Having my very own Cafe is a dream I will one day turn into a reality.
My love-affair with a good cup of java in a neighbourhood cafe began many years ago. In truth, it wasn’t love-at-first-sight. No, my appreciation for this roasted-bean drink, and the experience that can accompany it, came in stages.
Like many Canadians, my first experience with coffee was a Double-Double from Tim Horton’s. I tasted it while growing up, and adamantly declared that I would never drink coffee. It tasted horrible, stained your teeth and made your breath smell. Nope, I was never going to pick up that nasty habit.
Then came the evenings in rez when I would stay up until 4 or 5am writing essays. There was a Tim Horton’s connected to our building and my roommate and I would buy 2 Large coffees each. One for now, and one to heat up later in the microwave.
Yes, this is how I began drinking coffee. It began as a simple need to have energy, and eventually grew to a once-a-day tradition to grab a Timmies on my way to class.
But, beyond that kick of energy, my attachment to coffee, and the place who sold it, was limited. I soon became a coffee whore: getting my fix wherever I could, whether that be Second Cup, Starbucks or the corner store.
Stage 2: The experience
By second year, I had expanded my coffee repertoire. I enjoyed flavoured lattes from Starbucks and Second Cup, and even began taking my coffee with “just milk”. It got to the point that I was drinking so much coffee I would get the shakes by mid-day. After a particularly shaky day, I decided to take a break. I cut coffee out of my life for good!
But of course, like all “adult” University students, my friends and I would study together and “grab a coffee” during our break, or head to “get coffee” to chat. I would still go on these adventures, but would opt to get tea instead. It was during these times that I began to realize that getting a coffee was so much more than the beverage.
When we would head to Tim Horton’s just to “grab a coffee”, I always left feeling as though I had been let-down: my friends were all drinking delicious coffees while I got a tea bag and hot water and was on my way. But, when we went to Second Cup, there was so much more. They had seating so we would always pick out a cozy spot, sometimes squeezing 4 of us at a 2-person table. There we would be among other students in a cozy atmosphere, drinking our beverages and listening to “chill-cafe music”. It was during this time in my life that my addiction to Cafe hangouts began.
One summer I moved to Calgary to live with my Dad and save money. I (foolishly) decided to work two jobs. One as a server and one working mornings at a Starbucks.
It was at Starbucks that I began to educate myself about coffee. I had no idea all of the ways my consumption of coffee would affect the environment. I was astonished.
I was also encouraged to try different coffees, get to know their flavour, and experiment with flavour shots. The options were endless, and during my short (3 months) employment at Starbucks, my enjoyment of a cup-of-java began to blossom into something more.
It was here that I also began to realize the effect I had on the people who ordered from us.
There was the woman who came every Monday and ordered a Whole-Milk Vanilla Double Latte. There was also the man who always got a Venti Americano, and it got the point that we never had to ask what he wanted. I learned some of these individuals’ names, and would sometimes be fortunate enough to hear a happy story from their weekend. Even though we were in the middle of the financial district in a big city, these people came into our Starbucks, and for five minutes stopped worrying about what was outside our doors. Coming to Starbucks was a ritual that they enjoyed.
Like many individuals, I can’t help but get frustrated about corporations taking over the little-guys. I (guiltily) still enjoy a Starbucks beverage once or twice a week, but I also make an effort to explore the smaller Cafes in my area. After working at Starbucks, I went back to Ottawa excited to visit Cafes there. So, for the remaining 2 years in Ottawa, I would walk to different Cafes and sit down to enjoy a tea or coffee and sometimes a treat. I loved the way Bridgehead made a design ontop of my Soy Latte. I enjoyed going to Wild Oat Cafe & Bakery in the Glebe to have a vegetarian meal to accompany my Americano and vegan cupcake.
I began to plan out my weekends, researching the Cafes in my area and planning–in advance–what I was going to order. Sadly, this was before my days of blogging, and before Instagram, so I have no evidence of this obsession.
But take it from me, there was nothing better than trekking through the snow, and finding a spot by a window in an adorable cafe, and just watching people walk by outside. I loved when they had free WiFi so I could do school work, or sometimes I would just sit with my book and enjoy being around people.
Stage 5: Realization
Since those days in University, my favourite places to be have always been Cafes. I always suggest meeting for coffee, getting a quick drink or “just chatting” at my favourite cafe in the area; it’s coffee culture.
While living in Edmonton, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to another level of Coffee Culture. The amount of independent Cafes are astounding: Transcend Coffee, The Good Earth Cafe & Bakery, Credo Coffee, Elm Cafe, Leva Cappuccino Bar and Remedy Cafe just to name a few. Each Cafe had their own specialty, their own niche they catered to, and it worked. I was never bored in Edmonton, and soon began to realize what I liked, and didn’t like, about the Cafes I frequented. Some places had an amazing beverage (Chai latte from Remedy Cafe), but lacked in atmosphere; while other places had a great atmosphere, but their products left a lot to be desired. But, as a whole, it was here in Edmonton that I realized the importance of late hours.
I have since traveled for 3 months in Europe, and expanded my knowledge of Coffee Culture in different countries and visited many different Cafes with different concepts.
Since living in Toronto I’ve had some very disappointing Cafe experiences. On one occasion the staff was so uninviting that I left feeling as though I would have rather walked 10 more minutes to Starbucks. On many occasions, I have been let-down with early closing hours.
I have an understanding of what a Cafe can mean to people who visit them. Sometimes it’s a place to work, for others it’s a place to escape. At times, it’s a place to be around people without having to commit to a conversation. Your neighbourhood Cafe should feel like a friends home, a place you’re always welcome and should be heavily involved in the community. It should have great music, great decor, and even greater coffee. These are the traits I think a Cafe should have, and that is what my very own Cafe would be.
I’m not saying it’s going to happen tomorrow, or even within the next 5 years, but I have come to the realization that having my very own Cafe is a dream I will one day turn into a reality.