Coffee on the Vine

By Colin Campbell

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“Elegant body, long bold taste with a pleasant finish. A buttery mouthfeel.”

You may be excused for thinking this is some celebrity connoisseur waxing lyrical about a palate-pleasing Napa Valley red. Yet, this vinous description appears on the menu board of my favourite neighbourhood café: The Java Dive. It describes one of several free-trade, organic coffee choices available to the discerning coffee drinker.

You could see it coming. Somewhere in the ’90s things began to go yuppie, and, just as hair snippers morphed into Estheticians and Eyelash Technicians, so waiters became Baristas and a cup of coffee evolved into an art project. Used to be there were only two choices: medium or dark roast. Decaf was added later for the benefit of those customers with compromised taste buds. Following complaints that its coffee was so bitter it caused the muffins to wilt, Starbucks added a fourth option: Blonde Roast. I notice they’ve since dropped this choice. Pity. I suppose they became concerned that some of us less robust types may choke on a giggle when ordering a “tall blonde to go.”

While variety may well be the spice of life, I get a trifle irritated having to wait in line behind a customer who orders “A grande-three-shot-pumpkin-and-spice-chocolate-whatsit-with-a-hint-of-cinnamon-and-a-tease-of-nutmeg-hold-the-mayo-and-leave-room-for-syrup-latté.” Particularly when said customer attempts to pay with his cellphone hashtag thingy, and there’s a glitch and the machine won’t accept it. And then it turns out the guy doesn’t have cash and has to use his credit card, which doesn’t work either. Inevitably, the manager has to be called, and the barista is wishing she’d taken the job sweeping up toenail clippings at the Pedicure Palace when it was offered.

Get a few orders like those in front of you, and by the time you reach the cashier all of the crossword and sports sections of the newspapers will already have been stolen, and you may as well head to the library.

In addition to the ones described earlier, there are another half dozen exotic cuppas listed at The Java Dive. A coffee from Sumatra is described as “a rich, bold Arabica with lingering hibiscus-scented notes and just a hint of jungle.” Now, I’m not exactly sure where that country is – I was under the impression Sumatra was a crooner – but I’m sure the poor plantation labourers there would be wryly amused to learn that a cup of their product could net its imbiber a roadside suspension in North America.

It follows, of course, that inflated language leads to inflated price. I can’t believe what people will pay for this stuff. Up to $6.50 for a cup of mud! What’s “Fair Trade” about that?

I just hope they don’t start messing with the food. Could it be that some morning hence, I’ll toddle into The Java Dive looking to relax with a beverage and an intact *Globe and Mail*, only to have a conversation like this?

Barista: “What can I get started for you today?”
Me: “The usual. A medium medium and a multigrain bagel, please.”
Barista: “Coming right up. That’ll be $8.75.”
Me: (Choking) “What?”
Barista: “$8.75.”
Me: “How come?”
Barista: “$2.10 for the coffee, $6.00 for the heart-safe, free-range, calorie-reduced, custom-crafted bagel, plus tax.”
Me: “It looks just like the old bakery bagel to me.”
Barista: “I wouldn’t know about that, sir. Would you prefer a flavour-bursting, bran-bountiful, breakfast-ready sunshine muffin for just $5.75?”
Me: “Thanks all the same, but I’ll just have the coffee. No charge for the easy-pour, fruit of the barn, dairy-fresh milk or the cheerful, individually-packaged sugar crystals, I trust?”
Barista: “None at all, sir. Have a nice day.”

If things reach this stage, I plan to just buy a paper, stay home and enjoy a cup of silky-smooth, smile-infused Darjeeling, and a couple of slices of toast with plum jam notes and the subtlest hint of smoke-detector.




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