“Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.” – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) The Coffee Cantata
I often get called on the fact that I am a coffee snob. Let’s get one thing straight:
Throughout my life and weight loss journey, I have had to give up a number of things that have given me pleasure throughout. These things include:
- Quality microbrewed beer
- Quality whisk(e)ys
- Carbonated beverages (ooh gas pains in a reduced stomach – NOT a good feeling!)
- Fried foods and sweets
- French fries (see above)
So as far as “vices” go, I have one thing left in my life: coffee.
The plus side is that coffee is calorie free, for the most part – it’s the additions to the coffee that add to the caloric and fat count. The bottom side is that coffee is high in caffiene, which is an irritant to the stomach and can lead to/exacerbate ulcers if consumed in large quantities (again with a reduced stomach size, NOT good, I’ve been hospitalized once due to a bleeding ulcer and don’t want to again).
So for me, coffee is a “once a day” item. I try to have a decaf if more than one is necessary or desired, or else space multiple coffees out with a meal or two in between. However due to my stomach’s peccadillos and reduced appetite, I am only able to put a small amount of ANY substance in at once, so I want it to be good and worthy of taking up the space for whatever period of time it takes to work through my system.
HENCE my coffee snobbery.
Little known fact: I grew up in Ajax, Ontario, which is where Nabob Coffee has its main roasting plant. My childhood is filled with memories of the smell of roasting coffee in the winter air. This is compounded by years commuting past the plant every morning en route to Toronto from 1992 to 2003 and smelling beautiful roasting coffee every morning! The smell of roasting or freshly roasted coffee has a particularly special place in my heart.
Another little known fact: Despite my love of coffee as an adult, I hated or merely tolerated it as The Parental Units couldn’t (and honestly still can’t) brew a good cup of coffee – it’s either too week, stale or burnt tasting. This lasted until I had my first taste of a really good coffee in, of all places, Las Vegas, NV. At the time, a $9.00 cup of coffee seemed to be obscene and I wanted to see what it would taste like. I splurged and it tasted good.
Hamilton, Ontario is the home of that venerable Canadian institution, Tim Hortons, home of the “double double” ™ and the now pre-made, frozen and reanimated on site doughnuts and other baked goods (ugh). In fact, my home is less than 8 blocks from the original Tim Hortons store, which actually has a section that is original and bears a historical plaque on the side.
That last link, by the way, is from a blog written by my favourite barista and coffee guru, CG, whom I will discuss in greater detail later on.
Despite there being no fewer than 5 Tim Hortons location within a five minute walk of my home, I only go to one of them when the dogs have run out of old-fashioned plain Timbits (their snack food of choice) or when I’m en route home and DH wants a coffee. Why? I CAN’T STAND TIM HORTONS’ COFFEE!
There, it’s all caps, bolded, italicized and underlined. Emphasis enough? Anything that needs a double shot of cream and two sugars (the aforementioned “double double” – as in double cream and double sugar) to be even remotely consumable, is really not good. I’m not putting anything that has to be made into a milkshake or frappe in order to drink it into my stomach, folks.
McDonalds’ coffee isn’t much better and while it is predictable and represents a bastion of coffee that rises above mediocrity, I try to avoid Starbucks as much as possible as I’d prefer to support local and Canadian companies first.
Thank goodness for Hamilton’s burgeoning coffee culture. It started out quietly with a small roastery in Dundas, Ontario. Detour Coffee began sourcing and roasting quality beans in a local roastery, filling the Dundas Valley with the smell of roasted goodness. Eventually, it opened a cafe in Dundas and distributed coffee to various restaurants/cafes in the area.
One of Detour’s first adopters was Hero Mobile Cafe, specializing in providing quality coffees on site for various events. These folks have a propane-powered espresso machine and make a darn fine cup…
Up next are My Dog Joe and their sister cafe, The Mulberry St. Coffeehouse. MDJ was my first bastion of comfort and my first regular “haunt” when I moved to Hamilton. It was a fun, funky, casual and homey place where I could sit, write and enjoy a good cup of fair trade, properly roasted coffee along with REALLY GOOD home baked and produced goodies. Yes, there is a dog named Joe and they have free wifi – however they are also jam-packed with students from McMaster University. Mulberry St. Coffeehouse is now my regular haunt as it is closer to home and often not a crowded, they sell the same coffee as MDJ and since my weight loss, have my favourite menu item (vegan chili) regularly on the menu.
Red Hill Coffee Trade is next, adding to the blend of local companies that source beans, roast them and now brew them, both onsite for events AND in a cafe. Their coffees are all fair trade and organic and they supply local restaurants, cafes and retail locations with their goods. It was at their cafe location in the Hamilton Farmer’s Market that I met CG.
CG takes his coffee seriously. He focuses on grinds, tamping, water temperature and pressure to ensure each cup is a great drink. He’s also progressing in his mad barista skillz, learning how to make a cortado (my favourite espresso-based beverage) and is working on an ristretto (my second-favourite espresso-based beverage – a small powerful cup of caffiene akin to the groin kick of coffees, flavour and power-wise). I thank CG for opening my eyes to what a good coffee should taste like and for beginning to teach me as to how to make a good cup.
CG is not perfect, however he does take constructive criticism well and is keen to ensure that all experiences at Red Hill’s location are quality. It also helps that he is a real character and that he handles the shit and abuse that I and ME hand out quite well.
Given my recent love of cycling and love of Dundas, Ontario, another cafe was brought to my attention by ME. Cafe Domestique is a place where cyclists are welcome and they brew up a mean cup of coffee, without intrusion from the crowds of Detour Coffee. They treat their customers well and respect the substance that fuels their bodies.
CG has introduced me to a new person on the Hamilton coffee scene, a young lady who is opening a cafe eight blocks from my home. She just worked Red Hill Coffee a week or so ago and impressed me with her barista skills, so I can’t wait until the Cannon Coffee Company opens.
Other places I go for caffiene fixes include The Brain (a bar that serves Detour Coffee in a 4 cup Bodum), Earth to Table Bread and Pizza Bar (home of the best burger in Hamilton and predictably decent coffee) and Cake and Loaf bakery.
So yes, my name is Myke H. and I’m a coffee addict and snob. I’m while people think I could be a bit excessive about it, however given what I’ve given up in return for good health and a (hopefully) long life, I hope folks will understand.
“As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move…similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.” – Honore de Balzac (1799-1859)