Yuga Lined B5 Letter Pad

Yuga Lined B5 Letter Pad

Upon seeing these correspondence notepads arrive in stock at Bookbinders several months ago, I had no hesitation in adding one to my shopping list for the next store visit. With my fondness for the Masuya paper in the Monokaki Notebook line well-known to readers here, it wasn’t a difficult decision to pick up another product containing that same paper stock.

Of course there is always the possibility of slight differences in the feel of a paper when presented in a different format, and I wasn’t completely certain about the 12mm line spacing in relation to my writing style either.

After finally visiting the store a few weeks ago (yes I could have bought them online — but what’s not to love about visiting an actual stationery store), as you can imagine — I needn’t have been concerned.

Look and feel

In summary, this is your standard B5 sized notepad designed for use in written correspondence.

Packaged in the commonly used cellophane clear wrap, that new stationery aroma hits you upon opening. I don’t think anyone would disagree that on first tactile impressions, the feel is one of a quality product.

Outside

Visually, the overall aesthetic is one of elegance with a touch of the old school conservative about it — for want of a better term. I quite like the maroon (or burgundy I suppose) cover with white trim, though perhaps the gold embossed bordering around the branding may not have been necessary. The maroon and gold combination does provide a certain “regalness”, and despite my personal preferences around these types of things, minor aspects relating to appearance aren’t overly bothersome to me one way or the other.

Overall? I think it looks great.

The back cover is made of the stiffest card stock you’ll find, and though you could say is perhaps overdone, is indicative of the overall quality in the notepad itself. Further branding, other details, and the made in Japan stamp appear across the top on the front cover overlap.

The pages themselves are glue bound at the top, with the cover opening up and away from the binding. There are no pre-folds or breaks for specifically folding back the cover (a la Rhodia notepads), however if you were a little pushed for space the cover will fold back easily. The only caveat here is the blotting sheet may come adrift if that is also folded back, effectively being attached as the first sheet of the notepad.

When used on my desk at home I generally prefer to leave the cover open above the page.

Inside

As I’ve mentioned above, the front of the notepad contains a stiffened sheet providing a blotting paper between the actual cover and first written page.

The Yuga Letter Pad contains the same Masuya paper as the Monokaki notebooks — the lightweight, cream-coloured lined pages, this time have a spacing of 12mm (the notebook being 9mm) in the familiar soft grey tone. The manufacturer’s basis for the cream coloured paper via Bookbinders:

It was developed in a cream colour to reduce eye strain when writing at night as the light does not reflect as brightly

I can attest to the nature of the paper under light, given most of my writing is done very early in the morning under a small LED white lamp, and with many other paper types there is occasionally some readjusting of position due to glare — not so the Yuga Letter Pad. It indeed provides a very soft return to any light source.

My concerns over the line spacing mentioned earlier in the post were ill-founded, with the 12mm distance looking a lot broader on a blank page than a written one. I recall having similar thoughts before laying ink down in the Monokaki Notebook as well.

Despite my best intentions, at times, a few pages into a letter my handwriting can become a little — shall we say — unwieldy, and I believe this measure of spacing facilitates a certain amount of readability for the recipient. As with many paper types, the lines themselves fade into the background once the page is filled with words.

A little more on this in Writing Performance below.

Specifications

Courtesy Bookbinders Online:

  • Product: Yuga Letter Pad
  • Size: B5 – 180mm x 257mm
  • 50 Sheets
  • Paper: Cream (lightweight)
  • Type: 12mm spaced soft grey ruled lines
  • Source: Masuya, Asakusa Japan.
  • Price: AU $19.90

I’ve estimated previously the Masuya paper is around the 60 gsm mark, and have yet to find anything confirming this. Based on the known weights of other paper and Tomoe River at 52 gsm, as a ballpark figure that is certainly what it feels like, hopefully providing you with some idea of the lightweight nature of Masuya paper.

A little background on the origins of this paper, including how it was ”made for writers” can be found in the product details on the Bookbinders website.

Writing performance

After uncapping a fountain pen and writing those first few strokes, any concerns I had about whether the paper would be Monokaki notebook-like melted away immediately. It’s as good as it should be. As good as I expected. Why I had doubts in the first place I’m not sure – its Masuya paper after all.

In the end, my biggest challenge (if you could call it that) came in determining whether to overwrite each end of the pre-printed soft grey lines, given there is an invisible margin around the border where the line ruling stops more than 20mm from each end (okay, so I did measure it — 23mm if you must know). Each to their own here, however to close out this thought, I decided on about a 10mm left margin and will essentially write completely to the right hand end of the page.

Forgive my silly stream of consciousness as I was testing things…

Look, really, the paper is exactly as I found it in the notebook — much to my overwhelming joy! I’ve written about it before, it remains my favourite, so I will keep things brief.

There is a moderate amount of show-through with certain pens and inks; there is the perfect amount (that is, just enough) tooth for my liking, and remember – just about all of the descriptors you’d use for Tomoe River paper also apply here — as described after my first encounter with the paper in the Monokaki notebook:

Light weight paper, smooth without the slip, handles pretty much every ink and nib, a little show through yet no bleed or feathering.

Of course the difference here being the show through may or may not be an issue depending on whether you prefer to write on both sides of the paper. Although seen through the page, there are no printed lines on the reverse of each sheet, so it appears the manufacturer has a certain view on their preferred approach here.

My personal approach has always been to write on both sides of notebook pages regardless of show through, however with correspondence I generally do not. On the subject of the Yuga Letter Pad, this approach takes care of any show-through aversion you may have — just not perhaps the cost per sheet. Exactly how relevant that might be is a decision for you to make (further on this below).

A quick word on the concerns about line spacing I mentioned above. At 12mm spacing and 18 lines per page, the calculation to compare it with the 6mm, 34 lines per page Daiso Report Pad is fairly simple. Particularly when I tell you with the smaller spacing I only use every second line — rendering things near identical on this point.

Now is also a good time to take this comparison a little further.

Use case and a small comparison

Versus the cheap Daiso Report Pad

So how does it compare with the $2.80 Daiso B5 Complete Report Pad I have previously been using for correspondence for some time now? Based on price, the difference here is a significant order of magnitude to say the least.

With Daiso’s Report Pad containing 100 sheets at a $2.80 price point ($0.028 per sheet), something like the Yuga is never going to come close at $19.90 for 50 sheets ($0.40 per sheet). Now having done exactly that, I will say comparing them in such a way probably misses the point a little.

On that score, for a far better explanation on the concept of value, may I refer you to Dr Jonathon Deans on the Pen Economics Blog, (though on quite a different scale, insert notepad for pen here):

It’s also not possible to talk about actual vs perceived value, as all value is perceived: there is no innate, objective, actual value for us to measure. In more technical terms, value can be understood as how much you would be willing to pay for a pen, and there’s no objective way of saying a certain number is how much you should be willing to pay for a pen

So, in relation to the subject notepad in this post, I know what I’m willing to pay, however would certainly never assume to know what you, or anyone else should be willing to pay.

So by comparison, is the Yuga Letter Pad a significantly better experience?

For me personally? Absolutely yes. I’d even go further to say I would not have been surprised had it arrived at a $24.90 price point as opposed to the $19.90 it sits at currently. In the same breath, I would of course not necessarily enjoy paying more, however simply make this observation (at the same time imagining in my mind the good folk at Bookbinders saying: oh Peter, we’d never do that…)

Can that be quantified and applied to another user’s perspective? Perhaps, however quite a number of personal preferences and other factors would require accounting for with such an endeavour.

Then of course there is the far simpler: just go ahead and treat yourself approach. Certainly one I’ve been known to follow quite successfully. Far easier to do with a $20.00 notepad than a $200.00 pen of course (though admittedly — even easier with a $2.80 notepad…).

Having written about the more than capable and far cheaper Daiso Report Pad in a previous post, I still admire its ability for letter writing with a fountain pen at such a low price point. Of course in a blind side by side “what’s best” comparison, you’d pick the more expensive Yuga Letter Pad in an instant, however as I’ve alluded to above, that’s not the entire story.

Yes, the Yuga Letter Pad is definitely worth the money in my humble opinion, however at the end of the day, future letter-writing me will probably use both… or something else.

After all, there will be plenty of correspondence written in the years to come, and no doubt I’ll test out plenty of other paper during that time as well. So to conclude things here and perhaps confound this entire section just a little: Masuya paper is my favourite paper — simple as that.

In use

As for the overall use case of note paper like this — you can probably take its title in the most literal sense. This will sit on my desk, be intermittently filled with words and sent to those good friends who receive letters from me from time to time. I don’t think I’m really going to provide any novel suggestions here — nor do you need any. It’s a letter writing pad, and is perfectly suited to precisely that task.

Whereas something like a Rhodia No. 16 notepad may suit equally well for general note taking, testing your new inks or more formal written correspondence, the Yuga Letter Pad appears to have a somewhat more defined role. Of course you could use it for anything you like. I mean let’s face it — pages torn from a spiral notebook will just as easily carry your words across the globe in an envelope.

My intention here is to simply point out (again considering price point), you would not likely pick up the Yuga for scribbling down some random notes and a phone number. It will, however be more than capable for whatever you do throw at it.

Signing off

Having now arrived at this point of the post, I must invariably give you some final thoughts. Interestingly, the further I progressed through the post, I became increasingly unsure of what those might be.

Uncertainty not through any reservation about the paper or letter pad itself — nor the price for that matter. Which in the end I think is precisely the point. With so many options at just about every price point available these days, there really is no single answer. A post such as this will only ever end with the same recommendation: I love this paper, go buy it! So many choices, yet seemingly no choice all at the same time — that is, you simply have to go and buy some yourself, otherwise you’ll be missing out.

That, of course, is not really the case at all is it?

The other little voice in my ear? The cost benefit analysis when compared with cheaper paper as I’ve discussed above. If you are a Tomoe River paper buyer, you won’t bat an eyelid. If Rhodia is a stretch — then the price may give you momentary pause.

Any further assumptions on my part here would be a fool’s errand.

If you do choose to buy some, wield a fountain pen with any great regularity, and correspond with others who do the same, send a few blank sheets with your next letter. I’m sure the recipient will thank you.

In closing, I will say the Yuga Letter Pad is a high quality, well designed and constructed correspondence notepad with wonderful paper (did I mention it’s my favourite?) for the fountain pen user. Although not a budget option, in my opinion belies its price point ever so slightly — and for me at least — that’s value.

For you? Good question…

What’s Brewing: Volcan Azul Natural – Costa Rica

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Image courtesy Wolff Coffee Roasters

One of the many benefits in having close and dear friends in the coffee industry is what follows shortly after the statement: “we’ve got something coming in you’ve gotta try”. Queue something a little special by Wolff Coffee Roasters having made its way to our friends at The Wired Owl Coffee Co in Sandgate.

On this occasion? A naturally processed coffee from Costa Rica, produced by Alejo Castro under the Volcan Azul name, which itself has a long history in the global coffee industry:

At the end of the 19th century, when coffee production was in its early beginnings in America, without knowing it, two pioneers and entrepreneurs, Alejo C. Jiménez in Costa Rica and Wilhelm Kahle in the south of Mexico, shared the same dream: “To produce the best coffee in the world” to satisfy the new demanding European gourmet market.

More than a century has passed and today the fourth and fifth generations of descendants of these visionary farmers still produce coffee within the same ideals of excellency and top quality that inspired their ancestors. They produce one of the best pure coffees of the world with its Brand “F.C.J. Volcan Azul” on the slopes of the Poás Volcano in Costa Rica.

Information courtesy Volcan Azul – Tradition

The coffee inside the brightly labelled Wolff Roasters bag certainly carries such an esteemed tradition with distinction.

This is a seriously tasty coffee, masterfully roasted by the folk at Wolff, and will also be used by competitors at this year’s 2017 QLD Aeropress Championships. I can’t help but think the judges are certainly in for a treat that day.

Upon grinding, there is a brown sugar aroma with a hint of orange and lemon zest. Consumed as espresso, there is a lovely caramelised sweetness, medium body, and a bright citrus zing. A sweet, fresh and delightful cup — think sweet lemon tart.

When prepared as a flat white, the added sweetness and viscosity of the milk really makes this coffee shine. This one is the full lemon meringue pie — that is the honest truth. I’m the first to admit not all of the flavours listed on coffee bags always find their way into my cup, (mostly likely a combination of brewing differences and simply my palate being responsible for that). This one, however, is exactly as it says on the tin:

The pleasantly sweet aftertaste reminds us of meringue with hints of vanilla. With milk, the Volcán Azul is creamy and biscuity, with hints of lemon curd.

I mean it — a lemon meringue pie in a six-ounce cup. Not only that, but a perfect way to sneak in dessert for breakfast. A winner all round I say. I was even tempted to over-aerate my milk just to get that meringue look on top, but hey, this isn’t the 90’s anymore…

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Breakfast is served

Of course I don’t expect you to take my word for it, and if you are on Brisbane’s Northside, pop in and grab a bag from The Wired Owl (227 Rainbow St, Sandgate), or Wolff Roasters (140 Gerler Rd, Hendra). The Wolff online store is also just a click away — wherever you are.

My Pick? Visit Aaron at The Wired Owl, and depending on what is featured as the single origin that day — he might even make you a cup.

Whatever your taste preferences, this is certainly a great one to try. Get some while you can!

The Coffee Podcast

I’ve been very much enjoying The Coffee Podcast recently, which has served up some very compelling topics and guests from the coffee industry in recent episodes — none more so than the current two-part series featuring James Hoffmann.

Add to that a discussion on the Swiss Water decaf process (Episode 87), another on the relevance and application of genetics in coffee (Episode 88), and the breadth and depth of show content really shines through.

I particularly enjoyed the episode on genetics, given it provided some great follow-up to a little reading I did on the topic a few years ago, which at the time was the stimulus for this post. This episode will provide you with a better understanding of the critical role genetics is playing — and will play — in the sustainability and very survival of speciality coffee as we know it today, along with the great work being done by the folk at World Coffee Research.

Speaking of which, Specialty Coffee Association Executive Director Ric Rhineheart provides his thoughts on what specialty coffee actually is in Episode 81. Then, as you can imagine, I could not go past Episode 85 with US Roasting Champion Mark Michaelson.

Thought provoking, very entertaining, yet educational at the same time, if you enjoy coffee and yearn for a little more insight, The Coffee Podcast is well worth a listen. As the show’s Who We Are page will tell you:

Our Focus is People, our Language is Coffee

Check out the webpage for more information on episodes and topics which may be of interest, hosts Weston Peterson and Jesse Hartman, and download links. Alternatively, search for “The Coffee Podcast” in your podcast client of choice (my preferred being Pocket Casts).

Happy listening (and learning).

Restocking – a trip to Bookbinders

Although I’ve posted an image to Instagram from yesterday’s visit to the Bookbinders store on Brisbane’s Northside, readers of the blog and my social media following are not one and the same, so I thought I’d share a couple of things in a brief post.

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It was my second visit to the actual store itself — such a wonderful, calming space amid the chaos of rainy Friday afternoon traffic. The Bookbinders team do a fantastic job, stocking great products and provide outstanding customer service. It was great to hear business is strong, with foot traffic continuing to increase at the store itself.

It is definitely worth a visit if you have yet to do so, and of course if you already have, you don’t need me to encourage you to return — I’m sure that is inevitable.

Though it wasn’t a big haul by any stretch, the few key items on my list were ticked off.

Coffee drinking and roasting logs

I’ve written in a recent post about my thoughts and plans for recording my coffee roasting data, and the main reason for the visit was to pick up the new 33 Roasts log from the 33 Books series.

My only concern (immediately alleviated upon closer inspection) was whether the log contained units in degrees celsius as well as Fahrenheit (being a US publication). All good to go here, with units in celsius appearing on the R hand axis of the roast graph. Key details from each of my roasts will end up in a spreadsheet, and the entire notebook contents scanned, indexed and saved for safe keeping and easy search (perhaps a post for another day).

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A few drops of coffee in the ink is a nice touch

My coffee drinking habits? Well why not 33 Log those as well? When out, I use a modified version of this Day One / Launch Center Pro template (also available as Workflow app action if that is your preference) to rate the beverages cafes serve me, however when at home I’d like to record a little more often in relation to drinking what I’ve roasted myself. The 33 Cups of Coffee log seems like a good way to go here.

Upon completion, these will also be scanned, and I’m thinking perhaps the 4 and 5 star rated cups are worthy of indexing for future reference. I’ll give that one a little more thought.

 

Writing

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Though 40 pages less, a considerable reduction in paper weight from the Life Symphony to the Monokaki

One of the most pleasing aspects of visiting the store was seeing the healthy stock of Monokaki notebooks, which still remain my all-time favourite. Previous posts about those? Yes — here and here if you are interested. Having passed my 50% rule (that is, of usage in my current notebook before searching for another), it wasn’t a hard choice as to what I’d pick up next.

The masuya paper contained therein is a perfect mash-up of Tomoe River-like weight with a little more tooth to the nib. Just the way I like it. In order to share my fondness, some of that very paper will also be going out in handwritten correspondence from the Yuga Letter Pad I picked up as well.

Signing off

Given this was never intended to be a lengthy post, in closing, I think we are very lucky to have the Bookbinders team not only based in Brisbane, but having a brick and mortar presence as well. They are wonderful people with a passion for the industry — something well worth supporting as a consumer.

Happy writing, roasting and drinking.

Selfish writing

A good few posts here on the site reference learning as one of the key reasons for commencing this blog and indeed carrying on to this point — some four years later. A noble goal — or at the very least — a reasonable basis for applying a little effort towards producing content.

Over that time period, I’ve been through various phases and feelings about writing here. Beginners nerves (which merely evolve into more experienced nerves upon hitting “publish”); gaining some, then wanting more readers; realising more posts gain more readers and writing them; burning out a little, and realising 20% less monthly readers affords 80% (if not more) better balance. Blogging as a hobby really should not be a chore.

Now? I’m quite content with how things are. Thanks for asking.

Accompanying the passage of time has been a realisation the knowledge I gain through researching, reading, and organising my thoughts on various topics and posts is indeed quite valuable to me. It is however, secondary to something far more important. Something I perhaps didn’t anticipate, understand, nor fully appreciate until now. Something inherently more selfish, which far outweighs the learning — and indeed sharing — of knowledge by a significant order of magnitude. It is probably also time to own up to that truth.

When all is said and done, I’m really just writing here for my own sanity. Plain and simple.

The longer I do this, the more I realise the predominant, though unintended (yet most welcome) benefit of all this is the process of writing, and the switch-off it affords from most other goings-on while I’m doing it. Even better? The option at any time to not do it for a while — whether by choice or circumstance — and return when I choose.

Should this really come as much of a surprise? Probably not, and is simply a classic case of forest for the trees if ever there was one, however I am glad to be a little more aware of such a welcome reality.

Undoubtedly this is probably not a surprise to anyone who writes in a similar way, unencumbered by deadlines, contracts or commitments. Then again, who am I to assume — perhaps those who write for a living feel the same way, although I suspect there is at least some additional burden on the minds of those who do.

Maybe arriving at this point was inevitable, and I was simply unaware of it when starting out. After all, those sayings don’t lie do they. You know them: the process not the outcome; the journey, not the destination; the writing, not the readers.

I’ve taken some liberty in including that last one, and to explain further, you — the reader — are extremely important to me of course. I simply realise doing my best to provide readable content which may (hopefully) be helpful or provide value in some small way is part of the process, may be an outcome, however is not stoking the fire as it once was. Or at least as I thought it was.

So, have I been lying to you all this time?

I’d say no, however perhaps no more so to you, the reader, than to myself. Let’s think of it merely an oversight rather than outright deception. What next then? Well, I guess there is nothing to do but continue, and do so in the knowledge at the heart of these pages lies an intrinsic motivation which will likely keep me writing far longer than any extrinsic reward.

For that, I am extremely grateful — as I am to you, for reading.