Thursday, December 23, 2004


1:00 p.m. – Ça Va Java

Ça Va Java , perhaps recognizing the pretentiousness of its Francofile name (I like to refer to it as “Je m’appelles Joe” or, more correctly, «Je m’appelles Joe »), goes by “CVJ Coffee Co.” They’ve got the heat way up, so it’s cozy, and they have a great, long wall of plate glass windows so you can imagine you’re on the inside of the coffee shop in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. They’ve got decent music, but it’s kind of dead here. Two women at a nearby table are talking about Atomic Cafe' -- coffeehouse conversation about, of all things, another coffeehouse -- and how one of them sneaks into their big parking lot when she's in the neighborhood because there's always a space. How validating is that -- in a Twilight Zone sort of way.

CVJ has two unfortunate locations. This one, on the far west side of town is conveniently located for the import auto mechanic a few doors down – if I’d only taken my car in today – but otherwise feels on the margin. The location nearer my neighborhood is even more troubled – it’s on the main thoroughfare, a 40 m.p.h. 2-3 lane each way street with little walking commerce.

But my Guatemalan decaf was so dark that the first splash of half-and-half made alarmingly little impact on the coffee’s color. If this coffee were about 50 degrees hotter, it would taste just like Starbucks. So why am I so down on that chain of coffee establishments? (Can you really call Starbucks a coffeehouse? I think NOT.) Other than the fact that they seem to be pursuing a corporate strategy of world domination and will not rest until every other coffee retailer has vanished from the planet, I don’t like their coffee. It’s dark and heavy, usually either too bitter or fruity, and makes me far too aware that coffee is not so much an elixir and a cherished ritual, but rather a burned-bean beverage.

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