on their own but in no way capable of getting themselves out of bed at 6AM and on their various buses. My sister has been enlisted for the overnight stay and ejection from beds on Monday morning. Nothing else will do! Glad to hear that Son #1 was somewhat prompt in his caffeine duties. Apparently a little of that scary caffeine deprived parent crosses over continents and oceans still! Or he loves you! Or a bit of both. Have a great day (or night)!
BavarianSojourn said…
This post made me laugh. I am contemplating on buying a similar machine but you might have put me off... :D
Anonymous said…
Nespresso machine is brill - excllent coffee and the pods arrive the day after you order them. Depends on where you live, I guess, though OK in the UK. Jo
This is - without question - the scariest issue to arise since you landed in Korea. I will probably have nightmares tonight. And yes - I have a Keurig, love the Starbucks (I use a few), and treat the machine like part of the family. A treasured part.
Trish said…
Yes, I'm a Nespresso girl and the delivery of pods is excellent. They do look as if they'd fit in your machine so could you getting hold of them if your pods go AWOL again?
MsCaroline said…
Emma - don't let me put you off - Jo and Trish are correct - if you have things mailed to the correct address (ahem), you won't have problems like I did!
MsCaroline said…
Marion - I have to confess, we put the old pot away and use the Keurig exclusively now. It's just so much more convenient, and - if you get the right kind of coffee - it tastes just about as good as fresh ground and brewed!
MsCaroline said…
Karen - I just had to laugh thinking that you have this houseful of kids who are more or less totally independent - except for waking up! That's so exactly my life - you surely remember my recent FB post when Cullen asked me to wake him up 'at 6:00 and 6:30' !!!!
MsCaroline said…
SantaMonicaChick - That's exactly the correct attitude that needs to be taken with such a serious and important machine! Contemplating working ours into the Christmas Cards this year...
MsCaroline said…
Trish - I still remember one of the earlier posts I read of yours when you renovated your kitchen and I wasn't really 100% clear on what the Nespresso pods in that arty wall holder really were...how times have changed! I never thought about trying the Nespresso pods, but it's worth looking into - for some reason, I think they do sell them here. Thanks for the suggestion - we may not have to wait for Son#1's package to get some decent coffee after all!

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