I’m a bit of a coffee snob, I’ll admit it. I’ll drink most any coffee, but after working as a barista a couple years ago, I learned what fresh coffee tastes like and that most coffee you buy in a coffee shop is not so fresh. So when I moved to Winnipeg, the first thing I did was look for coffee shops to write in. I was a little wary because there are a lot of nasty coffee shops in the DC area, my least favorite being Caribou Coffee. Their coffee is like dirt with water on it. Not even smooth like mud. Just dirt with water. And sometimes the dirt-like coffee grounds float up to the surface…I can’t talk about it anymore.
I was wary of finding another Caribou, and finding really quality coffee up north, but I’ve been really impressed. Canadians like good coffee it seems, and I haven’t had anything nearly as bad as Caribou. In fact, the worst I’ve had is Starbucks, which is at least consistent. My favorite shops so far are Urban Forest in the historic Exchange District, and The Fyxx in the newer downtown area. Both have good coffee, free wifi, and a good atmosphere for writing (tables, coffee, chairs).
When I started researching coffee shops in Winnipeg (that’s right researching – I told you I’m serious about coffee) I kept hearing about a place called The Parlour. Every website, magazine and person said it was the best coffee in Winnipeg. I knew I had to go there on my search for the perfect coffee hangout in Winnipeg, but for some reason I didn’t go until today.
When I got to The Parlour I couldn’t really see what was awaiting me because there was a glare on the window. I didn’t really have expectations other than good coffee, but I was surprised to see how small the space was once I got inside. There was a coffee bar just big enough for three baristas to stand behind, and then a bar area by the window and another along the wall. But what really struck me was that the menu painted on the wall only contained 7 items. Just your basic coffee drinks and tea. I respect places with small menus, it means they are focused on what they do and want to do it well. It was what was written under the menu that surprised me:
I shrugged and ordered an espresso, which I was told could not be served “to go”. I didn’t ask for it to go, but ok, I understand it’s meant to be sipped quickly. No wifi seemed a bit odd in the modern day, but I can work without wifi, as long as I have my laptop, or even a notebook. But as I looked around I realized that even if a seat was available (which it wasn’t. The place was packed with people “talking to their neighbors”) There wasn’t much space for a laptop and the setting was much too fast paced to write in anyway. It has the feeling of one of those New York style hot dog joints where you grab your food and go.
So I ruled out The Parlour as a writing location as I waited for my espresso. As I watched the baristas pulling shots of espresso, I thought about the no wifi thing. Internet is a distraction from writing anyway what with facebook updates, email, and the temptation to fact check every little detail. I sipped the espresso (a bit bright for my taste, but still very good, and above all, fresh) and walked to Urban Forest, pulled out my laptop (after ordering a drink of course), turned off my wifi, and started revising that pesky story-within-a-story.
I know that turning off my wifi isn’t some big revelation in discipline and fighting off the inevitable robot army of the future that is modern technology, but it was a nice little reminder for me today to stay focused on my work and to stop and take time to smell the coffee beans.