Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Coffee Lime Controversy

BlogTO had an interesting post in February about the Coffee Time clones in Toronto. (  It was an entertaining post that commented on a great set of photos of Coffee Time restaurants that had changed their names or copied the franchise.  Before blogs, friends and I dawntreading often commented on these great repurposing of these ``restaurants``.  Many of these establishments added ethnic goods according to the owner-- samosas, latkes and the like.  These offerings were often homemade and the closest thing to urban street food that Toronto has.

Even though the franchise rights for Coffee time are comparatively inexpensivewere, we surmised that the benefits were too low while the requirements of the franchise caused the owner/operators too much trouble.  It was great to see creativity and interesting food in this type of subversive environment.  This is the feeling that I got from this post along with the original post at

But then I read the comments... 

I am a coffee snob.  Stumptown, Intelligentsia, 49th Parallel... and so on.  The comments read like a litany of Starbuckers complaining in their lattes about the existence of something other than what they perceive as good coffee and good patrons.  Now, some of my best friends are those that drink coffee flavoured milk beverages but they would not remain my friends if they insisted that they were morally superior for being able to afford and affirm their good fortune while demanding that these lesser beings and shops do not need to exist.

I go to Coffee Time/Lime/Coffee Coffee/ etc. on occasion for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, it is open 24hrs, and it is relaxed.  A student can nurse a coffee and finish an assignment sitting next to a young mother and a local retiree.  Sure, there are the oddities and messiness of all humanity here. Yes the coffee is horrible but it is cheap and caffeinated.  Even now that I can afford  good coffee, I would rather people watch at Coffee Time than almost any other chain coffee store.

The Coffee clones are located in the best places in this city and they are a nexus of low and high culture where there is neither homogeniety in food served nor in clientele being served.  I am not sure how this is a bad thing.

Besides, let`s get away from our pretentions for a second, most people cannot taste the difference in coffees.  Most people who like dark city roasts wouldn't be able to taste the difference.  Put Starbucks in a Coffee Time cup and I believe that many would believe that this was bad coffee.  In Starbucks, you are buying the roast and not tasting any bean.   That is fine but don`t look down on people who do not have the money to buy a four dollar cuppa milk.

The whole point of the original article was the ripoff and not the supposed inferiority of Coffee Time.  I don`t suppose that Starbucks will ever suffer the same fate.  Especially if they can keep their lawyers war chest full with booty from brats with laptops.  It is telling that there are more Coffee Time ripoffs than Starbucks ripoffs... and that should tell you something.

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