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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Romancing Joe

When I was little my first memory of coffee was of the freeze-dried kind, Sanka, and cowboys ‘round the fire, and FireKing mugs. Those freeze-dried grounds were curious looking and smelled kind of odd to me. I’m sure they were cutting edge back then but boy have we come a long way!

I started drinking coffee in my 20’s out of necessity when I worked at an insurance brokerage office with overactive air conditioning. I don’t have a sweet tooth so hot chocolate never did it for me and the perfumey aroma of tea has always put me off (my apologies to all you tea drinkers out there). So I tried coffee. It tasted bitter to me so I tried it with sugar and cream, then just sugar, then the magical formula of 2 creams in a cup of strong coffee. Suddenly a whole new world of potential purchases opened up to me! I rapidly became the proud owner of 2 coffee grinders and one pot.

Then I traveled to Europe. What a shocker! Their idea of coffee was no match for my naïve traveling self. I ordered a cup and, thinking I was getting a “cup” of coffee, I got instead a teensy espresso with a teensy almond cookie on the side. You should'a seen the looks I got when I asked for cream! That trip certainly added to my education in the ways of coffee consumption. Fifteen years later when I made it back to Paris I did not make the same faux pas of simply ordering “coffee”, thanks to Starbucks, Second Cup, etc., I knew what to ask for.

In Parisian shop windows I spotted the most gorgeous line of illy cups and beautiful pots. Suddenly one pot and 2 grinders didn’t cut it with me any more. Now if you come to my house you’ll see a red Italian stove-top pot, a filter basket that sits on the cup for single cups, a Bodum Press and a simple vintage chrome electrical percolator from our House, along with about 30 coffee cups. But I want more. Thing is, hubby doesn’t drink coffee and chicklet at 6 years old is too young.

Luckily, having the kind of shop that Kat & I do allows us access to coffee brewers I never knew existed and for the short time they reside in the store I can feel like they’re mine. In the few months that we’ve been the proprietors of ChiChi we’ve seen many options for coffee service. There are the vintage Pyrex carafes, many with their own metal stand. There are countless versions of the chrome pot. There are campfire pots and the lovely red 650 watt percolator we have in stock made by Regal.
My personal favourite right now is the pot made by a mystery maker. Its tangerine hue and wooden accents are vintage, yet modern. The pot comes with its own permanent filter which works well within our environmental concerns and a separate basket to allow the passage of water. I presume you pour boiling water onto the grounds through this basket since the bottom of the pot is virtually pristine. Either no one ever used it or its bottom has never seen a stove top. Who ever made this pot was humble indeed. Not one identifying mark, brand name, stamp, nothing.

Then there are the gorgeous vintage chrome percs we feature whenever possible. I have been eyeing the 600 watt one currently on display in the kitsch’n called the “Berkley Coffee Watcher” put out by Eaton’s of Canada. How do I know that you ask? Because it says so underneath. The mirror-polished chrome is framed out nicely by the black handle and base and the glass perk knob on top. In my opinion the engraved B stands for “beautiful”, it is merely coincidence that Berkley starts with B. I can just see myself carrying this pot to the table for a little coffee klatsch. I can just hear the oooo’s and aaaah’s. I can just taste the rich, strong, delish cuppa Joe sliding down my throat as I burn my tongue in my zeal to rush the experience.

With a Starbucks on every major corner in big cities, and across the street from itself on streets like Robson in Vancouver, is it any wonder 600 of them are closing down? Do you think that once the dust settles, anyone will notice? In my neighbourhood alone there is a Starbucks on one block, another just a few scant blocks away, yet another in a Safeway just a few more blocks away and yet another going into a Safeway currently being upgraded practically across the street from a free-standing store.

Since I'm certain Starbucks will be fine and won't mind the competition, I think it's time for a shout-out to one of the coolest coffee houses in Winnipeg, Cafe del Sol. If you get the chance, seek them out. They're located at 2037 Portage Avenue (right across from Assiniboine Park). The proprietors are lovely and the coffee divine! (When you go, say hi for us.)

As some of you already know, when we opened our store we received a coffee machine as a store-warming gift allowing us to offer each of our customers complimentary coffee. But this is no ordinary coffee machine, no sirree bob. Our machine hails from “The Catering Line” of Argento. We use only the best beans. Each cup is custom. Each sip is a gorgeous experience. We don't profess to be experts but one thing is for sure, we love Joe and this is one affair our husbands wouldn’t dare question.

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