Normal Canadian Things I Find Weird #3

And so the saga continues. After being introduced to various aspects of coffee in Europe, see back to my Café and the Continent Post, I thought it may be good to share my thoughts on the Canada Coffee culture as its certainly…. different.
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Normal Canadian Things I Find Weird #3 Canadian Coffee Culture

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So I can not say Briony anymore when it comes to ordering coffee at starbucks as no one can spell it so I go for Molly. Which isn’t always heard right…

Ordering Coffee – The Fast Food Coffee

(Not sure if this is just an anxiously awkward me thing or something others have faced as fearful foreigners.) 

Ordering coffee is a simple transaction. This statement has been challenging to me for a few months of being in Canada. Some uniquely Canadian thing, you can not escape from is the Double Double. What is a Double Double? It happens to be a coffee served with 2 cream and 2 sugar. Logical, if you understand the ordering system in this country. I wondered for a while why people would perpetually give me the funny look when I just wanted coffee.

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What I did not know is that in most places in Canada that do the coffee put the milk or cream and sugar in while they make it for you. This is madness. As someone who is used to getting the coffee and faffing about with sugar packets its completely mind blowing. More words to say at the cashier?! Outrageous. 
However, I understand the reasoning behind the order the sugar and milk; it does save the individual the faffing time… yet it is still a concept I need to get used to. And admittedly it does stop the days where you accidentally pour the sugar in the bin, and the paper into your coffee. This does happen more often than I would like to admit…

Roll Up the Rim Season

I mentioned this briefly in my previous post and I don’t understand the hype behind it. It’s all about the chance of winning – winning a doughnut, a coffee of a Honda Civic on a years lease. As I don’t understand it I asked my Canadian friends their thoughts…

“Roll up the rim is a Canadian classic, a Canadian pass time and overall a gamble to begin your day. Even though the coffee may be anywhere from weak coffee like water to week old cigarette butts juice the gamble of getting another coffee or pastry keeps us going.” – Mirre

I am like the wrong person to ask haha I hate Tim Horton’s! Even when I go and its roll up the rim I still get cold drinks. But I think people like it because it is cheap and good (I guess). And People love Roll up cause its like the chance to win on something you would probably buy anyway. It’s like if tampons came with a prize people would be like – This makes buying these more enjoyable hahaha – Maggie

I tried this phenomenon and did not win anything. Plus the whole concept of rim rolling is confusing and not easy to do if you haven’t heard of it before. Where is this hidden message? How do I unravel the secrets of the cup? One should not overthink these things.

The Rival $1 Coffee

So what I noticed while this whole rolling rim shenanigans is going on, across the road in McDonalds, there is a $1 coffee promotion. Coffee for $1. Thats basically 55p. Why would you go in for a roll lot of disappointment when you can have a large $1 coffee that actually tastes nice? Additionally you can collect the stickers on the cups so when the season is over you have copious amounts of free coffee. Thats a win win situation!

Cafeteria Coffee

I’m not sure if this is just an Algonquin College thing, but it kinda blew my mind. So there is a large variety of flavoured coffee. Not like vanilla lattes and caramel macchiatos… Nay, as in its flavoured coffee beans and that is something I’m not used to seeing regularly. I’m sure it exists elsewhere in the world but not as open as this.

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Some fancy coffee art from Bridgehead

*And finally*

French Vanilla

Why do we not have this back in the UK; and when we can get it, why is it so expensive?! I don’t know exactly what is in french vanilla, except for the vanilla of course, but it is pretty much a hot drink that rivals the godly status of hot chocolate on a cold rainy day. I suggest to anyone who like sweet things to go out of their way to try french vanilla as they will not be disappointed.

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I am an avid coffee drinker, and these weird Canadian coffee credentials seem to make the experience smoother and more enjoyable so I don’t think I can complain too much!
Thanks for reading and enjoy the nice weather before 6th winter comes!

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Travel Bug #2: Montreal, A Small Corner of Europe

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Something that is really prominent about my childhood memories are the holidays to France. From when I can remember France has been a major part of my growing up from day trips to Calais, to weekends in Paris. It wasn’t until I was 7 or 8 that we started holidays in French cottages, or Gites, that is a big part of my life and now my parents’ lives. The first place I can fully remember was next to a big Château in the Southern regions of France. I can’t remember the exact location but remember watching the Hoopoes chatting to each other on the power lines. I remember the house being a pile of unsorted rooms, with a porch that should have been a room but the wall just wasn’t there, being open to sun, but protected from the rain. The bedrooms were corridors to reach other rooms which I associate with the traditional “french vibe”. Obviously this was a 7-8 year old creating and reinforcing stereotypes in her head but nonetheless I did and still do love the French culture.

Our holidays took us around France and I have fond memories of cycling around Mount Ventou, Provence’s fields of lavender and seas of sunflowers, La Rochelle’s stunning blues of the sea and Île Noirmoutier, Hidden monasteries in dense forests, to name but a few. Each place had it’s only character that added to my Continental fascination as well as adding to my French vocabulary. (If somehow Mrs Tominey is reading this, I can conjugate Etre and Avoir now….)

 I could go on and on – probably write a book on my french holidays growing up and the shenanigans my family and I got up to, but thats not what I’m meaning to write about today. (You can see from the very questionable pictures above, I didn’t take many photos back then and the quality isn’t great…)

Save the images of cobbled streets, small narrow roads aligned with shops, cafés and bakeries. Think of the squares that open out that are hemmed in by restaurants and cafes, the square littered with small market stands, and artisans selling their profession. For me this is the artisan quarter of Paris by Montmartre. This is where I remember eating chips with my Mum, throwing them up in the air for small sparrows to catch, overlooking the city sprawled out below. Or the copious times my Mother and I visited Bruges, huddled up in winter in the main square with a hot chocolate, after walking around the many wooden stalls of the Christmas market. It’s very old buildings and street ways that don’t particularly make much sense but brought together is my traditional view of Europe.

Keep that image we will get back to it. 

If you have ever visited America, its very quick to understand that their perception of old is not in the same realm as European old. In Europe we have towns dating back thousands of years with buildings dating back hundreds. I grew up in a house originally built in the 17th century. European old is old old. American old is 1800s, maybe 1700s at a push. We can’t mock them for this, as technically speaking, they are Europeans too. And although we don’t see the exact copy of continent to continent, there is still small corners of Europe.

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Even after being told by friends, I did not believe that there would be anything like my small French towns in North America, and well I was proved wrong. You can see influences in certain buildings, as I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting to find myself transported back across the Atlantic to a weird combination of French and Germanic streets and squares. Montreal did this.

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Being so far from “home” it did make me feel a bit homesick for my childhood holidays with my family. Additionally it made me realise how much stress my parents must be under in their big move to Normandy fulltime. It’s funny how much memories can make you realise your future. Studying the past does help the present. (Something like that…)

Back to Montreal!
I only had the pleasure to visit the place for a day, and that was enough for me. (Nothing to do with falling over on Mount Royal in the morning…) The mash up of old and new just made it a bit crazy for my European brain, and to fully appreciate the place I would definitely need more time and more confidence in my french. (I’ll come to that in a later post I am sure.) 

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From super modern metropolis, with colourful walls, high rises and concrete, to just round the corner that takes you back to Europe. Pretty strange for me, but it’s just another one of those places that makes you stop and think.

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In my last post I talked about Places I will Miss – the small bits of England that I know aren’t going anywhere but I hold dear to me, mainly due to fond memories and friends. If anything moving somewhere else is just going to expand my feelings and memories and urge me to go to places, I as a small person would never have thought about outside the confines of Europe. That is exciting.

I will always have a fond place for my french holidays with my parents and I hope I can continue the French tradition, especially in helping with the final move to Normandy. Fingers crossed, this time next year I’ll have more French fancies to share!

Thanks for reading and have a Great Day.

If you feel like it, leave a comment about your favourite childhood holiday/memories as I would love to hear from you! 

Café Culture and the Continent

What warms a cold winters day than that of the promise of a hot beverage?
If you’re more comfortable at home with your tea, out and about with your coffee on the go or taking a break from it all in your favourite café, hot drinks are a pinnacle of our culture and we can’t escape it.

The liberalisation of the workplace with more and more jobs becoming work from home, and the increased amount of students, café’s have arisen in great numbers to accommodate this new phenomenon. Only a few decades ago, coffee and tea were classified as exotic drinks, with only the higher tier of society having them as a normal day-to-day beverage. Snap to 2016 and the global brands of Starbucks, Lavazza and Costa dominating the international coffee scene, and the newer chains branching across the UK it’s easy to see that today, coffee and tea are a staple to our culture.

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Café Allongé

As an avid tea and coffee drinker myself I can not complain with the new expansion of hot drinks with new and exciting flavourings and creations appearing almost weekly. Yet i can’t help notice how tea and coffee are no longer valued for their original tastes and pleasures. It’s only when I go back to France I realise how commercialised our British Coffee and Tea tastes have become. Along with the “normalities” of italian coffee, the lattes, cappuccino and americanos, we seem to forget the humble filter coffee and builder’s tea that our projected culture roots us Brits as.

We are now swamped with the choices of extra syrups to cover the coffee flavour, caramel macchiatos, vanilla cappuccinos and various toppings of cinnamon, vanilla and chopped nuts, whipped cream and sauces. Let’s not forget the whole, semi skimmed, skimmed, soya, almond milk that gives “Freedom” to the coffee drinker. Do not get me wrong, I do love a vanilla cappuccino every so often, but the recent years has taken coffee to new extremes, drowning it in hot milk and sugar, taking anything good of the coffee away and replace it with sweet fatness that appeals to everyone and not the real coffee enthusiast.

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Usual French Hot Chocolate

Cafés in Britain are open to everyone in society, with a self-service feel. One forms an orderly line and queues at the counter to request the desired beverage, pays and either stays or leaves. The slow shuffle and wait of these lines is almost chore like, laborious for a once luxury occasion. You receive a cup of the drink and that is that.

On the continent, cafés operate differently. In France particularly you rarely find a chain coffee store as the streets are dotted with bars that function as cafés. It’s easy to compare the two cultures, the French still traditional on waiting tables, bringing over your order usually with a couple of sugars and a sweet treat and then on request “l’addition.” There is no need for queue, it’s instantaneous finding a seating area and being served by the waiter. In most of my café – bar experiences it’s been quicker than any lumbering British Queue.

The coffee culture is different in France, the usual order being coffee at its best as an espresso. Theses are usually quick pick me ups throughout the busy morning. On the opposite end, orders of a grand café or allongé, means that the coffee will last for almost hours on end, an excuse to stay in residence of the café and have a catch up.
At home there is more focus on coffee than tea, with supermarkets stocking more coffee and coffee products than that of tea. Regardless of this, French supermarkets have a remarkable selection of tea, much larger in size and variety than any British supermarkets. Shame on the tea drinking nation we are!

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Espresso

Tea has become increasingly popular over the last few years as well with the demand for flavoured and herbal teas on the rise putting companies like PG tips and typhoo under pressure for more than just black tea. Green tea has been proven to be good for your health, but so has black tea and coffee, but the green tea fad is the one that health bloggers and writers favour.

Tea and coffee as a social lubricant means the demand for all things hot drinks has increased hence the rapid expansion of flavours and establishment for teas and coffees. Both have become a staple personalities, with being a tea drinker a point almost worth writing on your CV.

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Whatever the world of Café’s throws at us next, I’ll be waiting, but for now I think it’s time for us to revisit the basics and get back knowing the proper tea and coffee and appreciating them for what they’ve become. And definitely throw more tea parties. As who doesn’t like a good party?!

Thanks for reading and have a great Holiday Season!

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