Java Caveat

In July 1997, the Queen's Journal reported that a Starbuck's Coffee Co. kiosk was set to open in the foyer of Stauffer Library. It didn't.

Then president of the Alma Mater Society, Maynard Plant, said the Starbuck's proposal from food-service provider Marriott "smacked of impropriety." What right did Marriott have, Plant asked, to invite a major multinational corporation to hawk its wares in our academic nerve centre?

Plant was a do-it-yourselfer, the same prez who took over Principal Leggett's office for two glorious days to protest tuition hikes, and his criticism rings true still. Why should we let an outsider brew our beans for us when we can do it ourselves and keep the money in the family?

Three years after the Starbuck's proposal dried up, there's a new kid in town. The new Common Ground coffee lounge will open next Friday in the JDUC, and an all-student staff will start serving up cappuccinos and sandwiches in the former (and grossly under-used) Skylight Lounge.

Now that the Tim Horton's downstairs has gone "full-service" (read "impossibly long line-ups at 8:15 a.m.") the Common Ground has a perfect environment in which to grow. Whereas downstairs one will have to wait in two line-ups: one to get the coffee and one to pay, at the Common Ground there is the potential for slick efficiency. The bar is right on the main thoroughfare and, if the staff is good, it should take no more than a knowing nod to get a double espresso double quick.

My only fear about the whole coffee-lounge project has to do with Dave Swantson, the consultant the AMS hired for advice in starting up the Common Ground. It remains to be seen whether the advice Swantson gave will push the Common Ground towards the Starbuck's mould of faux-Euro java chic, or whether he taught them how to make proper coffee.

A cappuccino is a coffee named for the Cappuccin religious order of Italy, whose monks wore brown robes with distinctive white hoods. So a cappuccino is a coffee with a brown (coffee) bottom and a white (frothed milk) top. This seems to have been lost in the translation to Starbuckese (Seattlish?).

All three times I have ordered a cappuccino at Starbuck's, I have been presented with a lonely shot of espresso drowned in warm milk. Short, Tall or Grande, it's all the same; never has my frothed milk lay lightly on my coffee as it should. I've even seen one "coffee agent" use a strainer to keep the froth out of my cup. Rather than give me a savoury caffeine jolt blanketed in airy whiteness to send me skipping on my way, these pseudo-cappuccinos hit me hard like a McDonald's milkshake and leave me feeling like a groggy cow who's long past due for a milking.

And so to Jhod Cardinal, the Common Ground's first manager, I give you my ultimatum. You're my only hope for a decent cappuccino in this milkshake town, and if it takes me more than ten twenty-cent sips to finish it, I'm going back downstairs to Timmy's.

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