Coffee is more then a beverage

By Casandra London
Photo by Mariam Matti

From East Africa to Brazil, and Indonesia to Europe, coffee, for centuries, has been more than just a beverage. Whether its rich aroma invites people to gather in coffee houses in Turkey, or brings families together at Caffé Doria in Toronto’s Rosedale neighbourhood, the rich brown bean continues to serve as a staple for social interaction.

“I think it’s a ritual,” says Trevor Wallace, a 29-year old architect who stops by Caffé Doria every day to savour a latté. “I usually come here and have a coffee before I get into work.”

Around him, soft, soothing Italian music from the radio plays in the background as friendly customers exchange stories about the latest news, views, and gossip.

Every day, Wallace enjoys in the sweet aroma of beans, honey, and cream in the cafe, as he waits for his afternoon cup of Joe.

Rosa Agostino, a beautiful woman in her 40s, owns this quaint neighbourhood gem, which sits directly across from a Starbucks on Roxborough Street. Agostino says she believes atmosphere is an important part of enjoying the coffee experience.

“I have heard a lot of people say [about Caffe Doria that] they feel like they are in Europe, like in Italy or France. People seem to be very comfortable here,” she says.

Suresh Thorairaja, a young professional, who works for Incorporated Canada says he tells outrageous coffee stories to help break the ice when he meets new clients.

“Telling stories helps break the awkwardness and lets us stay off-topic while also being on-topic. It allows me to get to know the person.”

Thorairaja tells of Kopi Luwak, a weasel-like animal from Indonesia that eats and partially digests raw red coffee beans. These beans are then excreted and cleaned before being sold to customers.

“It’s my trump card,” Thorairaja says. “I open with a story about Africa and their coffee beans, and end with the weasel story to finish them [clients] off.”

For Agostino, friendly smiles and the brewing of coffee help her break the ice and interact with her café’s patrons.

“It’s the way to socialize,” she says. “It’s a comfort thing. More people come with their friends than with their laptops. We have people sit here up to three hours.”

Coffee originated from the rich soil of East Africa, where it was transported to the Arabian Peninsula and cultivated in Yemen. The first coffeehouses or “kaveh kanes,” were opened in Mecca, where people played chess and exchanged gossip, song and dance.

Today, this ritual of socializing continues among friends and families in cafés. “Coffee is a great conversation-maker, especially for people in business,” Thorairaja says. “It gives a medium to connect, brings us an open subject, and brings my stress level down when I meet a new person.”

For Agostino, her café is more than a meeting place. “It’s a European jewel in Rosedale,” she says, with a smile and a twinkle in her eye.

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