Rich with Coffee

Image by Katie Zdybel

Economic hard times or not, I haven’t exactly been rolling in the dough since I graduated from university. One adventure after another called and by the time I’d completed my post-grad dabbles in photography school, farming internships, freelance writing, and more, I’d accumulated a wealth of life experience that left me light in the purse. With the financial crisis howling like a wolf at the door, my poor-as-a-church-mouse status has dropped to poor-as-a-church-mouse’s -country-cousin; but now more than ever, I’ve fine-tuned that human necessity to eke out a few simple gastronomic luxuries no matter how barren my pockets.

And how exactly does one do this when one finds oneself living in Canada’s most expensive city in the depths of an economic downturn? One word:coffee.

Victoria is rich in many things —beauty, eateries, retirees, rain. But my hands-down favourite Victorian asset is its coffee. Not since I backpacked through Europe on a very short shoestring have I sipped espresso so sublimely. I recently corresponded with a friend visiting Rome and asked him where his best cup of coffee had been thus far. “Caffe Fantastico, Cook Street Village,” he responded in all seriousness. I dropped that letter and pedaled to my favourite haunt to bask in the sunshine of the backyard patio with a perfect little white cup in my hand, thanking the coffee gods I’d landed myself —after much wandering— in a Canadian city that gets coffee right, and how.

Two or three bucks for the scent of earthy, chocolatey beans recently roasted, paired perfectly with creamy, slightly sweet, local whole milk, and the warm, casual banter of the savvy, just-cool-enough baristas is a steal. I can really nurse a latte (and I skimp further by only ever ordering the compact six ounce), lingering over a cup for half an hour, maybe more, and that time is all mine. In a sip, I’m transported. I feel the thrill of that singularily grown-up pleasure of truly loving a potent and bitter taste. I smell a foreign land and remember travels to Central America. I find myself straightening my posture and readjusting my disheveled scarf as I recall studying sophisticated French women in their Parisien cafes (they always looked so flawless, mysterious, and astonishingly content as they sipped their cafés aux laits). I remember surviving on thick, dark coffee with a side of fried eggs and beans while exploring Costa Rica. How my traveling companion and I would make any excuse to stop for a coffee to perk us up in the heat. For a couple colones we were refreshed and given the opportunity to reflect, observe the locals, and taste our new surroundings.

These are hard times and if you were already penny-pinching they can feel even harder. But some of the best things in life truly are free; a good sun shower, the company of old friends, your favourite record. It’s good to know that for a mere two dollars and fifty cents more, one can be elevated to a mood of luxuriousness and indulgence. The taste of excellent coffee is, to me at least, the taste of an ancient tradition steeped in culture and that spicy, earthy aroma smacks of exotic corners of the globe I dream about exploring. It is these little luxuries that make us feel rich even when we’re not. As long as I can occasionally afford a good cup of coffee, I’ll consider myself well off. – by Katie Zydbel

Recommended local cafes:

Discovery Coffee is located at 664 Discovery St., Victoria, 250.477.2323

Caffe Fantastico has 3 Victoria locations: 965 Kings Rd in Quadra Village, 1109 McKenzie St in the Cook Street Village, and a new location adjacent to Cliff Leir’s new Fol Epi bakery a t the Dockside Green. 250.3385.23326

Out in Shawnigan Lake, Miziro Cafe roasts a superior bean. 1761 B Shawnigan – Mill Bay Rd. 250.733.2245.


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