Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bond Bond Bakery

Bond Bond's Bakery
1010 Blanchard
coffee ***

i am now trying out various bakeries, many of whom provide the goodies for the 'just coffee' coffee shops in town.  i've had their croissants at several places and they were excellent.  Unfortunately i arrived too late in the day, and they were all gone, so i decided instead to get this yummy looking Onion Board Bread.  They really don't have anywhere to sit.  There were a couple of tables outside, but it wasn't a nice day, so i got an Americano to go, and took it home where I pigged out on onion bread and butter, which was delicious.  They use coffee from Mirage, a place whose coffee i do like, but it definitely takes a barista to make a good cup of coffee.  It was OK, not up to Mirage standards.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Solstice Cafe

Solstice Cafe
529 Pandora Street
June 27, 2011
**** Fernwood Coffee
++++ Goodies

I don't know how I overlooked this place.  it is across the street from Habit Coffee.  It has a fuller menu, but i only had a coffee and pastry, both excellent.  It seems that I arrived on the last day it will look like this, as they are closing for a month of renovations.  i will have to return when it is done and do another entry. It has a nice, friendly warm atmosphere, and seems to attract a 'homespun' clientelle. It was crowded, so I ended up sharing a table with three Oak Bay kinda casual business men, who were quite curious about what i was doing. They serve Fernwood Coffee, which I love, and Silk Road Teas. After hours, solstice cafĂ© plays host to singers, poets, philosophers, artists, protestors and many others with something to share…I haven't been to any of these, but now I know about it, I may give it a try.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

White Heather Tea Room

White Heather Tea Room
1885 Oak  Bay Avenue.
**** coffee

While looking through some old picture files, i found these drawings.  The White Heather Tea Room is just down the street from where I live, and these have to be the very first drawings I did of this kind.  I still wasn't brave enough to try and draw people, so i stuck with 'things'.

Although its a tearoom, they do serve a decent cup of coffee, but that's not why I go there.  I go for the absolutely fantastic British style tea dainties.  It is even a delight to go for simple tea and scones. Their scones are the best I have ever had - even better than mine. The decor is simple, and doesn't try to be faux Brit 'twee', like the tea rooms that are targetting the tourist trade.  It is mostly locals that end up here, and tourists are brought or referred by their friends and relatives.

Their lunches are also fantastic, and reservations for lunch are mandatory, or you won't get in.  If you don't have a reservation, the best times to 'drop in' is for late breakfast or brunch, or late afternoon tea, after 2.   The goodies come in a three tier serving tray. On the bottom are a selection of scones, which are served with clotted cream and home made raspberry or strawberry jams.  The middle tray holds a selection of crust-less party  sandwiches, mini quiches and fruit.  The top is desserts -  lemon cake, tarts, squares and shortbread. 

Fresh flowers, white linen and flowery tea cups finish the look.  The tearoom was opened by 'Aggie' ten or eleven years ago, and was recently sold, as she has moved on to different career as a freelance concierge for an elderly clientelle.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Kadalima's sadly has closed, and is no more

So it was Monday, and sunny and warm, and I was lusting after gelato.  But sadly Ottavio's was closed.  So i headed here instead.  This was one my last visits to one of my favorite patisserie.  I turned up for coffee one day, and it appears that overnight the bakery disappeared, leaving a notice on the door saying that they had defaulted on their rent.  They made some of the very best pastries in Victoria, that I often described as tasting as good as they looked.  Too often, commercial pastries LOOK good, but virtually all taste similar.


Cascadia Bakery @ 1812 Government St.
May 6 2010
+++++ their own.

A very busy little place, not too many tables available inside.  I understand it is an offshoot of Rebar, the top rated vegetarian restaurant in Victoria.  The service was fast and efficient, the coffee was excellent.  They must be using one of the local roasteries, but i neglected to ask which one.  I had a fresh fruit gallette and it was excellent as well.  The cafe was redolent with delicious tempting smells.  Their breads looked amazing, but I knew if I bought a loaf it would disappear too quickly.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Special Teas

Special Teas @ 803 Fort Street.
April 23, 2010
+ packaged cookies

I thought it was about time I tried out some tea shops, and there was a parking space.  I do sort of  like tea.  I adore my own home made iced tea.  But I don't think I am a tea person.  I don't appreciate the subtle differences.  I drink it black with a bit of sweet.  I think putting milk in tea turns it to mud.  This is a lovely tea shop, with a wall of different teas in dozens of black and gold tea tins.  There a couple of small tables, and the tea is served on its own little heating stand, lit with a votive candle.  It comes with a couple of cookies.  The atmosphere is quiet and contemplative.  It's kinda dim, and there's lots of Asian rugs lying about.  I don't really do contemplative.  However, the tea was very good.


De'lish @ St. Patrick and Central in Oak Bay
April 22, 2010
**** Illy coffee
+++++ goodies

I have been trying to get to this place for ages, but the parking seems to always be a problem, even though  it is on a residential street.  It's very tiny, so there's limited seating inside as well, and it's still too cold to sit outside.  Besides, i like to draw the interiors.  Today I was in luck with both parking and a teeny table inside.  It is what I like to call a patisserie, not a simple coffee shop.  I am running out of those, so I am moving on to patisseries.  It has fantastic baking, does tea and small lunches, and does catering as well.  The coffee was good, the expected Illy, and the pastry divine.  I hope to come back for lunch some time.

5 Corners Coffee

5 Corners Coffee @Fairfield and Moss Street
February 21, 2010 & sometime in June.
Another coffee shop bites the dust.  Drove by one day and it was gone gone gone. 

And now for something completely different.  This charming coffee stall turned up not too long ago, and has intrigued me.  I chatted with the owner, who told me that he had bought the heritage house behind, and found it was zoned 'commercial' so he decided to open a Seattle styel  neighbourhood coffee/snack stall.  People drop by, pick up their coffee and chat with him or his wife and it's a very friendly place.  Note the flowers.  I started the drawing in February, but went back to complete it in June, so I included the flowers.  The coffee was pretty good, and it gets an extra * for its uniqueness.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cafe Mela

Cafe Mela @ 784 Humboldt Street
February 19, 2010
**** Illy (i think)
+++++Bond Bond Bakery

Finally found this on the ground level of one of the new high rises that is springing up all around downtown.  It's very different from all the other coffee places that I have visited.  It's 'classy', European style and not  west coast green, or primarily a patisserie.  They have modelled it on the classic Viennese  Kaffeehaus.  It is small, with marble tables, lovely striped satin and antiquey wooden chairs.  The coffee was very good.  I think Illy, and the croissant was wonderful, served on a plate with a doily.

The Village on Estevan.


The Village on Estevan Estevan Street.
March 18, 2010
I started this journal in the Village, after a walk with  Zoe the Wonder Dog on Willows Beach, and while I often return here for the excellent food, I don't usually just come for a coffee.  It's not because their coffee isn't good.  It is.  In fact, it was here that I learned to love Americanos.  When I first started coming here, I was drinking decaff, and while their decaff was ok, it lacked the va va voom that i preferred.  So after I found out that coffee can be GOOD for asthmatics, I switched to Americanos.  This day I was waiting for friends to join me for one of their delicious breakfasts, so out came the journal.  I believe they get their coffee from  Discovery Coffee.

Thursday, June 30, 2011



Ottavios Cafe & Deli on Oak and Monterey
March 12, 2010
**** When I was last here it was Illy, but i believe they have switched to Caffe Fantastico.
 +++++ Their own.

A very busy place, and it was hard to find a place to sit down and draw.  While I have often had coffee here, this time I could not resist the gelato.  They make their own, and it is amazing (especially the cappuccino)  The limone is crisply fresh, and has bits of lemon zest, and the chocolate is creamy and rich.  This is my favorite combination. However I have had coffee gelato here before, and it has always been good.  They use Illy coffee, but the word is they may be switching to coffee from Fantastico.  There's a lovely large patio for dog lovers to sit and sip at.  The food is very Italian, and is excellent.  Their breads and pastries are excellelnt .  Not cheap, but well worth it.

St. Level Espresso

Street Level Espresso
Fort Street

goodies- +++++ (Fol Epi)

Denise highly recommended this place.   it's quite tiny, and  I understand he was a barista at one of the better coffee places (can't remember which... either Discovery or Fantastico) My coffee was OK, but wasn't hot enough..  Another place that won't let me have the sweetener i prefer.  Good thing i now carry a supply with me.  There seems to be lots of regulars and he he knows them by name  Since there is limited seating, it's more of a take out place. 

Paradiso de Stelle

Paradiso de Stelle 10 Bastion Square, just off Wharf Street.
March 10, 2010
**** Illy
+++++ Kadalima's... since they are no more, I will have to check. 

There was a parking space on Wharf St., and this was on my list so I thought it was a good time to try this place.  It's a pleasant little bistro/restaurant, that serves small meals and snacks.  There are tables outside for nice days overlooking the harbour.  It wasn't a nice day, so I sat inside.  Everything was really attractively displayed, and their pastries looked super good.  They told me that they got them from Kadalimas.  Since it has since closed, i wonder where they are getting it from now.  i will have to return and find out.  The coffee was Illy, so therefore it was good.  Illy is Italian, and it seems like most of the patisserie/bistro/small coffee shops seem to prefer it.  On this rainy March day, it seems full of business types.  In the summer it is usually overflowing with tourists as well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bean Around the World

Bean Around the World @ 533 Fisgard
March 7, 2010

Often my choice of coffee place is dictated by whether or not there is parking. This coffee shop has been on my list for a long time, but since it is located in Chinatown, it is not an easy place to park.  I have passed it many times, and today I was lucky.  It was early on a Sunday, and it was full of avid coffee-holics. It seemed to be full of grey haired philosophers, perhaps because the younger crowd were still in bed after an active Saturday night.  It''s a great people watching space, with many interesting overheard conversations as i worked.  Decor was casual/wood floor/ brick walls West Coast.  They are part of a West Coast chain, with 21 independent owners originating in Vancouver where all get their coffee from Cowboy Coffee.  The business originated with a couple of guys who started roasting them for their own shops.   The coffee was very good, and so was the muffin from Wildfire bakery.  Another Politically Correct Green cafe where you can only get 'organic' type sweeteners.  I give up, and have taken to carrying my own Sweet and Lo.

Union Pacific

Union Pacific at 537 Herald St.
March 8, 2010.

More of a 'cafe' serving meals than a coffee shop.  It was about ten am, and everyone seemed to be in for breakfast.  It was pretty crowded with young professionals working on their computers while having their coffee.  It took ages for my coffee to come, and it was OK.  They serve JJ Bean Organic Fair Trade Coffee.  Nice decor and pleasant ambiance.  One of those 'healthy' places that only offers me Splenda, which i don't like.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

2% Jazz

2% Jazz on Douglass at Hillside, beside the Times Colonist
March, 2010
coffee *****
goodies - didn't have any

I had a very hard time finding this place, as it came highly recommended.  It's behind a busy bus stop as well as being on a busy street, so difficult to spot when driving.  After several tries I found it, and a parking space.  I wasn't too impressed when I first walked in.  There were few places to sit, but there was one for me.  I ordered an Americano and WOW, it was great.  Great baristas too, exuding fantastic energy.  This was a very busy place, obviously a large take out clientelle and they seemed to know all their patrons.  It's on a major bus route, one bus going to UVic., so many appeared to be students.  It's obvious they roast their own coffee. They've been here for 15 years They provide their coffee to Cafe Brio, Oak Bay Marina, and

+Update: They will be opening a larger place in December in the Hudson Building.+

Buon Amici

February 28, 2010
Buon Amici (gone)

I am moving further and further afield.  This is definitely out of my zone, as it's over the bridge in what I think is Esquimalt.  It had been highly recommended so I persevered through a jungle of glassy high rise apartments, and found it on the ground level of one one of the new buildings.  Surprisingly, for a Sunday, not many people inside.  But then I remembered it was the day of the Canada/U.S. Olympic hockey game, so everyone (but me) was glued to their tv set.  It's a largish place, attractive coffeeshop/restaurant decor.  Coffee was good, but not up to others I have tried.  It has since closed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mirage Coffee

Mirage Coffee 817 Government at Courtenay #1
February 24, 2010

I was heading for a different coffee shop, but all the seats were taken.  I don't need much . . . a cup of coffee and a place to do my journal and I am happy.  I never 'choose' where I sit, for the 'view'.  Wherever I get to sit, that's what I draw.  So I wandered further and found this one.  I loved it..  The brass coffee machines are impressive and the decor is very tasteful..  They served an excellent Americano.  Because of the location, they seemed to serve mostly business types and tourists.  Very neat and tidy, but a bit sterile for my taste.  They roast their own coffee, and it can be had at:
  • Blue Crab Bar & Grill
  • Bond Bond Bakery
  • Patisserie Danielle
  • Market on Yates

Discovery Coffee (4)

Discovery Coffee @ 664 Discovery off Government.
February 23, 2010

WOW!  I have hit gold here!  Ambiance great, low key casual,busy but not too crowded, with cheerful friendly baristas, good music and a laid back clientelle (and me, the oldie). After having an ordinary coffee, which was pretty good,  I  was offered a free coffee- a smiley faced latte.  I don't normally have my coffee with milk, but I made an exception.  It was delicious, but I will have to return to check out their Americanos.  That is my baseline. Logan is a award winning barista, and one of the owners. There's the coffee shop part, and then next door, another place with more tables

They have opened up a coffee shop in my neighbourhood, so I will have to try it out as well.

Discovery Coffee #2 @ 1964 Oak Bay and Ampion
March 22, 2010
***** their own
+++++ Fol Epi and Bubba Rose's (discontinued)

update on the goodies.  They no longer have Fol Epi and Bubba Rose's stuff.  They have partnered with a new bakery in their newst coffee shop in James Bay,  and the goodies are not that great.  Kinda heavy and healthy.  sigh.... give me a buttery croissant any time.\

This has been open in my neighbourhood for a while, but for some strange reason I have ignored it.  No more.  I loved their coffee in the original shop, kept wanting to try this one out, but Denise said she didn't like the 'atmosphere'.  She was WRONG.  While the music is sometimes a bit overloud, the coffee is fantastic, and I discovered they are also getting their pastries from Fol Epi and Bubba Rose's.   If I come in at the right time, I can get a croissant arriving fresh from the bakery, just like I used to get with my morning coffee in Tours, France.  What could be better?  I like that when its warm outside, I can open the windows, and stay attached to my dog on its leash, sitting and patiently waiting outside.  The only thing they lack is outdoor seating, since they are right up against the sidewalk.

Discovery @ 1964 Oak Bay and Amphion. 
June 1, 2010
*****Discovery Coffee, Americano
+++++ Fol Epi and Bubba Roses goodies.  (discontinued)

I've been teaching a class on Illustrated Journals, and the students wanted me to do a 'demo' in a coffee shop.   I like to spend the last day in a coffee shop, to show the students that no one really notices you when you sit down and draw.  They are either too much into their companion, their book or newspaper, or their computer. I did a demo, and finished it while they worked on their own journal entry.  They especially wanted to know how to do 'glass'... so there is a water glass.  The coffee was, of course, excellent as usual.  

Discovery Coffee , Oak Bay #4
***** coffee (Americano)
+++++ Fol Epi  and Bubby Rose's goodies (discontinued)

I have been teaching Sunday classes to a group of three friends.  They are delightful, and I have really enjoyed them.  The last class is always spent in a coffee shop, to defuse their fear of drawing in front of others.  it was kind of crowded, so we all sat at the same table and drew from a different perspective.  They were surprised at the lack of attention we received, and any we did get, was totally positive. Coffee and a Fol Epi croissant were excellent, as usual.  I realized that I really haven't done many coffeeshops in 2011.  Must make up a new list.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Mo:le Bistro @  554 Pandora
April 2, 2009

It's pronounced 'Molay', but I can't figure out how to do the accent.  This is really out of sequence, because I didn't know whether to include it or not. ButI decided that it should go with my Habit entry.  When I couldn't find Habit the first time, and the totally vegetarian cafe in the trio of healthy eateries didn't serve coffee, I ended up here.

I had heard about this place, and it has a really good reputation, but I only wanted a coffee.  The coffee was so so, but the food smelled and looked absolutely fantastic! It was very noisy, with people chatting away, and these ladies seemed to take forever looking over the menu.  It took me about ten months to get back to Pandora St. to actually try out Habit.Definitely a place to return to for lunch.

Habit Coffee (2)

Habit Coffee on Pandora
February 20, 2010
coffee *****
 goodies - just looked...didn't try them

Everyone seems to rave about this place, so I had to try it out.  I had tried to find it months ago, but it was so unobtrusive, austere and virtually empty, when I found it,that  I walked right by, and went into the restaurant next door (Mole). I was surprised, because if it was that good, I would have expected it to be more crowded, and when I am sketching I prefer a bit of a crowd, mainly because there is more choice of subject mater.  Habit is one  part of a trio of stores that is comprised of an organic vegetarian restaurant (no coffee), a very 'Green' organic bistro style restaurant (Mo:le) . 

I had to go back.  People kept telling me that theirs was THE best coffee in Victoria, so I did return.  It's spare and simple inside,(the Church of Coffee??) and not much seating, so not really a sit down place. It has an intensity of conversation between all of those filling all the seats.  It is very busy on this beautiful sunny day, with people on the benches outside, but mostly with take out it seems.  It's young crowd,  mostly dressed in black and very intense.  The coffee was excellent, but I found the ambiance blah.  I like some ambiance.  In my opinion 'Serious Coffee' tries too hard, and overdoes it.  Habit under does it.  There's gotta be a happy medium somewhere. So far the best balance, for me, was at Cafe Fantastico or Discovery. . Both places have excellent coffee and Fol Epi goodies, albeit not as 'healthy' and good for you as what they have at Habit.  Habit has  their own blend roasted exclusively for them  at Hines, a Roastery on Granville Island in Vancouver.


Habit in the Atrium Building.
808 Yates
coffee *****
goodies ***** best damn biscotti i have ever had, other than my own!

I finally found a parking spot downtown, so I could check out the new Habit.  It's very different from the original Habit, but it still has the  austere, clean, uncluttered look.  The coffee of course was excellent, but the clientelle was quite different.  This coffee shop seems to appeal to downtown working people, and is well located to provide them with an excellent cuppa. While  I can appreciate the owners passion for coffee and conversation, I prefer more 'cluttered', folksy ambiance.  Must be the 'hippy' in me.

Friday, June 24, 2011

James Bay Coffee and Books

James Bay Coffee and Books @ 143  Menzies
February 17, 2010

I couldn't quite figure this place at first.  Is it a restaurant, a book store  or a coffee shop? It seems like  doesn't quite know what it is.  As a result, I didn't know if I should sit in the food part or the book part.  Finally settled into a small table opposite the counter.  I made a mistake and ordered ordinary coffee (those Americanos are expensive) and it was OK,but nothing special.  I really fear my increased coffee drinking has made me quite critical.  I had one of their biscotti, and it was dry and not too good.  It's a friendly place, and seemed to have a lot of regular take out trade. It has a funky homey feel.  They play Scrabble here on Tuesdays, and there is always a book to read.

Cafe Fantastico (5)

Cafe Fantastico #1  @ 965  King Rd, just off Quadra
Feb 16, 2010

FINALLY, I hit gold again!!!  Unbelievably good Americano.  And when I looked down at the pastry, they had what looked like really good croissants.  I have been often fooled by 'good looking' croissants, and I am even fussier about croissants than I am getting to be about coffee.

I spent a summer in Tours, France, attempting (unsuccessfully) to learn to speak French.  All I came away with was a discriminating appetite for the perfect croissants.  Every morning before class, we would search out a place for coffee and croissants, until we DID find the best place. In France the coffee shops are coffee shops, and the bakery sends over the croissants fresh from the oven early in the morning.  

So I ordered one.  And it was damn near perfect.  The only croissants in Victoria that are as good as this are from Fol Epi, a small bakery that was selling them in the market last year... only not this year, as they have opened their own shop. Sure enough, the croissants were from Fol Epi.   SIGH.... pure bliss.And they send them over fresh every morning.

It's a very busy place, with what appeared to be a very mixed, committed clientelle. Mostly they seemed to do take out and there are not that many places to sit... but there a couple of nice vintage sofas and chairs.  They roast their own coffee, and sell it as well.


Caffe Fantastico #2 1189 Mackenzie, just off Cook
 March 6, 2010

Again, a bit hard to find, but definitely a favorite of locals in a neighbourhood that has a Starbucks, Serious Cofffee and Moka House within blocks of each other.  By my reckoning, the best coffee on Cook Street.
It's in a tiny food court, accessed though the space between buildings that house the carts of a number of street vendors.  Just a couple of chairs and tables, it's more of a 'kiosk' style place for take out. There are several places to sit just outside the food court that would be pleasant in summer.  The food court also contains several ethnic food kiosks as well.   I had the excellent Americano that I am learning to expect at Fantastico.  They have a small offering of pastries from Fol Epi and Bubba Rose's


Caffe Fantastico, Dockside
March 13, 2010
***** their own.
+++++Fol Epi

I finally headed back over the bridge to check out the newest Caffe Fantastico at  Dockside.  I had heard wonderful things about it.  My knowledge of that area is nil, and it took a bit of time to find it but it was well worth it.  It's small, with few tables, and 'fronts' Fol Epi, the bakery that makes, to my mind, the most delicious pastries in the city.  Their croissants are to die for, crispy, buttery and delectable.  Their Chocolate Croissants are incredible.  The coffee was, of course up to Fantastico's high standards, so a cup of coffee and a croissant was enough to put me into a state of bliss.  This would be a great spot in summer, with its large patio facing the water and city across the way.
Caffe Fantastico - Kings and Quadra

Caffe Fantastico #4:  965 Kings at Quadra
March 15, 2010
***** Their own.
+++++ Fol Epi

It's becoming an addiction.  i can't keep away.  Coffee and a fabulous croissant brought me back to Caffe Fantastico and this is the closest to home.  I love the old sofas and chairs, but this old sofa has had it's day and gone.  I will have to return and draw the new one.  It is even better.  This young man was totally comfortable and at home surrounded by his ipod,  camera, ear buds,  his phone and  computer. The coffee shop is the office of the future!

Coffee excellent, croissant also excellent. As usual.

Tre Fantastico - Humboldt St.

Tre Fantastico, June 13, 2011
810 Humboldt St.
***** Coffee
+++++ Fol Epi Pastries.

 It took me a while to find the new version of Caffe Fantastico, but there it was on Humboldt St., across from the entrance to St. Anne's Academy, in a new hi rise.  It is located on a shady, treed street, and is 'the' coffee shop for a new resort and spa time share.  Unlike their other places, this one serves light meals along with their excellent coffee and pastries.  i was in time to have a lovely lunch sandwich, and sat across from this interesting couple making jewellery while sipping their coffee.  i first thought they were street vendors on a break, but another patron asked them, and it turns out the jewellery was all for the young woman, who was wearing some of her handiwork as well.  They both were off duty servers or baristas who worked at Tre Fantastico.  Nice, bright, friendly atmosphere, and lucky Parkside Victoria Resort and Spa to have such excellent coffee shop right there.


Crumsby Cupcake Cafe

Crumsby's Cupcake Cafe, @ 2509 Estevan, Oak Bay
February 14, 2011

Ooooops... spelling error alert! Can't change it.  Anyway, back to Victoria, after a wonderful month of sunshine and sea in the Caribbean, I continue my search for the perfect cup of coffee.  I decide to expand my search to include small Patisseries and places that roast their own coffee.  Walked Zoe down on Willows beach, and this was the closest place for coffee.  I had been putting it off, because I did know it catered to moms and kids.  It's relatively new, and is bright and cheerful.  You are faced with an overwhelming choice of incredibly decorated mini and giant muffins, as well as trendy lunches.

I ordered an Americano, and it was OK...not outstanding, but definitely OK.   As expected, the place was full of moms and dads with kids, and a bit high energy, what with all that sugar floating in the air. I indulged in a couple of obscene looking mini muffins, and they WERE good.  For some strange reason, i seemed to be surrounded by French speaking parents/kids.  Interesting, but generally unintelligible to me.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Coffee on the Road.: A short History of the Search

 Taking a sun break from Victoria's Coffee Shops

coffee vendor in Cartagena

No coffee shop posts for a while, because in January 2011, I left for a month of sunshine and sea in the Caribbean. Finding decent coffee when travelling is very difficult, even in the best coffee producing countries.  This is because their best coffee is often one of their main exports and the locals are reduced to drinking Nescafe. The only place I could count on getting good coffee while travelling was in Colombia. There it is sold on the street out of giant thermoses  in little tiny cups the size of shot glasses .  It is like ingesting pure caffeine!  As a result of my fear of not getting a decent cuppa in the morning,  I travel with my own coffee maker and coffee.

 the very first coffee maker

My very first Bodum Coffee Press
I started doing this way back 1997 when I went to Australia, with my favorite one cup, glass Bodum.  I had a feeling that British born Australia might be good on tea, but not so good on Coffee.  I found that a large Italian population had made a difference, but while good coffee was available in large centres, not so much in smaller ones.  So I made good use of it for my morning coffee, until tragedy struck.  While waiting for a bus in Adelaide to take me to Alice Springs, my backpack fell over, and I heard that unmistakable crunch of breaking glass.  I was devastated
the Alice Springs coffee maker
 I checked into the hostel in Alice, and was due to leave on a camping trip to Uluru the next morning...with no coffee maker! I was sure it would be given Nescafe in the morning. No way! I was told there was a Woolworth in town, so an understanding Aussie hosteller with a car offered to drive me.  It was almost closing time, and the guard at the door didn't want to let us in, but I pleaded my case, and told him I only needed ONE thing.  I ran around the store, looking for the right department, found it, couldn't find  what I wanted, and nearly despaired, but my 'driver' friend shouted she had found one, and my sanity was saved.  It was a slightly different style, but in a way better, as the glass was somewhat protected by a metal frame. My morning coffee was assured. That same coffee maker travelled with me to China in 1997, and to Mongolia in 1998...both countries where bringing coffee and a coffee maker was indeed a necessity. 

 The Plastic Coffee Press
 In 1999 I spent time in Nicaragua and Mexico. Despite being coffee countries, it was hard to find good coffee at that time.  That year I discovered my first one cup plunger thermos style coffee maker.   The first one on the market was plastic and I was delighted, because it  avoided the breakage problem.  It took me through trips to Central and South America in 2001 and 2003. Unfortunately it only lasted a couple of trips, and had to be replaced once because with constant use, the plastic began to sag from the boiling water.  But then the plastic ones became unavailable.They were replaced by the larger, heavier metal ones that were just too bulky and heavy for this backpacker.

My next great find was in a camping store, where
 I found a one cup metal Bodum!  This had to be the travel coffee maker of my dreams, and it went with me to West Africa in 2007 and island hopping in the Caribbean in 2005.    I am always searching for travel gear perfection, and I found it again in the camping department. I felt I had found the ultimate travel coffee maker. It is a cup shaped, metal, thermos, plunger coffee maker/cup, and with the right coffee, makes a perfect cup that you can drink out of as well.  It is the size of a normal cup,is light weight and has a handle.  All you need is boiling water - which if they are offering you Nescafe or tea, comes to the table in a thermos.   Before I left Senegal,  it was gifted to a wonderful French couple who had 'rescued' me during an airport meltdown.  They also decried the unavailability of anything but Nescafe while travelling and admired my wonderful 'cup' so I gave it to  them to thank them for all their kindness.  I knew I could replace it when I got home.

The new cup went to Churchill Manitoba (2007) and Tahiti in 2008 .  While Tahiti is a French country, and one could expect good coffee, I had been fooled once before in West Africa.  I had expected that former French colonies like Burkina Faso and Senegal would be 'safe', and only carried enough coffee to get me through British born Ghana... even stupidly leaving some behind as I lightened my pack load.  But unbelievably, there was nothing but Nescafe wherever I went, and because i gave my coffee away,  I had to switch to tea.  Luckily, I didn't really need it in Tahiti.

Here's a tip to use when you are truly desperate for a cup of coffee, and there is only Nescafe available I learned it  from an Israeli while travelling in Europe back in 1961 - the year I learned to drink coffee.

Put a teaspoonful of the dreaded Nescafe into your cup, add one or two teaspoons of sugar.  Then put in JUST ENOUGH water to dampen it, and using the spoon 'whip it' around until it is a thick, caramel coloured glob in the bottom.  Then gradually add boiling water, stir, and add milk if you want.  It isn't 'real' coffee but for some strange reason it does something to the Nescafe to make it palatable.  

Which brings me to my last trip back to the Caribbean in 2010.  I had heard that StarBucks had developed a fantastic, new, instant coffee.  They were giving out free samples, so I took some home to test.  Not bad at all.  Not as good as the real thing, but definitely doable while travelling.  So I packed up enough for a month (they come in little individual packets), and used my immersion heater to boil water in my thermos cup. Then all I had to do was add the instant coffee, and I was set for the morning!

I spent a week on the Windsurf, a luxury sailing ship, from Barbados to a number of islands.

The coffee was so so, and i beefed it up with my SB instant.  It was too hot for coffee any time other than for breakfast, and I opted for drinking great Caribbean beer instead during the day.

Friendly French couples seem to turn up in my travels and I connected with another pair on the last island I visited, Carriacou, a small island off of Grenada. I met this couple, also suffering from true coffee deprivation.  They tried out my SB instant, and it passed muster, so when I left I gave them all my remaining packets.  Travel blog of this trip can be located at one of my other blogs... but so far, it is still incomplete.