Coffee and the Paper is a series of blogs where I take a break from my travels and explore local media and local brews.
The last month has been a crazy journey of near 24 hour planning, editing, and running from school to school to finish up our final documentaries. It was an incredible run and I am so thankful for the time I had with these kids and working with The Modern Story. I am finishing editing now, so I’ll save our final documentaries for another post. Now I am on a few silver lining travels around SE Asia. First stop: Sri Lanka for some hill country hiking, Buddha seeking, and beach relaxing. And of course, coffee and the paper.
Newspaper: The Daily Mirror
Edition: Vol. 16/150, Late City Edition, December 5 2014
Price: 30 rupees
Where I bought it: A newspaper stand at Colombo Fort railway station
Sections: 3 (Front page/main news, Mirror Business, Life)
Top Stories: Election commissioner tells local governments they must release cut outs and banners having to do with the upcoming presidential election, the sports minister complains to the local police after a caller to a local television talk show said they believed he took bribes (his defense: his family is already wealthy, why would he need to take bribes?), the Criminal Investigation Department is looking into claims that former minister Navin Dissanayaka took a bribe to stay in office.
Story (that I found interesting): With the presidential elections about to hit the country in full force (January 8) the paper was full of election stories and interviews. One caught my eye: “Don’t use Pope’s image in elections: Church”. Though Sri Lanka is majority Buddhist and only 7 percent Christian, the Pope is due to visit the country in January and some are worried that candidates could spin this visit as political (and in their favor). But the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka (6 percent of Sri Lankans are Roman Catholics) says they are committed to preaching a violence-free election, and will work to prevent any candidate from using the Pope’s image as part of their campaign.
Overall thoughts: Given I am still new to understanding Sri Lankan politics, I can’t say much for the coverage other than that the man at the Railway station said this is the best English daily and Wikipedia informs me its leanings are “progressive.” I was curious how they would cover Tamil issues. Most of what I could find was leftover findings from the ongoing investigations of LTTE activity (like a story on how LTTE members had used diesel and kerosene to destroy the bodies of a 80 people killed in 2006). I read that the Tamil population is dwindling after the brutal 30 year conflict, and the relationship between the two populations are still quite tender despite peace being restored to the island– recently five Indian Tamil fishermen were sentenced to death (but later pardoned after Modi made a personal phone call to the president) for trespassing in Sri Lankan waters and possessing narcotics. What I will say though is that the writing and interviewing in this paper feels more hard hitting and accessible than what I read in many Indian papers, plus there is more international news (even an op-ed on Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and race relations in the US). It has much splashier design as well, but not so much that it is like a tabloid. Overall it piqued my interest in Sri Lankan politics (the current president– who is credited with ending the war in 2009–is gunning for an unprecedented third term after the Supreme Court, under his control, ended the two-term presidential limit). I’ll be paying attention in January!
Coffee: Hansa Ceylon Coffee, Pure Arabica
Okay yes I got this suggestion from the NYT 36 hour tour of Colombo, but I like to think I was heading there anyway– my hostel ended up being an 8 minute walk from this very off-the-beaten-track cafe. Everything they say is true. The coffee shop is tiny but very comfortable, and inevitably you will end up striking a conversation with a barista or fellow coffee drinker/traveler. The real draw though is the incredible, incredible coffee. After coming from the land of Nescafe and Irani chai, I was intrigued by the possibility of a Sri Lanka coffee culture. When my pint sized glass of smooth iced Arabica coffee was delivered with a shot glass of milk and a small jar of simple syrup, I couldn’t believe my eyes– and then my taste buds. Iced coffee is tough to get right. It is often too bitter and Arabica can be too light for my liking. But this coffee was perfect. Nutty but light. Not watered down. Good to the last drop. Since then I have consistently had excellent coffee while here. My guesthouse in Banderawela (where I write this from and where I took the above photo– I bought beans from Hansa) serves a peppery spiced coffee from the spice plantation next door. An afternoon hike that was cut short by pouring rain landed me on the patio of an American expat who ground fresh beans picked from a bush about ten feet away and pan roasted at a local factory down the road. Nothing quite like staring at the source of your cup of coffee as you sip it. Cheers to more South Asian caffeination.