A quiet war has been slowly percolating in coffee shops across Canada. Battle lines have been drawn, territories have been formed and colours have been chosen. Two sides now battle each other in the streets, armed with steaming cups of Joe and the occasional sugary treat.
In Vancouver, the Green Mermaid has claimed victory over the brazen Hockey star's double-double, but independent factions of revolutionaries now seek to challenge the Seattle based franchise. Who will win this bean war? We will have to wait till the coffee cools...
All puns aside, the coffeehouse competition in Canada is very real. The two combatants, Starbucks and Tim Horton's, are competing for territory from St. Johns to Victoria. If you look at sheer numbers, Tim Horton's is ahead with roughly 3,500 locations in Canada; Starbucks is trailing with a mere 1,200.
But unlike the majority of urban centers in our country, in Vancouver, Starbucks is winning.
Maybe it's our proximity to Seattle, the home of the first Starbucks, or maybe it's our desire for a stronger brew, but in Vancouver, Richmond, North Van, West Van, Delta and Port Moody the green runs deeper than the donut.
That being said, Starbucks knows they're in for an uphill battle to convince the rest of Canada to give up the roll-up. In the past few months, Starbucks has released a lighter coffee that is comparable to the milder, Tim Hortons fare. Their new 'Amber Roast' even comes with a marketing campaign specifically tailored to engage those Canadians that have already decided that Starbucks coffee is too strong.
But as the two megachains trade blows, another market is emerging. The independent coffee house is making strong strides, especially in the trendsetting neighbourhoods of Vancouver. Main Street is home to a number of these smaller establishments, many who roast their own beans.
According to Coffeegeek.com creator, Mark Prince, Main Street's "49th Parallel" and "Kafka's Coffee and Tea" are two of the finest coffee spots in the city.
What separates them from the 'big two' and the rest of the smaller competitors are their ethical stance on bean purchasing, their slow brew option and their ambiance.
The operators of 49th Parallel travel around the world to visit the sites where their coffee beans are grown. Once imported, their green coffee is roasted by Master Roaster Michael Piccolo. At their Main location, the coffee bar itself takes center stage.
At Kafka's, their motto says it all: "We're serious about coffee and not much else." Their beans are purchased from an ethical importer in Seattle, where they are processed in a micro roaster. Like the 49th Parallel, Kafka’s specializes in slower brew methods, like the pour over. They are also home to a rotating gallery of local art.
If coffee means more to you than a morning jumpstart, take the time to visit Main Street’s coffee mecca. Let the big boys battle for the mass market. Indulge in something unique, dark and artistic.
"It doesn't matter where you're from - or how you feel...
There's always peace in a strong cup of coffee." - Gabriel Bá