Chai is my favorite hot, caffinated beverage. What’s more, without clove, nutmeg, and heavy cream, it is not worth drinking. I was first introduced to this particular formula at the South San Francisco Philz1 Coffee2. I can’t even remember the first time I visited, and what I ordered. But around that time I had begun to have just a tiny bit of leisure for the first time since my daughter was been born maybe 3 years earlier. I had somehow realized that I didn’t know very much, and that I needed to do a lot of reading. For example I read through the major known logical fallacies. Somehow at around the same time (2014) I came upon Trilema. This began to make up most of my reading. It was (and is) very hard to understand, but I find it irresistable, and it has changed my life for the better. I first remember reading for reading’s sake (not just time novels or required reading for classes or magazines) while on a month long trip to Bangkok. I could still drink coffee back then, and I would spend an hour or two each morning reading over a cup of coffee - I believe at the time I was trying to grok fundamentally the Android platform. This habit continued with me back home in Pacifica. I read a book on how to improve my handwriting at a cafe on the pier in Pacifica. The first book I remember reading at Philz was a copy of one of PG’s lisp books I had printed out at Kinko’s. At some point, under the influence of the logs3 I began to study Ancient Greek. Soon, the highlight of every day was an hour or two spent at Philz sipping chai and studying Ancient Greek and perhaps attempting to parse a Trilema post.

The chai was strong - stronger tea than would be served anywhere else. I would be able to drink a cup a day for several days, then, having metabolized all the caffeine I could metabolize, I would need to take a couple of days off, which I found infuriating, because I found it difficult to study on the recovery days4. I suspect that clove is psychoactive (as a stimulant) as well. I discovered this after trying way too much of a powdered decaf masala chai. Aside from the strength, there is something about the flavor - the combination of clove with heavy cream (and sugar) is rich in a way no other drink I’ve tasted (perhaps besides coffee) is.

Regardless, until now I never thought about what would have happened if I hadn’t discovered this chai - would I now know Ancient Greek as well as I do? Would I know it at all? Would I have travelled to Athens as I did this Summer? Would I have voted for Trump? I somehow doubt it.

  1. Philz is a private chain of coffee shops owned by Phil Jaber, a Palestinian (possibly Christian) immigrant to San Francisco in the 70’s. Before opening Philz, he ran a grocery/liquor store for decades. Philz is unique in the way they make their drinks - the barista mixes all the ingredients, including cream and sugar, before serving it. First you order your drink directly from a barista, then you go to a different place to pay. There is this inherent trust built into the flow - you order your drink without paying, then they just make it and trust that you will go ahead and pay. In the old days, mistakes would often be made in my favor - with me receiving a large instead of a small. Or I would get a free cup if it took too long. Incidentally the employees are inevitably hipsterish, as is the clientel. They used to hire hot hipstresses, but recently they’ve tended to hire more towards the dyke end of the scale, and at the one I frequent now there is an offensively ugly she-troll - fat - ugly face, nearly shaved hair, nose ring []
  2. For reasons that are not clear to me I can’t actually drink much coffee without experiencing almost immediate acid reflux - or at least I think that’s what it is. Coffee, while delicious, also seems to leave a taste in my mouth that lasts the entire day, and the caffeine buzz is harsh compared to that of tea.  []
  3. Oddly I can’t even find the line I remember from mircea_popescu that inspired me to begin learning Greek. On the other hand this is what I love about participating in public logged discussions - it forces thought to proceed from what was actually said. There was anothe line that went something like “He couldn’t read for not having glasses,” that I also can’t find, but which I thought was in reference to myself. []
  4. On these days I would question whether I was really interested in learning Greek or whether just because of the caffeine high I was interested in whatever happened to be in front of me. []

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