Notes on Coffee & Tea

  • Finally went to DeCapo Caffe (8738 109 Street) last week. It reminded me of Caffe Sorrentino with its polished metal, pendant lighting, and sleek, simple decor. It was also more expensive, with my iced latte ringing up as $4.75. It’s an eco-friendly alternative to Starbucks (they have a no paper cup policy), but just not as cozy.
  • Essence Organic Tea Bar (10011 102 Avenue) is now open.
  • Second Cup is now in the business of granola bars! Boxes of Moccaccino or Vanilla Bean Latte Cafe Delights are available at a grocery store near you.
  • I mentioned this back in May, but beyond special occasions, Starbucks has created a line of greeting cards. Of the three, my favorite is the birthday one featuring the text, “Lattes are the new birthday cake.” Hee. While I don’t think the cards are very unique, the convenience factor of picking one up along with a mug or a pound of coffee is tough to ignore.
  • This summer, you can also send a friend an electronic Starbucks invitation for coffee here.

Food-Related Notes

  • See Magazine released their “Best of” results for 2007. The results are skewed towards independent eateries, as expected, but I’m a bit sad to see that Blue Plate Diner didn’t make the top three of any category. I disagree with the voting of Garage Burger and Barb & Ernie’s as Best Burger and Best Breakfast, respectively, but I had to laugh with the inclusion of “Tuxedo Cake” in the Best Dessert category (I guess it wasn’t clear to voters that editors were looking for a place noun and not a thing…)
  • Speaking of things, how cool is this modified-typewriter-turned-waffle-iron?
  • On that note, as seen in the Globe & Mail, how about a glass that literally leaves flowers in its place? (Not worth $30US each though, in my humble opinion.)
  • Via Eat Drink One Woman, I found out about the upcoming Gourmet Institute New York weekend retreat – two days of informative seminars, professional demonstrations, and of course, amazing food! Two sessions that caught my eye: “Eat the Web: Blogging’s Effect on the Food World” and “The Restaurateur Versus the Critic.”
  • Second Cup must have recently revamped their menu – their non-fat drinks are now prefaced with the word “skinny.” Really. I wonder how many guys would be caught dead asking for such a girly-sounding modification?

Musings on Second Cup

I took advantage of a promotion at Second Cup today, where by ordering one of their new drinks, customers are given a free magazine. I chose the vaguely appealing Dark Chocolate Raspberry Latte, and received a complementary issue of Elle.

The drink, while both rich and saccharine (bitter lattes are not for me), had the tang of fruit that I don’t think mixes well with coffee (I hold the same opinion for chocolate – the best thing, for example, about Terry’s Chocolate Orange is smashing it).

I read an article recently about Second Cup’s upward swing in Canada’s coffee market. While still ranked third behind Starbucks and Tim Horton’s, their goal is to encourage repeat customers by offering excellent service: “It’s taken for granted that the drinks are going to be great – but when you’re treated so well, that’s something people keep coming back for,” says Karen Gold, their Marketing Director.

Gold’s comment is true to some extent – my morning coffee has become such a ritual in my workday that nearly all of the rotating Empire Building Starbucks baristas know my regular even before I open my mouth. It’s such a small thing – earned only over time, consistency, and a lot of money – but their immediate recognition does make me feel “special.”

The Second Cup I visited today is one of the nicest (and newest) in the city. Located in the upscale Manulife Place (10180-101 Street), it’s filled with plush chairs, polished dark wood tables, a fireplace, and stylish drop lighting. The downside of this particular store is its hours of operation – closed on weekends, and after 5:30 on weekdays, it prevents any extensive post-work gab or unwinding sessions. All Second Cups, however, really need to rethink their coffee bar design – is a ledge the size of an arm really functional, or large enough during the rushes? It seems this fundamental fixture should be paid more attention to than say, an additional couch or new product.

While I’ll be faithful to Starbucks until the end, it’s always nice to have competition and choice within the market.

Manulife Place Second Cup