Good Canadian coffee has so far remained elusive. I ‘follow’ someone calling themselves “@coffeevancouver” on Twitter, and from his (or her) tweets, I assume he’s not guilty of this. The bit of Canada I have seen this week (a looooooooooong way from Vancouver, admittedly) has some unexpectedly bad coffee. ‘Third Wave’ coffee shops have not reached Saskatchewan just yet.
The Canadian staple is Tim Hortons. In fact, New Boss took me there on my first morning in Regina, to check out the competition. They had espresso coffees and also plenty of ‘brewed’ coffee. By brewed, they mean filtered, or ‘drip’ to Americans, and he recommended I had a small brewed because anything larger wasn’t stomachable. It wasn’t too bad, but then it wasn’t too good either. I have to admit, I didn’t take much notice of the espresso. What I was pleased to find was the lack of instant coffee in Regina! Even Mr Sub, opposite the new cafe, had vile but filtered coffee machines. Instant coffee was just Not Done. (I was sent in as a spy to Mr Sub, as New Boss had already made himself persona non grata there since he might possibly steal their trade. Gourmet blend was shitinamug, 100% Colombian was stale but passable)
Kave Haz, hopefully my new employer, aims to provide something completely different. They wanted to set up a European style coffee shop; New Boss’s wife is Hungarian (hence the name) and they have a Hungarian chef doing amazing pastries there. And they like my accent!! heh, Well someone’s got to I suppose. Unfortunately, a ‘European’ cafe apparently has to involve “Italian” coffee. This means, very dark roasted blends including robusta. Worse, it did not mean proper Gaggia espresso machines with which to make it. Perhaps understandably, New Boss bought simple-looking machines, bean-to-cups or “superautomatics” as the Canadians call them, because he does not know how to use a Gaggia, and he certainly couldn’t train other wannabe baristas how to use one. And if he did, he wouldn’t need me!! So I shouldn’t complain I guess. But I did, loudly.
What was more interesting was that New Boss certainly wasn’t alone in his insistance on super-automatics. I went to as many coffee shops as I could to check out the competition, and only found ONE which had a proper manual Gaggia. Their coffee was ok (I had it iced because that day was stonkingly hot) but nothing spectacular. But all the rest had these bean-to-cup machines, Tim Hortons, Starbucks and all the independents I came across as well. I tried to explain that virtually everywhere, certainly the vast majority of independent places as well as Costa and Caffe Nero in the UK all use proper Gaggias, but this was an alien concept apparently. I hope the penny dropped when the maintenance guy from the bean-to-cup machine company came round saying he’d just had to fix an identical machine at MacDonalds down the road. With one of those machines, you can only ever do MacDonalds coffee. The barista does get enough control over the espresso, too many of the variables are automated. The advantage is, they prevent against human error, which is great when you’re starting out, and do not have trained staf. The disadvantage is, you can never get outstanding coffee – that requires human skill.
You never know, by the time I get out there to start work (hopefully, in a few months time) New Boss may have seen the light and installed me a nice big shiny Nuova Simonelli