Category Archives: Coffee Shops

Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop

Written by Lori Thiessen

Ah, good ol’ Tim Horton’s. Timmy’s. T-Ho. No matter what name you call it, it’s a Canadian institution.

I was taking in a couple of Christmas concerts by two amazing homegrown choirs, Vancouver Cantata Singers and Musica Intima in downtown Vancouver on Saturday. (PS. The BC Govt has cut 81% of its funding to the arts. Support your local arts!)

I had some time to spend between the concerts and there was a Tim Horton’s nearby, as luck and capitalist empire building would have it.

Since it is the Christmas season and it’s traditional to be a little short on cash at this time of year, I decided that going to Timmy’s was the best option.

I wandered up to the counter, order a small black coffee and a low-fat cranberry muffin. The clerk asked me if I wanted milk or cream or sugar.  Apparently, you have to ask for cream or milk at the time of ordering.  Neither condiment is available anywhere else in the shop.

The coffee was fine. Not great but fine. The muffin was dry, but then that’s to be expected of a low-fat muffin.

The shop itself was fairly consumer industrial: plastic everything in colours that don’t quite suit my taste. But it was warm and dry plus there was food and drink at low prices.

I think that’s the critical point about Tim’s: coffee at low prices. Where else can you get a cup of coffee for less than $2 these days?

Q: Do you prefer Tim Horton’s or Starbucks? Why?

Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

Village Coffee Lounge

Written by Lori Thiessen

A friend and I met for coffee the other week at a coffee shop neither one of us had been to before.

On Twelfth Street in New Westminster (a suburb of Vancouver), is the Village Coffee Lounge.

It is quite a small place but with a real homey atmosphere. There is an old upright piano resting comfortably in the back. Brass instruments adorn the walls. Live music concerts take place here from time to time. Phone to find out when the next event will be happening:  (604) 522-8567‎.

There is a table inlaid with a checkerboard for those who want to play checkers or chess. Most of the other furniture is a mish-mash of styles, ages and rickety-ness. Very charming.

My friend tried the hot chocolate and I tried the maple spice latte. Though my friend didn’t comment on her hot chocolate, I must say that the maple spice latte was wonderful.

It is a regular cappucino but made with maple syrup, nutmeg and other spices and topped with a dusting of brown sugar.

I also had a zucchini muffin which was moist and flavourful.  I’ve never seen a zucchini muffin anywhere else so it must be freshly made by either the owner or a local baker.

We spent about an hour there and I was heartened to notice that people kept popping in and out; a city workman, a senior gentleman, a young mother, a courier, among others chose this small, unassuming place to get their mid-morning pick-me-up.

You can find the Village Coffee Lounge at:

705 12th Street, New Westminster, BC V3M 4J7

(604) 522-8567‎
I’m planning on going back again soon. Perhaps I’ll see you there!
Until Next Time,
May your coffee always be freshly brewed!

A Yen For Coffee

Written by Lori Thiessen

When I think of Japan, I have a tourist’s romantic view. Visions of kimono-clad ladies, cherry trees in full-bloom, the beautiful and elaborate tea ceremony cloud the reality of modern Japanese life. Apparently, coffee drinking has become quite fashionable there. In fact, Japan is the 3rd largest importer of coffee, just behind the USA and Germany.

The Dutch brought coffee to Japan in the late 1800’s. The Japanese found it appropriate to drink coffee, considering it is a Western drink, when discussing Western topics. But these days, the Japanese prize coffee for itself and for the caffeine boost.

Coffee is available in many ways in Japan; through vending machines, and coffee shops called kissaten. The Japanese brew their coffee strong and they don’t generally offer milk for those who are faint of heart.

Starbucks began their conquest of Japan in 1996 and they set a new standard in coffee quality. More and more Japanese coffee drinkers are demanding higher quality in their coffee and they are willing to pay for it. A cup of coffee at a kissaten can cost as much as $8.00US.

But there are more coffee chains alive and well in Japan other than Starbucks. Doutor Coffee is one of the biggest coffee shop chains and it is Japanese owned. It serves coffee priced well below Starbucks and there is a shop at nearly every train station.  As for other chains there are Beck’s, Tully’s and Caffe Veloce all which are there to serve and encourage the Japanese taste for coffee.

But coffee is more than just a taste, it is a performance in some upscale cafe’s. Here is a video of the now popular syphon method which was derived from the old vacuum style of brewing coffee. Enjoy!

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Until Next Time,

May Your Coffee Always Be Freshly Brewed!

Cuban Coffee Culture

Written Lori Thiessen

Dear Readers,

I’ve been away in Cuba for a holiday and also to check out the coffee culture in Cuba. I must say it wasn’t nearly as obvious as I imagined. Coffee is available everywhere in most hotels and restaurants, but I didn’t see too many coffee shops.

There was one coffee shop near to my hotel on 23rd Street and the Avenue of the Presidents. It served quite a decent cuban coffee which was like an extra strong espresso. The cost of the tiny cup of concentrated coffee was $1 CUC (convertible pesos).

While I was at this coffee shop, I saw groups of university students huddled around tables talking earnestly about issues. Considering that Havana is a university town, it only makes sense that this kind of scene would occur.

In general, Cubans enjoy a rather potent cup of coffee and the more timid coffee drinker should be prepared to add hot water, lots of sugar and milk to tame it.

Unfortunately, I was in Cuba for only a week and so I didn’t get to explore Havana as I would have liked to.  But from what I did see, coffee isn’t nearly as prominent a beverage as say, aqua minerale and coca-cola.

However, I think that I should re-confirm my observations by taking another trip to Cuba! 🙂

A pronto!

Sharing a Cuppa with Those Who Need It

Written by Lori Thiessen

As Dickens’ writes in A Christmas Carol: “At this festive season of the year, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor . . . “.

On bitterly cold days, a cup of coffee just to wrap your fingers around is wonderful. Just think what a street person would think about having just a little bit of heat anywhere on his body.

So here are just a few ideas about sharing a little caffe culture with those who really need some help:

  • Donate generously to your local outreach program
  • Become involved in serving Christmas dinner through an outreach program
  • Approach your local caffeinated watering hole and see if they would be open to donating some of their black gold and goodies to an outreach program
  • Get some of your friends together, brew up some coffee and tea, make some rib sticking sandwiches and distribute them to people in need
  • When a street person approaches you for some money to get some food and drink, give them some

A friend of mine is organizing a blanket drive among our group and we will deliver them directly to those who need them.

It’s not a solution to this problem but it will provide some temporary relief to a few individuals which is better than doing nothing at all.

Please give the gift of warmth to those who desperately need it.

Thank you.

Coffee and Current Events

Written by Lori Thiessen

When you stop by a coffee shop today, it isn’t unusual to have access to a free copy of today’s local papers and perhaps a few free community ones.

The 5th estate was born out of coffeehouses of the 17th century. Since the coffeehouse was the place for news gathering and sharing (or gossiping some wags would have it), it seemed natural that newsletters would soon pop up. And they did.

Some coffeemen would write, print and publish newssheets of their own and others would take a subscription to several. Anything was permissible in the coffeehouse newssheet so long as it sold subscriptions. Though if you did offend your readers, they wouldn’t hesitate in taking you, the writer out the back and beat you to a pulp without much ado.

In Brian Cowan’s book The Social Life of Coffee, a coffeeman was getting information from a parliamentary clerk and selling the information through his coffeehouse in 1664.

Apparently, it was not uncommon for 17th century people to have more than one income stream. The coffee business didn’t pay terribly well and additional sources of revenue needed to be sought out. Government clerks, postmasters, and even some king’s messengers were all in positions to have access to sensitive information and they sold that information to coffeemen so that both parties increased their meager incomes.

It wasn’t only local news that interested coffeehouse patrons but also news from abroad. Paris, Amsterdam, Leiden, Rotterdam, Haarlem and Flanders were a few places from which many coffeehouses received newspapers.

Information, news, gossip, education call it what you will but facts (true or otherwise) was a great way to draw customers into the coffeehouse.

Q: Would you go to one coffee shop more than another if it supplied more newspapers both locally and internationally?

Until Next Time,

May your coffee always be freshly brewed!

Coffeehouses, Democracy and Furniture

Written by Lori Thiessen

When coffeehouses first started in 17th London they were a very different social place than anywhere else. The pub and the church were the main social spaces. These spaces were regulated very strictly, the upper class and lower classes had specific places. Now the squire or lord of the area share a bevvie with his tenants in the lower area of the pub, but chances are he’d rather meet with the other higher ups of the area in the upper rooms.

When the coffeehouse appeared, it was so new that nobody could work out how the social hierarchy should occupy the space. So everybody just mucked in. Lords and underlings rubbed elbows for the first time. The coffeehouse was the first place where equality and democracy was avidly talked about and practiced.

In fact, the coffeehouse was such a well-known place for discussing republican ideals that Charles the II tried shutting them down on suspicion of sedition. He didn’t succeed.

The furniture that was developed for the coffeehouse actually contributed greatly to bringing democracy to life in England. The pub had small tables and chairs, but some of the larger coffeehouses had long tables where you could sit wherever you liked. There was no such thing as reservations. It was first come, first serve. Shocking notions for 17th century England.

There was a debating club called The Rota, and it met at Turk’s Head Coffeehouse. A piece of furniture was designed for the members of this club. It was a U-shaped table so that the coffee boys could refill the cups of the membership with having to lean over them. Rather like a latter day version of King Arthur’s round table. The word-meisters among you will recognize that the word Rota is Latin for wheel which implies roundness, no one is higher than another, everyone taking his turn. Democratic ideas, indeed.

Mind you, the coffeehouse began as the place for the avant garde of 17th English aristocracy to show off their hip-ness to new trends. If you were a social climbing wanna-be, then you marched yourself over to the nearest coffeehouse to rub shoulders with these gatekeepers of style and influence. If you were happy to be a drunken yokel, then the local tavern was your hang-out.

When Starbucks began in the 1980’s, there was a certain cache value to patronizing this new, hip re-invention of the coffeehouse. Certain coffee shops attract a certain customer, for example a Tim Horton’s customer can be different to the kind of person who prefers a really funky independent coffee shop.

But discussions on all varieties of topics still take place at coffee shops, even political ones.

Q: Do you make judgments about a person’s station in life, attitudes, etc. based on the coffee shop they go to most often? Does it matter to you which coffee shop you frequent?

Until Next Time,

May your coffee always be freshly brewed!