I've already blogged about the density of coffee places in my part of town. I've found a new one that I really enjoy and I'm spending a lot of time at now. It's Far Coast, at Bloor and St. Thomas. It's actually the first store of what the Coca Cola corporation is hoping will be a global chain - the next one is going up in Singapore, followed by Oslo. For now, this is the only one of their shops in the world.
Since I gave up drinking Coca Cola itself at the beginning of 2006, it's sort of funny that the Coca Cola corporation is now getting money from me for another kind of caffeinated beverage. At least it's not loaded with high-fructose corn syrup.
While I would rather patronise a cool independant coffee shop that serves custom roasts and has a funky crowd, I haven't found any within easy walking distance - Kensington and the Annex are each a good 20 to 30 minutes away on foot. Given that I'll have to go corporate anyhow, it's kind of fun to be in early on something new.
The beverages were no doubt thoroughly strategized and focus-groupped and have names like 'Belegante' and 'Framboose' - and they're tasty enough. What I like the best about the place, though, is the location. It's in what used to be a Roots shop, on the south side of Bloor across from Harry Rosen and the Pottery Barn on one side, and the Windsor Arms Hotel on the other (when it was Roots, I actually almost had the Olsen Twins buy me a new pair of boots, but that's a story for another time). The shop is two levels, with huge retail-style picture windows that go almost from floor to ceiling. The second level is nicely away from the counter and the machines, so it's more quiet and private, and you can sit in front of these huge windows and watch all the amusing oddly-dressed rich people wandering around Bloor Street's 'Mink Mile'. I've seen movie shoots, some amazing cars (most notably a Bentley and an Aston-Martin), tourists, and lots of Ladies of a Certain Age with leopard-spotted pill-box hats on their way to Holt Renfrew.
It also seems to have become a favorite meeting spot for executives, sales managers, and talent scouts - it's like a small MBA and marketing course every time I walk in there. Just today, I overheard some guys from Harry Rosen talk about sales figures for the upcoming holiday season, and some music industry A&R people discussing new artists - and about two weeks ago, I overheard some marketing strategists discuss how to sell microchips in credit cards: "everyone will have these in a few years - people just don't know it yet."
Another interesting thing about Far Coast is that all the beverages are made automatically start-to-finish by a bank of specialty machines - the 'barista' just loads the pod of coffee or tea or whatever, presses the appropriate buttons, and the machine does the rest. From overhearing Coca Cola's own marketing people pitching Far Coast, their approach seems to not be about becoming the next Starbuck's, but rather to have a few Far Coast locations in trendy and heavily-travelled areas, and to sell the fancy machines and flavour pods to restaurants and hotels, like they already sell their Coke fountains. No doubt you'll eventually be able to buy your own pods of 'Borana' at your favorite grocery emporium - and maybe a 'home game' version of the machine. This approach means they don't have to hire by coffee-making skill, but rather (I'm pretty sure I overheard this) by photogenic ethnic diversity - which is a whole other blog post in itself there.
Anyhow, worth checking out - if nothing else, a comfortable place to work and/or schmooze, with a good view, decent beverages, and (bonus for people in the software biz) open until 11 every night.