Origin Story: Part II

So, what are you?


I’m on my back, right leg in the air, and a woman I met less than half an hour ago is making casual conversation with me while spreading hot wax on my netherbits. She doesn’t know it, but she’ll soon be the second person in my entire life with whom I’m able to share details of my ethnic background.

You have questions, I realize. First among them: Don’t I have one dedicated, regular person I task with this torture every 4-6 weeks? I do! In fact, when it comes to these types of very up close and personal self-care rituals, I’m quite loyal. But my regular aesthetician—a kind-hearted French woman named Marion—is unavailable, and I’m desperate. My backup waxing salon exists for this reason alone, and here I find myself, prone on a foreign table with a stranger as intimately placed as one could be.

We’ve covered the usual topics: relationship status, jobs, where we are from, and I mention in passing that my husband is Indian.

“That’s cool,” she says, popsicle stick spreading molten blue lava carefully. “So he’s Indian…what’s your background?”

I perk up as much as one can in my position.

“I’m half Korean,” I say excitedly, “And then the other half is a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and other mixed Asian from all over.”

She hasn’t registered my excitement. “Oh cool,” she repeats in that off hand, slightly-interested small talk way, concentrating on her task.

“Yeah.” I’m quiet for a few seconds. “Actually, I have to tell you—you’re only the second person in my entire life who I’ve been able to say that to. I only found out my ethnic background last summer. I did a DNA test.”

Now she really stops and looks at me. That is cool.

*  *  *

She was the second person; the first was an Uber driver who asked, “What are you?” maybe three months before. That a livery driver should be the first person to ask me post-test was ironic and yet not at all surprising, since cab drivers have the highest ethnicity inquiry rates based on my non-scientific tracking over the last 15-odd years.

And they’re not the only ones. To be sure, wherever I’ve gone throughout life — college, convenience stores, conferences; on dates, to the dry cleaners, to the drive-thru —I’ve heard this same question, or some country-specific derivative of it.

“So, what are you?” View more

Crushing On: Fellow

This past Saturday, I had one of those perfect, simple afternoons out on the town; the kind that just make you feel good and like yourself. I had an early brunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in over six months. I wandered around by myself, window shopping along Valencia and browsing all those boutiques I’ve wandered by but never gone into. I stopped in to a tea shop for a cup of perfectly brewed jasmine, and I randomly met and chatted with a couple design students who were interviewing people as part of a school project. I visited a book shop I’d never been in, and walked away with a new read that I’m devouring. And maybe, best of all, I stumbled upon a new-to-me brand with gorgeous in-store design and super cool products. If you like coffee or tea, have I found the company for you: Fellow. May my Saturday wanderings lead you to caffeine nirvana.

In a nutshell, Fellow is a company making beautiful, thoughtfully designed coffee and tea brewing products that look clean, modern, and classic. They also solve simple problems that tea or coffee lovers might’ve encountered with other equipment. For example, I have a few different tea kettles and brewers and I love them all. When I’m brewing bagged teas, they get the job done (add bag to mug/pour in water/done). But over the past couple years, I’ve been gifted some beautiful, high quality loose leaf teas, and on the occasions that I want to brew those right, I use a kettle on the stove, a separate tea pot, and sometimes even a thermometer if I want to make sure the water is the right temperature. Fellow’s Raven tea system puts all of that into one pretty device—you can boil and steep right from the same kettle, and a thermometer is built into the lid. Simple, but effective.

Joe is really into his burr grinder and separate coffee machine at home, so we haven’t really gotten into the pour over thing, but Fellow’s pour over products are gorgeous! As their About profile says, they’re “a handful of nerds in love with coffee and obsessed with product design.” As someone not well versed in the science and intricacies of pour over (ha!), I will say that browsing the products, I was impressed. It’s clear the designers of these products seemed to really know their stuff and take many brew considerations into account.

In addition to the kettles and pour over equipment, Fellow makes some other brew/steep products and beautiful mugs as well (I only saw these in store though; they don’t seem to be available online yet). This “Duo” steeper started out as a project from a Stanford MBA class; I love it as a next gen French press. This video explains it really well!

If you’re in SF, Fellow’s store is on Valencia, in the Mission. In the back, they have a “Playground” where they host different events related to coffee and tea. On Sunday, for example, there was an entire workshop about tasting and talking about coffee and the words people use to describe it. I saw on their Instagram that there are all these baseline industry standards of how different aromas should be defined, according to the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon (ha, did you know this even existed?!). If you describe a fragrance of peach in a coffee, for instance, the lexicon standard for what “peach” should smell like is Jell-o peach powder. Random, no?

Anyway, if you brew a lot of coffee or tea at home and have been thinking about upping your equipment game, check out Fellow! I think these babies would also make a gorgeous gift for anyone who really loves pour over.