7.13.2008

from nyc to gta, from coffee shops to starbucks

It all started with iced coffee.

I love iced coffee. I need it. In the summer, I am addicted to it. (I am a caffeine addict anyway, and in summer it becomes more intense.) I came to southern Ontario, and there was no iced coffee. To quote myself:
When we landed in Canada on August 30, 2005, little did I know that a smooth, cold, delicious iced coffee, ice cubes rattling in a plastic cup, my summer safety valve, my five-month-a-year addiction, would become an elusive quest.

Where is iced coffee?? Not frozen cappuccinos, not "Coolattas" or "Icespressos" or Mochafrappuyaddayaddaccinos. Iced Coffee.

. . .

Last year I was shocked to find that this simple recipe was unobtainable from my local Second Cup. Tim Hortons was no better. But we were very busy - painting, unpacking, filling out forms, buying everything in Ontario - and I ignored the warning signs of growing dread.

Here we are eight months later, warm weather on the way, and not an iced coffee in sight.

The closest I can find is Starbucks' Iced Americano. This is bad on so many levels. First, must I order something called an Americano? Next, must I go to Starbucks? And lastly, must I go to Starbucks and order an Americano??

This urgent problem was solved by two friends and Starbucks.

In New York City, I avoided Starbucks on principle. You cannot imagine how that company has taken over the landscape of New York, how much blame it assumes for The Great Homogenization. If I told you there was a Starbucks on every block of midtown, you'd think I was exaggerating, but you'd be wrong. World domination by coffee.

I wouldn't have minded so much if they weren't all exactly alike. You young 'uns may not know this, but there was a time when every cafe and restaurant had individual character and its very own menu.

I will admit I broke my private boycott after I got my iPAQ. Starbucks offered wireless hotspots from my cell-phone provider, and that was a big thing back then. But I still kept my Starbucks usage to a minimum, and only went there when I needed an internet connection.

Then we moved to the Toronto area, and I couldn't find iced coffee. Starbucks was my only option. I still tried to avoid it, and felt a bit guilty whenever I succumbed.

Then two things happened that put me over the edge.

One, someone at work gave Allan a Starbucks card as a gift. He turned it over to me. Free coffee! Free yogurt parfaits! Then I reloaded it...

And two, Starbucks started carrying iced brewed coffee.

The end. I am now a Starbucks user all the way, happily reloading that same card, guzzling refreshing iced coffees in the summer and yummy extra-shot lattes in the winter.

I don't like the coffee at Tim Hortons at all, and only drink it in a pinch. I do like Second Cup, but they don't serve iced coffee. What's a girl to do.

60 comments:

John said...

You don't like Tim Horton's coffee? Please be careful where you say that. Like disparaging the Queen, such an opinion is likely to get you hauled off to one of our infamous Arctic gulags...

Sarah Gates said...

I have same addiction, and I've largely stopped buying it out because cold brewed at home is so much better. (And cheaper, but that's neither here nor there.)

If you have some coarse ground beans and some advanced planning skills (I've got the beans down, but the planning was harder) try this:

Recipe: Cold-Brewed ICED COFFEE Time: 5 minutes, plus 12 hours' resting

1/3 cup ground coffee (medium-coarse grind is best) Milk (optional).

1. In a jar, stir together coffee and 1 1/2 cups water. Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.

2. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. In a tall glass filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, or to taste. If desired, add milk.

Yield: Two drinks.

NOTE: To make hot coffee, dilute concentrate one-to-one with water and heat in the microwave.

Myself, instead of all that mess about filters and jars, just do this (doubled) in the same french press I use all winter to make hot coffee by the pot. So. Freakin. Good. If I plan right, this wonderful nectar is in my fridge waiting for me before I even get dressed.

I get my beans from Empire Coffee on 9th between 41st and 42nd, but find a medium to dark roast that you like.

Joe Grav said...

For Shame! :)

I won't even use the bathroom in a Starbucks.

Scott M. said...

And now McDonalds has genuine Iced Coffee (as you've described it). Given it a try yet?

L-girl said...

You don't like Tim Horton's coffee? Please be careful where you say that. Like disparaging the Queen, such an opinion is likely to get you hauled off to one of our infamous Arctic gulags...

:>)

I actually know many Canadians who don't like Tim's coffee. I even know a few other Canadians (besides me) who don't like Rick Mercer! Yes, it's true!!

L-girl said...

Sarah, I always keep iced coffee in my fridge. (Click on the links to the old posts above, you'll see my recipe.)

My nephew taught me the brewing method you use, but I really care for the results.

But for me, iced coffee out is a favourite part of summer. I enjoy it at home, but I enjoy it so much more when I'm out! I don't know why, it's just one of life's little pleasures for me.

I spend far too much money on it every summer, but then, what's money for. :)

L-girl said...

I get my beans from Empire Coffee on 9th between 41st and 42nd, but find a medium to dark roast that you like.

I miss Porto Rico!!! That was my favourite coffee place in NY. I miss it a lot.

L-girl said...

I won't even use the bathroom in a Starbucks.

How nice for you. I'll use a clean bathroom anywhere.

What's your Starbucks issue?

And now McDonalds has genuine Iced Coffee (as you've described it). Given it a try yet?

They've had that for a few years, actually - I think when I wrote those other posts, people were suggesting the same thing.

But I feel about McD's the way Joe Grav feels about Starbucks. I never step foot in the place, and wouldn't give them a penny of my money, under any circumstances.

L-girl said...

My nephew taught me the brewing method you use, but I really care for the results.

that was supposed to say I really ^don't^ care for the results. crucial omission. :)

Amy said...

So yet another one falls sway to Starbucks. Perhaps this is WHY they have been so successful---they supply what the customer wants.

(I don't drink coffee at all, but Harvey is an addict. When Starbucks opened in our town, he was elated. I, on the other hand, could care less, but will gladly use their bathrooms and drink their tea.)

L-girl said...

Myself, instead of all that mess about filters and jars, just do this (doubled) in the same french press I use all winter to make hot coffee by the pot. So. Freakin. Good. If I plan right, this wonderful nectar is in my fridge waiting for me before I even get dressed.

So we actually do the same thing! Only I do mine with my electric percolator, rather than French press, but same idea. I make it strong, pour it in a pitcher, put in the fridge. Yum!

But I still want it out, as often as possible!

L-girl said...

The electric-perc post

L-girl said...

Perhaps this is WHY they have been so successful---they supply what the customer wants.

Maybe, partly. I think they've been so successful because of skillful marketing, combined with ubiquity.

Most people who drink Starbucks never knew they wanted what Starbucks sells. It's a manufactured desire.

In my case, I'd gladly get my supply elsewhere. In fact, I'd prefer it. In NYC, I always did. But here... :<(

impudent strumpet said...

Weird, I was just going to post about how the real problem with shopping by principle is that sometimes one specific product is the best one.

I won't even use the bathroom in a Starbucks.

Logically, if you dislike Starbucks, shouldn't you like peeing on it? (or maybe that's just the nyquil talking)

L-girl said...

Weird, I was just going to post about how the real problem with shopping by principle is that sometimes one specific product is the best one.

It definitely is - sometimes.

I don't think it's possible to shop only by principle - at least I don't see how that could be done. Maybe it's just throwing principle into the mix when something bothers you.

The Starbux Takeover Of New York bothered me SO much. So I had to not shop there. But they haven't taken over Toronto, and Mississauga can't look any worse than it does. Starbux is an improvement around these parts!

gomonik said...

I have hankerings for Vietnamese iced coffee, which is available at any Vietnamese restaurant. Basically strong coffee dripped over ice and condensed milk. So good.

L-girl said...

Any time I blog about iced coffee, someone invariably mentions the Vietnamese variety. :)

Sarah Gates said...

The McDonalds bit made me think I was on today's game thread over at JoS!

I totally understand the iced coffee out thing, and if you can afford it, you should have it. Even at the ubiquitous Starbucks. I have trouble hating on Starbucks, though I certainly mock its NY presence enough, just because as a giant corporate citizen, they are very much the anti-Wal*Mart.

L-girl said...

The McDonalds bit made me think I was on today's game thread over at JoS!

I'm listening to the game RIGHT NOW, so shhhhh! :)

I have trouble hating on Starbucks, though I certainly mock its NY presence enough, just because as a giant corporate citizen, they are very much the anti-Wal*Mart.

I agree. They're not a bad company at all.

It's only about what's happened to NYC. I felt the little independent places needed and deserved my money more.

I didn't want to contribute to their demise the way I know I (and most people I know) did with the independent bookstores, all of us sucked in by B&N.

Amy said...

Ah, the demise of the independent bookstore---that is one my pet peeves. In Northampton alone there used to be at least five; now I think there are two. Who knows how long they will hold on?

It isn't all Barnes and Noble; it is also Amazon. Although browsing through a bookstore is one of my great pleasures, I find like many others that I am buying more and more books on line.

L-girl said...

In Northampton alone there used to be at least five; now I think there are two. Who knows how long they will hold on?

In NYC there used to be hundreds. Now there is a handful.

The bookstores are definitely under pressure from the online stores. In NYC, though, B&N (and everyone who shops there, including me) bear a lot of the blame.

Two B&Ns moved into every neighbourhood where indie and used bookstores thrived - usually one at one end of the nabe, and another at the other end. Of course the indies couldn't compete on price or amenities.

We all decried it - and we all caused it.

And once again, the worst part of it (for me) is the homogenization. I wouldn't hate it so much if every Barnes & Noble didn't look like every other Barnes & Noble.

Taking another step back, most of the homogenization is caused by the absence of commercial rent control in NYC. Plenty of independent bookstores could have stayed in business if their rent was halfway manageable.

But rents triple and quadruple, pushing small businesses out, and only the huge chains can afford to move in.

L-girl said...

Like disparaging the Queen, such an opinion is likely to get you hauled off to one of our infamous Arctic gulags...

John, forgive my swiss-cheese-like memory, did you purposely say this based on an old wingnut post here...? Or is a coincidence you mention disparaging the Queen??

Kuri said...

Second Cup does actually serve iced coffee - it's my summer drink at work! I just order a skim latte over ice.

I used to like the iced cappuccino slushy concoctions, but for someone like me who's trying to not gain weight, the calorie counts are way too high. Plus, I'd once read that Tim Horton's iced caps are probably the single worst food item available in Canada from a heart health perspective. I've oddly comforting to me that I can make such a big difference to my health simply by avoiding one single item. :-)

L-girl said...

Second Cup does actually serve iced coffee - it's my summer drink at work! I just order a skim latte over ice.

So they're making you a hot drink, then pouring it over ice?

That's my understanding of the "any drink can be ordered iced" on their menu. And that's definitely not iced coffee!

If I'm wrong and they're actually serving cold iced coffee, let me know! Thanks!

L-girl said...

I've oddly comforting to me that I can make such a big difference to my health simply by avoiding one single item. :-)

It can if you used to drink a lot of them. If you only had one every once in a while, then no, it won't make much of a difference.

I'm lucky, I guess. I think Tim's Ice Capps are completely disgusting. They're made from all artificial ingredients, loaded with sugar (or more likely, HFCS), and they don't even taste like coffee.

John said...

John, forgive my swiss-cheese-like memory, did you purposely say this based on an old wingnut post here...? Or is a coincidence you mention disparaging the Queen??

My comment was indeedcbased on one of the old wingnut posts. A while back, you pointed me at the "wingnut" category on the site, and I went back and read many of them. The claim about dire consequences for criticizing the monarchy struck me as particularly hilarious. If it were true, I have a relative who would be working on a chain gang right now!

Do you think the wingnut who made this claim actually believed, or was he just trying to sow uncertainty? I wonder how widespread such beliefs are among the Credulous-American community?

L-girl said...

My comment was indeedcbased on one of the old wingnut posts. A while back, you pointed me at the "wingnut" category on the site

I thought so! But I wasn't 100% certain. I'm glad you went back and read them!

The claim about dire consequences for criticizing the monarchy struck me as particularly hilarious.

We loved that one, too. Especially since right now free speech is in much more trouble south of the border than north.

Do you think the wingnut who made this claim actually believed, or was he just trying to sow uncertainty?

I'm pretty sure he believed it. A steady diet of talk radio and Fox "news" will do that. For a time, one of the wingnut radio guys - maybe Gibson? - was on an anti-Canada kick.

I wonder how widespread such beliefs are among the Credulous-American community?

Heh, who knows. Their beliefs never fail to amaze me.

Jere said...

Well you did ask what a girl, uh, is to do...so...couldn't you just make coffee at home and put ice in it?#

I mean, if you're looking for an alternative. Which you kind of don't seem to be, so I guess it's moot. I've had maybe three sips of coffee lifetime, so I know nothing about this stuff. I do love coffee ice cream, though. And the smell of coffee. Then again, I love the smell of gasoline. But I don't like gas ice cream.

Speaking of indie bookstores--with our book, we contacted a small bookstore to give them a review copy, and the woman was so excited, saying the big publishers completely ignore her. So now we're excited to send one to every little bookstore we can find. I'm also already experiencing my first taste of major corporation pressure with this book--though this won't be my first taste of telling one to go fuck its proverbial self.

# = jere's patented "no sarcasm intended" notation

Amy said...

Of course, it's not just NYC that has become homogenized. The whole country has. There are so few places left where you can find independent stores of any kind. Even in our small town. When we first moved there in 83, every store was independent---no chains at all, and a small independent bookstore. Now we have a Gap, a Blockbuster, Talbots, two chain restaurants, etc. And NO bookstore. :(

L-girl said...

Well you did ask what a girl, uh, is to do

An expression. It means, "I can't help myself."

...so...couldn't you just make coffee at home and put ice in it?#

I do that (only I make it much better than just coffee with ice in it).

But I hugely enjoy having iced coffee when I'm out. The iced coffee at home is good for when I'm home. And Starbucks is good for when I'm not.

* * * *

The whole big-publisher-big-bookstore thing is a seamless web - *very* hard to crack. If you visit indie stores, I'm sure you'll have a lot of success. Indie bookstores will also be amenable to you and your mom doing appearances and such. Good luck!!

L-girl said...

Well you did ask what a girl, uh, is to do...so...couldn't you just make coffee at home and put ice in it?#

Off-topic, and not sarcastic:

Jere, what does the "uh" in the above sentence mean?

Why do you use it?

I've been wondering why people are doing this so much. Since you are someone who uses this - what? expression? not sure what to call a mid-sentence, written "uh" - and someone who I can ask, who will likely have an answer, other than "because I saw other people do it" (as if), I will use this opportunity to ask you.

I've used it a few times in writing myself, but it's become extremely common, and seems to be being used when there's no reason for an "uncomfortable pause".

L-girl said...

Of course, it's not just NYC that has become homogenized. The whole country has.

Yes, and quite a long time ago. NYC and much of the NE were holdouts - one of the few places that didn't look like every other place.

But increasingly over the last 20 years (as you've said), that's ended.

A lot of the west coast is still unique and independent, esp the small coastal towns.

This is one reason I loved Newfoundland - and Ireland, at least when we were there in 2001. Both mostly unspoiled by chains. Unfortunately, in the case of NL, it's because people are so poor, the chains don't have much of a reason to go there.

tornwordo said...

Oh my but I've had the exact same experience. I'm a frequent Starbucks patron in the summer precisely because it's the only place I can get a true iced coffee (why does it cost more than hot coffee though?) Here, they automatically put sugar syrup in it though so you HAVE TO specify no sugar if you like it the way I do.

gito said...

Yay! Good for you L! The iced coffee at Starbucks is better than anywhere else. The reason is because is not only regular coffee that is brew and then you add the ice, is double strength! Call Terraza; which means the patio in the roof of a house or building. Its use only for ice coffee. hugs.

L-girl said...

Here, they automatically put sugar syrup in it though so you HAVE TO specify no sugar if you like it the way I do.

Here, they have sweetened and unsweetened, so I have to specify unsweetened. I also drink mine without sugar!

Maybe next time we get to Montreal we can have an good strong unsweetened iced coffee together. :)

L-girl said...

The iced coffee at Starbucks is better than anywhere else. The reason is because is not only regular coffee that is brew and then you add the ice, is double strength!

Exactly!!

That's how I make it at home, too - extra-strength, so when you add ice and the ice melts, it's still strong and delicious!

Scott M. said...

It's amazing the regional differences in cuisine as well... when we were in the GTA, we always had to drive far to get to a chip truck in the summer. It was a bi-weekly event that we enjoyed.

In Ottawa, they're everywhere. Everywhere. As such, I've been finding us eat chip truck fries up to twice a week. We've got to cut back before our hearts give out

There's nothing worse than having an addiction then having an endless supply at your doorstep. It's evil.

L-girl said...

There's nothing worse than having an addiction then having an endless supply at your doorstep. It's evil.

Is that ever true. The Starbucks card does the same thing.

Iced coffee in my fridge does the same thing too! I make it half decaf. That helps. But then I might drink twice as much.

Canada Calling said...

All this conversation about coffee and no one responded to the Rick Mercer comment? :)

John said...

All this conversation about coffee and no one responded to the Rick Mercer comment? :)

I didn't respond, because I think L-Girl's right about Rick Mercer. I liked him a lot better a decade ago when he was still on 22 Minutes. Now he just seems self-important and not particularly funny.

I will never agree with L-Girl about St. Gordon of Lightfoot, however... :-)

redsock said...

All this conversation about coffee and no one responded to the Rick Mercer comment? :)

I will!

He's not insightful.
He's not edgy.
He's not funny.

His material is completely pedestrian and it's made worse by the fact that you can tell he thinks it's wildly hilarious and quite clever.

...

"Settle down, Stephen Harper, I said flag day."

And this is what they choose to run in a promo, thinking this uproarious gag will make you curious -- who is this funny man? -- and get you to tune in.

Bah.

MSEH said...

Forget the iced coffee - P's question is, "Where is the unsweetened iced tea?" Not here, apparently.

Jere said...

L: I was wondering if you'd ask about that when I wrote it. But I just went for it. So here's the explanation. It's all about language itself--the awkwardness that arises in a phrase when it's said from someone else's perspective.

"What's a girl to do?" is the phrase. But when I say, "you asked what a girl is to do," that would sound very weird, but would be correct. I always write how I would talk--and if I was saying that out loud, knowing the awkwardness (in language) that was about to arise, I'd throw in an "uh" to say, "well this is gonna sound weird, but...."

But to clarify on the phrasing, it's like if you said "what's this dog's name," and then if I needed to bring up your question, I'd say "you asked what this dog's name is." And when you use that formula for the question "what's a girl to do," it leaves you with "you asked what a girl is to do." Wait, maybe I should've said "you asked what a girl's to do." Hmmm...the apostrophes are confusing me. Maybe I just fucked up. You see why I need the "uh"??? I was clearly confused! Quit grilling me under these hot lights! haha

David said...

The initial post was (I think) about iced coffee, not Rick Mercer (for whom I still have a soft spot, mainly because I am nostalgic for his CodCo incarnation, which preceded 22 minutes and was even better) (but that's a different story).

The iced coffee is a matter of public education: I make a point of going into any place with acceptable-to-nice espresso, and asking for a double with a glass of ice (I actually started doing this in Central America, where they servers thought I was an extraterrestrial for wanting coffee cold) (but they got used to it).

Much nicer than filter from the fridge (which is what I make at home or at work), and pretty exactly what I would get in Spain. And I get to decide if I want sugar, how much etc.

In Toronto, the Vietnamese variety, with its little hot water filter, is a pretty good substitute as well (not quite so ubiquitous in other cities like London Ontario). And the condensed milk addition takes me right back to Mediterranean provinces of Spain....

I do NOT frequent Starbucks for a number of reasons: 1. their brewed coffee tastes burnt (and is probably responsible in large part for miseducating North Americans to think that Italian or French "roast" actually mean "charred", and 2. they are under boycott from the anti-Israel-apartheid campaign (as corporate supporters of the IDF and the occupation).

Why would *anyone* go to the dreaded McD for coffee or anything else?? ('cept maybe to pee). In a pinch, Timmy's coffee can actually be improved by pour over ice.

Laura, there are so many wonderful independent cafés in Toronto (can you tell I'm pining?), please check them out and leave the Starbucks homogeneity behind, at least sometimes.

And I'll even throw in an "uh" for good measure: "uh".

Scott M. said...

What's a Starbucks card, btw? Is it a prepaid cash card, or one of those "points" cards?

Scott M. said...

Oh... on rereading, I think I get it, you reload it on-line from your credit card or something?

But it's "free"... so do you play online games or something?

I'm still confused.

L-girl said...

I think L-Girl's right about Rick Mercer.

Whoo-hoo! That makes about six of us, by my count. :)

I also don't mind him on 22 Minutes (I like the show).

I will never agree with L-Girl about St. Gordon of Lightfoot, however... :-)

:>)

L-girl said...

Forget the iced coffee - P's question is, "Where is the unsweetened iced tea?" Not here, apparently.

This was my question too!!! I say "was" because I gave up. It can't be found. The only unsweetened ice tea I drink now is at home.

L-girl said...

You see why I need the "uh"??? I was clearly confused! Quit grilling me under these hot lights! haha

You survived admirably. Now please write about your experience for Vanity Fair. "Believe me, posting on wmtc is torture!"

I totally see what you mean.

I think it's over-used and past its sell-by date.

Except, uh, when you use it, of course.

Amy said...

Our Starbucks serves unsweetened iced tea, if you request it.

(I do occasionally drink iced tea, but only unsweetened; same with hot tea.)

L-girl said...

Laura, there are so many wonderful independent cafés in Toronto (can you tell I'm pining?), please check them out and leave the Starbucks homogeneity behind, at least sometimes.

When I see them, I do go. But I live in Mississauga, land of homogeneity, and spend most of my time there.

Also, I agree with Gito: the brewed iced coffee at Starbucks is my favourite.

I agree with you that their regular drip coffee has a burnt taste that I don't like. But I really enjoy their espresso drinks, and I LOVE their iced coffee.

(I should also note that I've found a lot more independent, non-chain restaurants and stores in Mississauga than I thought I would. They're well hidden - but they do exist.)

L-girl said...

What's a Starbucks card, btw? Is it a prepaid cash card, or one of those "points" cards?

Prepaid cash card. I refill it online.

L-girl said...

David, since your profile is not available, can you tell us who you are, how you come to wmtc? It's not a requirement if you prefer to remain anonymous, but I am curious.

L-girl said...

Scott, Allan got a Starbucks card as a gift. That one was free. He gave it to me, I used it, and continued to reload it.

That part is not free. :)

Amy, re iced tea, leaving Starbucks aside, you can't get unsweetened iced tea in restaurants here. In NYC and many other places, you order iced tea, then you put sugar in (or not) according to your tastes. So far in Canada I have not found that - Toronto area, Montreal, Newfoundland, and now I'll add Fredericton, where MSEH is. I've stopped ordering it altogether.

redsock said...

Our Starbucks serves unsweetened iced tea, if you request it.

MFer, I want more iced tea!

L-girl said...

A, you could have at least linked to my post about it!

L-girl said...

A funny take on the "MFer/iced tea" episode at the bottom of this post.

David Heap said...

OK, I have updated / enabled the profile-thingy (sorry, bit of a blog newbie). And I came here via the war resisters campaign, but stayed for the (iced)coffee...

L-girl said...

Welcome David!

And I came here via the war resisters campaign, but stayed for the (iced)coffee...

That's what I like to hear!

Plus any friend of Woody Guthrie's is a friend of mine. (Scroll down if you haven't already seen it. I love how "this machine kills fascists" applies to bloggers!)

Joe Grav said...

Come on L. You know I was exaggerating w/ the bathroom thing. But yeah, I just have a problem with Starbucks' omnipresence. It's also annoying... it's supposed to be 'your neighborhood coffee + study spot!' ignoring the fact that there are 9 zillion others that are exactly the same as it...

GRR!

haha

Anyway, I don't drink coffee, so it doesn't matter to me.