Had Maslow designed his hierarchy of needs in the modern day, I'm pretty sure someone would have started a campaign lobbying for the inclusion of Wi-Fi in it. Probably at the bottom of the pyramid, or at the very least, lumped together with the physiological necessities.
Given that Maslow 2.0 so neatly sums up our basest priorities, we rushed over to Cafe Shinada straight after lunch because I'd spied a massive sign saying 'FREE WI-FI FOR TOURISTS' near the entrance. The Cafe was just across the road from Minakami Station, so we figured we could enjoy a drink there before ambling over to the waiting area later on.
The sign was displayed in one of the buildings we'd had a look round earlier in the afternoon, between a counter selling locally made manjus (Steamed black sugar buns filled with red bean paste) and shelves of Sake. You can't quite see the hot pink sign unless you go closer in by the staircase leading to the Cafe, which is situated on the second floor.
We dragged our bags to the front of the store, and the lady selling manjus came out from behind the counter and very generously offered to take care of them, so we didn't have to drag everything upstairs. The smell of coffee hit us when we were halfway up the stairs, and it was a deep and far more complex thing than what you get at cookie-cutter coffee chains. If you look to the right after reaching the second floor, you can see a grinding machine.
When we walked in through the main doors, the first thing that greeted us were these jars of roasted coffee beans that were on sale for those wishing to brew their own cuppas at home. A quick glance at the labels showed them to be from places like Bolivia and Ethiopia.
Once again, I cursed the fact that coffee's a sure-fire migraine trigger for me.
There's a homey feel to the Cafe, which was decorated with all manner of art and trinkets. We were seated in the non-smoking side of the cafe, and with the whole place redolent with coffee, we weren't assaulted by the smell of cigarettes till we ventured into the smoking section.
M saw these gorgeous vintage-looking toy cars, and wound up getting them for Matt & Nat, since they'd been promised gifts.
We were so keen on getting the signal that we didn't get round to ordering until all three of us were once again connected to virtual reality. The cafe owners were kind enough to wait.
We rifled through the English menu provided for us, but try as we might to muster up enough of an appetite, we didn't feel up to the Apple Cake, no matter how good it looked. So, it was just drinks all around. M had a Matcha Latte Float.
D proclaimed his Cappucino to be 'Good Stuff'. Most of the coffees served here are drip brewed using fresh mountain water that flows into the crystal clear Tone River that flows through Minakami.
I went for the most interesting thing on the menu, which was the Mallow Blue Tea. It was the only item that warranted an explanatory write-up, although I must say I didn't quite know what I was reading at first.
I was so excited when the Mallow Blue was served to me in a glass pot, all the better to see the deep bluebell coloured herbal tea.
A quick peek in the strainer revealed delicate purple petals, gone almost translucent from being infused in hot water.
Pouring the tea out into the glass cup provided, it remained the same steel blue. Now all I had to do was to drop the slice of lemon into the cup, to see if it really did turn pink.
The moment of truth: When the lemon was first dropped in, it took a while for the colour to slowly but surely change from blue to pink. Subsequently, I left the lemon inside and poured the tea in directly to observe the changes. It's an interesting bit of chemistry and I wonder if this flower's been used to extract the dye for litmus paper.
It was a very tasty sort of tea, and sat quite round on the palate while still feeling clean and fresh.
We ended up ordering a round of manjus from the store downstairs just to have a try. We figured they wouldn't be too heavy since they were such tiny things.
On the first nibble, I got a generous bit of smooth red bean paste. The bun was warm and ridiculously soft, having been made fresh. It was gone in two more bites.
Of all the manjus we had on the trip, we liked these best, so it was a good thing we purchased a box before we left for Ikaho Onsen the next day. The same lady was behind the counter, and thanked us profusely for coming back to get them.
Much of our time at Cafe Shinada was spent admiring the art on the walls. If it hadn't been the first proper day of our trip and we hadn't each been dragging one small cabin bag, we probably would have considered getting this painting.
Even their toilet had something on display. There was something very amusing about these two fat cats:
Right before we left to head back across the road to sit at the waiting area of Minakami Station, I made the snap decision to get some of the dried flowers used to make my tea. They popped ¥500 worth of the tea into a Ziploc carrier for me, all while heavily emphasizing the need to pluck off and discard all the green bits before brewing the petals. I've yet to make a pot, but I'm quite looking forward to it. Now all I have to do is find a wedge of lemon in the fridge...