Victoria. City of Coffee.
Western society is one that has been fueled by stimulants, presumably ever since the first Greek (or was he a Roman? Or a Visigoth?) discovered the miracle of fermented fruit. Love of spirits – and the capacity to overindulge – is a trait that has been passed down the human evolutionary chain. Along with vestigial pinky toes, hemophilia, and an aversion to red hair.
Now, I’m no student of history, but I can tell you this – our love of alcohol is what let the West beat the rest. The only reason we beat the Native Americans, the Africans, and the Chinese, was because we were drunker than those people. And also, you know, the Maxim gun and inhuman cruelty… but let’s stick with Alcohol as being the prime reason.
Sometime, however, in the 1950s, we realized that our love of alcohol was getting us into trouble – mostly because we were beginning to operate more heavy machinery around that time. Give a Redcoat a rifle and a mickey, and everything works out for you – worst comes to worst, and your redcoat has violently annexed a neighbour’s land. Give a forklift driver a bottle of rye, and he’s driven into shelving and crushed half your logistics staff.
Changing times, changing stimulants. Enter coffee.
Victoria is a city that always straddles two worlds, the old and the new – a college student that cannot decide whether to focus on beautiful frat boys or soulful professors. Filled with ties to the old world, the mother country, it has its share of tea houses, 1800s architecture, and a distressing number of shops that have names beginning with “Ye Olde…”. On the other hand, it’s a stone’s throw away from Vancouver, the city of constant reinvention and modernism. Hell, I’m pretty sure we even stole a bit of Vancouver’s rain.
Vancouver loves coffee, and so we want to love coffee, too. It’s only a matter of time before a street in Victoria becomes like Robson – with a Starbucks on every corner.
But we still have the old blood, and the old world love of Ye Olde Booze. But slowly, old blood is giving way to new, and even the bars now offer coffee – though maybe with a splash of Bailey’s, to remind one of what was once holy.
Some say the old ways are barbaric and awful. Me? I’m not so sure. Sure, back in the day, women couldn’t vote, we’d hang anyone who had a lazy eye, and Mario only had eight pixels, but, damn it, at least I got ketchup with my fries, and not this aioli nonsense.
It is a fact that for every three people in Victoria, there is one coffee shop. Which is, strangely, staffed by three people. I’m no mathematician, but I can tell you that simple logic suggests that every person in Victoria is a barista. This may explain the behaviour of the middle-aged man in front of me at my coffee shop yesterday. Wearing a suit that had been mended more times than Little Richard and glasses that had seen the Watergate hearings, he analyzed the work being put into his cappuccino and then, looking down at the foam, remarked simply “the foam isn’t thick enough. You should take pride in your work.”
The foam looked thick enough to me – the flies with jackhammers, trying to drill their way to the coffee beneath, would certainly agree. But this middle-aged barista disagreed, and watched dispassionately as the beleaguered barista made another cappuccino. He had to dig out a welding mask and some depleted tungsten to get the foam thick enough.
He looked like he could use a drink.