Summer Fun Food and Drink 2009 – Chapter 4 Vancouver coffee report

Drink Beer When Coffee Fails You - and it will fail youOne of the advantages of spending 4 or 5 days doing nothing other than visiting coffee shops (away from home town) is:

You get a really good sense of what is going on in other major centers and you get an unconditional view.

Photo at rightdrink beer for those times that coffee lets you down… and trust me, it lets you down.

And what I mean by unconditional is…

I can sample the wares of the city and (other than 1, maybe 2 spots) I am an utter unknown – just another middle aged guy sipping coffee.
No one knows or cares that I write about coffee culture – so I am not going to get any special treatment… pretty much guaranteed.

And if I was to boil down the cafe experience (anywhere) and address a roomful of individuals interested in doing the same (citizen journalism on cafe culture), I could come up with 3 of the most common scenarios when anonymously visiting a specialty coffee shop:

Engaged – Visiting AGRO for the first time, I found an interesting, interested and enthusiastic staff – who, even during my first cup of coffee, were asking how I liked it, describing some of its lineage and then following up with some personal stories of staff coffee travels. That is what I would describe as a fully engaged cafe.

Disengaged – Ever get the feeling you are walking into someones private party when you visit some of the more popular destination cafes in North America? Yea, the coffee is great – but there is still a house party going on around you. Staff are talking amongst themselves about one aspect of cafe culture or another… but not really interested in the experience you are having… beyond taking your money and serving you their brew. I call this the Barista Jam Cafe
There are several places in Victoria like this – you know where they are from personal experience – but you do not name names – at least online.

Grab bags – This kind of cafe is hit and miss. It is noted for great coffee, but only when the owner manager is around. No manager or owner (around) and it is anybodies guess what happens here. The clear majority of coffee joints I visit in North America are like this – but that, in part, has a lot to do with the way I travel and review promising coffee places.

Ok. So three groups. I would appreciate feedback. What have you, the readers, noted?