Coffee

*edit, February 7, 2012 – Little Nicky’s uses both Reunion Island coffee (drip) and Rufino/Classic coffee (espressos and espresso based drinks). I also added one line, below, for clarity. It had to do with Starbucks’s name and my assumption that focus group input no doubt assured them that it was okay.

A poor – literally – working slob ‘might’ manage to be productive (for me that mostly means blogging about politics) in Toronto if he (or she) can avoid having bad luck and perhaps even have some good luck. I’ve had the worst year of my life (which this isn’t about) and, mostly, the few times I’ve had some good luck were immediately followed by three times as much bad luck. Things have improved somewhat, although the bad luck hasn’t altogether gone away.

An unstable work situation (in which I’m floating rather than having a permanent site), as a result of working for a big, uncaring company (G4S Security), and the high cost of living in Toronto, which apparently is in the top ten most expensive cities in the world to live in, are working against me. Really though, I have no use for reports about which cities are among the most expensive to live in when in fact the news needs to be reportage stating bluntly that corporatocracy is working just fine and the entrenched inequality shows no signs of disappearning. But that’s not going to happen any time soon.

And so my blogging about coffee and politics and other things continues to suffer, although I’m trying to pick it up. As long as the capitalists who grunts like me work for have a life, then all is well. It must really be nice to be able to afford a car. On my way to work for the 4:00pm shift this past Sunday, after getting home too late the night before as a result of my relief not showing up, I was thinking of rolling past my Yonge St. stop and going south on Spadina Avenue so that I could hit up Dark Horse Espresso Bar, at Sullivan, which would have been opened. But I didn’t do that and as a result, when I found no streetcars running west from Yonge and Queen, I had to hoof it and ended up running smack into a Scotiabank run for cancer or something, forcing me to search around on foot for someplace to cut across the route. So the wee bit of time I hoped to have to myself before starting my gig in my anti-security guard building was lost. Corporations, by the way, are ‘not’ going to solve the problems of disease or anything. They help cause them. But they will gladly take money from true believers in capitalism who just don’t seem to notice that their corporate overlords are actually practicing socialism.

2nd flr of 129 Peter St, looking south west at Richmond & Peter intersection

So here I am at ‘work’ with nothing at all to do other than call the city’s security branch every hour. Therefore I have no big excuse to not scribble some thoughts at least about the adventures in coffee that I’ve had recently. If only this place had a microwave in it for me to heat up my large, half drank ‘small’ Second Cup Paradiso Dark I brought with me from around the corner (at John & Queen). But security guards aren’t people. There seems to be an unwritten rule (and probably a written one too) that guards must have access to washrooms. But anything else we get to make us comfortable will be as a result of chance.

That’s how we look after each other in this capitalist paradise. Cold Paradiso meets cold capitalist paradise that supersizes it’s garbage fast food, along with waist lines, while shrinking our rights and paycheques. Second Cup coffee isn’t usually too bad by the way. Today, My cup from this outlet wasn’t hot at all, which made it almost cold by the time I got it to work – around the corner (Peter St & Richmond).

Little Nicky's at, apparently, 375 Queen St. West, but it's on the Peter St side of the building

I’m holed up in a building across the street from a fine indy coffee shop called Little Nicky’s. Yep, That’s a properly punctuated name, with the apostrophe in Nicky’s right where it’s supposed to be.

Little Nicky's from inside 129 Peter St

Is an individual Starbucks store called a Starbuck? (Shades of Bank Montreal Of!) If the name on each Starbucks is meant to refer to the company, then it should be spelled Starbuck’s, with the apostrophe denoting ownership. But when you have lots of money to throw around – because your ability to exercise tax ‘efficiency’, with help from your partners in politics, makes you deserving – then you may give quite a bit of cash to focus groups and ad agencies who will, unlike your low paid workers, successfully market your business. So I’m assuming that people told Starbucks that the name is good.

If the facts were acknowledged about hard working Starbucks baristas (who make their difficult jobs look easy), then Starbucks would have no excuse for not recognizing, in obvious ways, their employees’ major contribution to the company’s success. Generally, That’s the attitude of elites. They first choose the easy (they wrongly assume) route, to success, of exploitation, deceit and corruption and then, in order to more easily live with that choice, they denigrate and demonize those they exploit. Taking advantage of low-lifes is not as morally wrong as taking advantage of people – fellow citizens and neighbors, including family members – who actually contribute more to society than you do as you shift the tax burden onto them while robbing them.

Yes, I sometimes go to Starbucks. However, Starbucks’s in-store brewed (drip) coffee, all ‘flavors’, is undrinkable. It’s just hot, brown water. The espressos are okay, although they are not proper espressos. Their espressos are what their drip coffee should be, in my view. In a world in which ‘might’ makes ‘right’, perhaps it should fall to the small guys, namely the caring, independent coffee shops selling gourmet coffee (or ‘specialty’ coffee, as most in the industry like to call it) to rename the wonderful drink that they properly make and have been making for a long time. (I rather liked this brief history of espresso from Home Barista.com: A Short History Of Espresso) Maybe they should call their espressos ‘crap coffee’. Starbucks’s espressos will be called ‘gourmet coffee’. So Little Nicky’s, et al, coffee will be called ‘crap coffee’. That’s how this world works.

Little Nicky’s is a hole in the wall on Peter St., just south of Queen St. West and just east of Spadina Avenue. It’s a charming spot and it’s owner, Rene Bonise, is a charming, down to earth woman. Why are indy coffee shop owners so often, and wonderfully, down to earth people? Actually, It’s because we grunts actually do deserve the nice things in life. But I maybe shouldn’t say that too loudly. Elites might notice.

From my first visit until now, everyone at Little Nicky’s has been professional and genuinely friendly. And the coffee is awesome. Rene is using Reunion Island Coffee Company‘s coffee and between my consistently good cups there and the wonderful experience I’ve had with beans I brought home from my recent tour of Reunion’s coffee roastery, I’m comfortable recommending Reunion as another great local coffee supplier to any coffee shop owners, current or soon to be, out there.

Regarding that tour, We were most fortunate to have been invited to hear Reynaldo Fiallos and his daughter Maria, of La Union plantation in Nicaragua, speak. (Here’s a photo of that talk I found online. Sean, Ed and myself arrived a few minutes after the talk began and so we might not have been in this pic. Or we may have been. We sat near the front. Here’s a link to a page about La Union on Reunion’s website.) They of course imparted much coffee knowledge, with passion and love. And Sean, Ed and myself got to chat with them in a smaller venue after the talk. I also enjoyed my ‘session’ with Greg, Reunion’s expert on Bunn’s Trifecta machine. I wouldn’t mind having one of those to play around with, truth be told.

I’m not an expert on espresso machines, but my friend Sean, a coffee shop owner, quite likes the Faema Legend used by Rene. (And he is totally tickled by her counter-top donut maker, which I too think is awesome. LN makes mini donuts to order.) He doesn’t think it’s perfect, mind you. But even the machine that Sean will eventually build will not likely be perfect, although I hope it is.

On that subject, Are you coffee geeks out there excited about seeing Canada’s first Slayer in action in a soon to open coffee shop on Bathurst St. south? The young lad who will be bringing that experience (and Social Coffee) to TO has had some big challenges getting his biz off the ground, so I don’t want to state definitively that it will happen. But that’s in the works. We don’t know what he’s going to call his shop.

Here’s a couple of pics of the Slayer from a website called Slayer Professional Espresso:

Unfortunately, As I write this, on a Sunday, Little Nicky’s is closed. And so I sip my cold, mediocre (today) Paradiso Dark and count down the minutes to midnight when, hopefully, my relief arrives. My whole weekend was thrown off by mia guards and a crappy TTC, which is always crappy but not always because of the TTC. I didn’t see any streetcars on Carlton when I finished work (late) Saturday morning after 2:00 am and so, despite having a monthly pass, I had to cough up $20 to catch a cab to India Bazzar where I live. Tonight, after work, on the streetcar running north on Spadina en route to Carlton, I mentioned that to the driver who stated honestly that they have a problem with a lack of streetcar drivers. He also mentioned that he’s pretty sure that when my blue night cars (which are cars and buses that run all night) were nowhere in sight, it was because of a big fire on that street somewhere. And he pointed out that all it takes to take a car out of action on a weekend is for a clubber to puke in the car.

It’s funny he should mention that. While I was at my Peter street site on the weekend (forget which day exactly), some Ryerson students were there shooting video and recording sound for an upcoming project they were doing. They were nice guys. At one point, a cab was slowly rolling past the site and the door was open. The one young student, whose name I forget, got excited and said something like ‘This is what I like!’ as he hoofed it with his video camera to record what turned out to be a woman inside the cab barfing out the door.

Wonderful! It’s not the fun – the drinking, the sex, the music, the dancing – that these young people are having that I have a problem with. It’s the fact that they don’t care and have no respect for anything or anyone. Because they are outside our building in such huge numbers on weekend nights, we can’t do anything about them being on our property. We just look as do the police who are out in numbers at this time. They will intervene when they have to, which I witnessed as they arrested one dumb woman who was getting riled by other dumb people in front of my building using a remote mic to stir the crowd up about religion.

In fact, There were two women in front of the building and one was helping the other who was inebriated and sick and could hardly walk. And so I brought out a chair for her to sit on, which they appreciated. Eventually they moved on and a couple of other young ladies moved into the spot they vacated. One of them took the seat, which was fine. Then a couple of young men joined them. They were on the ramp leading up to the front door to our building. When I was leaving, they were blocking my way. I said “Excuse me,” and was completely ignored. So I walked past the disprespectful people and made sure my backpack knocked against the one dude in my way. Of course he noticed that, as he called out “Yo! Easy!” The wanna-be gangstas will tolerate no disprespect as they disrespect everyone and everything. And they are not atypical among this clubbing crowd of losers. As for those among this crowd who aren’t losers, Why are they hanging with losers?

A final thought: Do you have to bump and grind, with idiots, until you’re deaf in order to get laid? Hmmm. Maybe that’s my problem.

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