Field trip to the Glebe

Nothing like a boutique espresso, from people that roast their own...


Somewhat further outside the (alleged) box

Tuesday, June --, 200-.

On the way
to a familiar place
they left,
turned left,
somewhat further
outside the

ordered tuna maki
and perrier
and praised the sushi
sucked bubble tea
through a straw
-- mango? --
chewed dark gummy bubbles
with contemplative difficulty
puzzling out
their obscure flavour,
then opined,
'possibly blackcurrent';

It was a point of honour
not to ask the waitress,
who was Lucy Liu in a
Shanghai cowgirl outfit
taking an
incognito night
off from the
Hollywood rat race;

All present
cheered themselves
for leaving
comfort zones
blue and green walls,
there may
have been
sufficient caffeine
in the bubble tea,
and only trace amounts
of lead
in the Perrier.


Solo III

Wednesday, June -, 20-

Independent c-shop


Last time I was in the UK I noticed an upsurge in coffeeshops
I remember a place that used to roast coffee and the smell was wonderful, out in the street
When I was a boy
I used to walk by there on the way to school
One of those childhood memories
Then coffee went the way of... everything went to instant
Instant coffee bars, Nescafe and this stuff with crystals
I left the UK in my early twenties

Starbucks over there a lot now
A lot of these chains
Yeah they’re starting to do real coffee again
It’s not just about the coffee, it’s going in, sitting down, reading the newspaper
Everything comes back around again
There’s nothing new
Samuel Johnson
My memories of Turkish coffee
The smaller the cup, the stronger the coffee

One place we were looking for ping pong balls
Try to explain ping pong balls to
We decided to send a couple of kids to look for them, pay the kids to
A girl who was six and a boy who was probably three
Talked to the parents and they shoved the boy forward, he was clueless
We wanted the girl to go
Finally managed to explain to the parents what we wanted
Five Egyptian pounds, their eyes were wide
We walked by the store, how’d they know there were ping pong balls here
Anyway we saw the kids later walking up with baskets of kale and greens
Obviously spent their five pounds
Interesting how they kept pushing the boy forward
Nothing wrong with having the girl do it
Encourage equality wherever possible

I remember went in for a shave
There was a little kid with a cutthroat razor
I was a little perturbed
What’s your name, son, Sweeney?
It was a very close shave, a good shave

Even if you’re aware of the local customs, you’re not always aware of what your travelling companions are doing or not doing, so that can be a problem


Solo II

Tuesday, June -, 20-

Ottawa South BH


He was one of the original investors, did you know?

Back when

put some money in

at the time

coffeeshops in Toronto are getting really...

Bye Jennifer

Bye Tim, thank you!

like, the most expensive coffee in the world

huh huh huh huh huh huh ha ha ha ha ha



I wasn't

like what happened with wine

people with lots of money who are looking for

Tim Horton's has their customers, they're loyal

a dollar sixty seven for a small why not?

oh yeah and when I travel I look for them, I know what I'm going to get

she might be coming back now because she asked me

I can't stay at my friend's house anymore


she phoned

well anyway


Caffeine IV: Strange Brew

Second Cup has been on the Canadian upscale coffee scene since 1975, with mixed success. Perhaps it comes by its name because it gets things half-right, so needs two cups to fill expectations. In general, the Second Cup experience falls somewhere between Starbucks and Tim Hortons. It sells coffee at upscale prices, but pinches pennies obviously - a cabal of stringent bean counters offering astringent beans.

Since the early part of this decade, it's been owned first by Cara Operations - caterer to students and airlines - and later something called Dinecorp Hospitality, headed by a former Cara CEO. The affiliations may not inspire confidence among current and former Cara-feteria diners, aware of Cara's parsimony. Food was all 'bidness' and mouths were mere units. So, Cara and luxury coffee may appear to be a schizophrenic match, and in fact the Second Cup experience reflects this in some ways.

In Ottawa, the chain often matches Starbucks outlets corner for street corner, but seems to be trying to do it on a more restrained budget. Certainly Second Cups have the the iconic large espresso pumps, and many are possessed of large potted plants and big comfy chairs grouped around gas fireplaces. These are nice touches for people looking for a cosy little upscale experience for the price of a coffee. Inside, correct colours have been carefully selected by decorating consultants, staff are personable, but the spaces remain feeling barer and acoustically more live than is desirable. For the Ultra Cosmic Top Sekrit Project to succeed, acoustics are important. The Second Cup's distract. True luxury enfolds one in discrete muting. If one accepts the proposition that upscale is warm, the gestalt here is cooler than it should be, even for Marshall McLuhan.

And Second Cup's current logo, like its retail spaces, sports a somewhat stripped feel. Earlier logo iterations were gold leaf on darker backgrounds, often in three-dimensional carved wood. Artistically, they looked edgier and more stylized. An interim version attempted to duplicate the wood in thick Styrofoam. Closer than, say, five metres, it looked like the cheese it was. The current minimalist version is a one-dimensional, bland, over-homogenized pabulum of commercial art cliches that substitutes painted drop shadows for actual depth.

SC's trademark brew bouquet is emblematic also: it's a lighter roast than that favoured by Starbucks - thinner-bodied, fruitier and more acidic on the palate. In earlier times, espresso drinks sometimes tasted of coffee tinted dishwater, rather than the requisite velvet darkness, because baristas drew so inconsistently. Latter-day coffee machines may have cured this, but as in the case of Starbucks, automation reduces the luxurious sense that a skilled artisan is crafting a small treasure just for you.