OP/ED: 15,000 kilometres for coffee

Nik Green
By Nik Green
October 19th, 2010

One doesn’t realize the size of our fair country until they have driven across it twice in a month. I had the pleasure of crossing Canada and back over the past 30 days with my business partner Edan Marshall.   Our goal was to document the finest, nuttiest and most beautiful places in which one could enjoy a cup of high-end coffee. The end result is a 10-part film series in which we fuel ourselves with caffeine whilst driving from Halifax to Tofino to meet these characters. Serious about coffee you say? Well yes, but that is about it. Our serious approach to the beverage was tempered by necessary humour as we spent day after day in confined cars, rooms, hotels, tents etc.   The results on the coffee end have been off the charts as far as finding the right eccentrics to break down how they prepare, grow, grind, fund, present and offer their coffees.   Canada can be likened to a donut in the way that there is very little as far as high end coffee in the centre of the nation where, ironically, Tim Horton’s reigns supreme. At one town, we noticed an actual government commissioned sign that declared you cannot cross the thoroughfare to line up at Timmy’s drive-through. Apparently it was a safety issue in this small town.   Beyond the banality of the prairies, however, we managed to find some folks who have taken coffee snobbery to the ultimate high. One gentleman actually uses a light refract-o-meter to ensure the density of his coffee is just right. Another madman has every last variable under control down to the way in which he strips water of its “erratic” minerals, then re-introduces them under control to ensure that all of his coffee is met by the most consistent water possible….anywhere.   The same professor actually pays to send the country’s top baristas to Peru in order to have them appreciate the work that goes into a single pound of coffee. On their trip, the baristas grow, sort, roast and prepare the very same beans they would in a posh cafe in Montreal or Vancouver. Canadian barista champion Kyle Straw told us that they go so far as to have the baristas live with the families and receive no special treatment during their trip.   Before embarking on my trip I was dead sure that Montreal and Halifax would be my favourite destinations along the way. While I found positives in both I was surprised by some of the off-putting moments experienced in both cities. Montreal played directly to its known stereotypes without hesitation. The first few encounters with locals consisted of rude, smoking wine lovers who’d just as soon tell you to get lost as they would guide you to a cafe.   The appeal of Halifax was altered due to my own naive expectations of what I would find there. We somehow expected to be deciphering salty fisherman while enjoying a cup of joe at the seaside as the sea gulls flew overhead. Instead, I was consistently warned about the high probability of losing my camera to a vagrant via a violent encounter should I cross a certain street. You could likely measure whether you have had enough coffee yourself by saying that last line five times fast. Vagrant, via, violent…yeah I’m not there yet myself.   On the surprise finds list I’m pleased to say I fell in love with a town called Lunenburg where I wouldn’t have been shocked to see Anne of Green Gables leap from a bush to offer me an apple. Fredericton was a place I forgot in Grade 6 but will remember now after a lovely visit. Last, but not least, though is the dark horse of our trip…Winnipeg. After being raised to call the place Winterpig and all other manner of insulting names, I am pleased to report that I enjoyed this city as much as any other on the trip. From the welcoming, chatty locals to the best cappuccino on our 14,790 km trip, I loved Winnipeg and will defend my opinion.   During our Audi encased sense deprivation test we found ourselves on the road at Thanksgiving without even knowing it until watching the classic Planes, Trains and Automobiles in some random hotel room in god only knows what town. Before some smartass comments, no we did not recreate the “Pillow Scene” as an homage.   For more on just exactly why we drove 15,000 kms for coffee:   Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Common-Grounds-TV/149056655115567  Official Film Production Site


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