Recently I made plans to meet with a girlfriend for coffee and we were getting together in here neighbourhood. Typically, if I’m socializing in a coffee shop, I like Starbucks because the coffee is good and the atmosphere is cozy and warm. My girlfriend didn’t have a Starbucks nearby but there was a Serious Coffee, so we went there. The atmosphere in Serious is always good – upbeat but still comfortable. I’m not a huge fan of their coffee, which is kind of a big deal! (There is just no comparison when it comes to a low-fat, no sugar, caramel latte. Period.)
This java session with my girlfriend got me to thinking about coffee joint preferences and if I was the majority of minority out there in terms of what and where I like. That said, I took a poll of some of my family and friends and now that I think about it, I’m not entirely surprised.
There were, of course, a couple of people that preferred small, locally owned coffee shops like Bubby Rose’s Bakery and Café or Mirage Coffee. I have to admit, I have had the luxury of trying some of the baked goods from Bubby Rose’s and they are AMAZING. (Within one of my previous articles – Culinaire Victoria 2011 – I wrote about a quinoa chocolate cookie from Bubby Rose’s that was sinfully delicious, but because it is made from quinoa didn’t come with the guilty feelings of having a rich, chocolate baked good.)
Although I like to go out and have coffee with some people, others I also like to grab a coffee (or tea) to go and sit at home and socialize there. One of my friends said that they don’t have any preference in terms of a favourite coffee joint, and another agreed, but said that they preferred, like myself at times, to take a coffee home or to a friends to enjoy. There was even a friend of mine that admitted she NEVER goes out for coffee, tea, hot chocolate or any other hot beverage. I was surprised, because coffee dates are so much a part of my social life!
Serious, as I am not entirely surprised, only had one die-hard fan. It’s unfortunate because Serious is local and has good, sustainable practices, however, the coffee doesn’t taste very good. (Or at least in my books!) I do, however, really enjoy most of their food options. They have a flax-seed roll that is just delicious and is stuffed with salmon. Yum.
The major split came down to Tim Horton’s (or known in my world as Timmy’s) and Starbucks. Can you guess the winner? By a landslide, Starbucks took the top spot and was awarded most popular coffee shop in my life and those I tend to socialize with. I go to both. I drink Earl Grey tea from Timmy’s with certain friends and more regularly than Starbucks because it is cheaper. I drink lattes from Starbucks with other friends/family or when I need a special pick me up. I always get the same drinks each time I go, but the reason I tend to go to Starbucks is similar to those that I spoke with who preferred the large chain that started once upon a time in Seattle – customization! When it comes to Timmy’s you better hope your double double or triple triple is the way you like it, because outside of the addition of cream and sugar, there isn’t much opportunity to customize a drink and if you request something out of the norm, there seems to be resistance by Timmy’s staff to actually provide something different. When it comes to Starbucks, it is so expensive, and so customizations are almost expected. When I pay $5 for a venti (large) latte, I want it to be EXACTLY the way I like it.
Those that are against Starbucks are typically against the huge cost incurred for a cup of joe. I have justifications for the high cost! (Although, let’s be honest for a second, I would prefer it was cheaper.) First, as I’ve said above, it is customizable, which is worth something. Second, the ingredients used are different and of higher quality than that which Timmy’s uses – for example there is absolutely, positively, no comparison of lattes from Starbucks to Timmy’s. Bleh, try a Timmy’s latte and if you decide it is better than Starbucks, call me. We’ve got some chatting to do!
Either way, no matter where you choose to java yourself up, whether it is solo or to see an old friend, the commonality between all those coffee and tea drinkers out there is that the drinks are so all about socialization. Sure, people need their morning coffee and that is somewhat different than for the purposes of getting your weekly gossip update, but coffee tends to bring people together over a commonality and helps new relationships to bud or old friendships be maintained. No matter which way you slice it, I will continue to grab my Timmy’s tea on the way to my girlfriends AND stop by Starbucks with my Mom after a hard afternoon of shopping.