Angry Rant from a New Yorker: What I ate in Vancouver Part I, hippie coffee

This is what you see when you go to a coffee bar in Vancouver

This is what you see when you go to a coffee bar in Vancouver

By Ben Adler

I went to Canada, where people speak in an accent that combines the worst elements of the Midwest (they pronounce pasta with a short A) and British (they say the silent H in herbal). But this was West Coast Canada: Vancouver, British Columbia. Out there they combine funny accents with wealthy hippie values. Everyone is into Buddhism or meditating or one of those things. Even the hair salons have Buddha statues in them.

And there are coffee shops everywhere. I’m certain Vancouver has the most per capita of any Canadian city. And since the socialist state there encourages people to waste their youth “studying,” at under-priced graduate schools, there is an especially big market for places that serve coffee and let you sit in big comfy chairs. I’m a follower of the “when in Rome,” school of thought about what I eat when traveling — just ask my girlfriend how at every meal in Central Europe I insisted on ordering the disgusting local schnitzel because, you know, that’s the experience you’re supposed to have.

So of course on my first day in Vancouver I was sure to stop in the first coffee bar I saw. Located on Granville Island — think South Street Seaport only more authentic — I found myself at a counter next to a stack of coffee bags bearing the most ridiculous sounding claims. “Organic Certified, Fairly Traded, Bird Friendly, Shade Grown, Rainforest Alliance.” I’m as eco and labor friendly as they come, and I have no objection to any of the above modifiers (although I’m not sure exactly what “Bird Friendly” means.) But this just struck me as a ridiculous stereotype of itself. How did it taste? I have no idea, because like a good Vancouverite I got a cappuccino.

2 responses to “Angry Rant from a New Yorker: What I ate in Vancouver Part I, hippie coffee

  1. Using the google, “bird-friendly” seems to be a property of shade-growing.

    Sure, the claims invite parody. But (a) think of it as advertising. Is this any worse than Juan Valdez and his trusty burro? And (b) there *are* genuinely environmentally-important distinctions between shade and non-shade. Not that buying a pound of coffee will save the damn planet, but if you can get to the point that shade-growing becomes an important selling point, it can’t hurt.

    Anyway, better hippie coffee than hippie food.

  2. Says almost the same stuff as the coffee I’ve been buying for years does. It is missing one key word: medium roast. The main difference? Theirs shouts it in 20 point type, the kinds I buy might not say it on the bag at all. The coffee shop across the street is small enough that they don’t have preprinted bags to shout with.

    And why do I go to all the trouble? A hippy-dippy coffee shop will happily sell you a little coffee, and will grind it for you, and to the household coffee drinker… it tastes better than Maxwell House. And I don’t have to listen to the bitching about burnt coffee that I get with a lot of mainstream brands.

    Works out to make a cheap treat, day in and day out.

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