Blenz goes Green

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Vancouver-based Blenz has opened its first LEED-Certified coffee shop. LEED stands for Leader in Energy and Environmental Design.

Basically, Blenz has gone Green.

Certification requires a complete approach to sustainability by recognizing the building’s performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. This coffee shop is a first for Blenz and one of only a handful of LEED-certified buildings in BC.

The ‘Green’ Blenz is located in Tsawwassen.

Via newswire Tags: , , , , ,

Firenze Gourmet Coffee in Sitges, Spain

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In Spain, we stayed in a beach-town called Sitges. It has a very popular shopping strip in the centre of town, and there you can find Firenze Gourmet Coffee. It is one of the more posh store fronts, with automatic doors and comfortable leather seats.

It looks like it could be a chain from it’s organization, but I can’t find any evidence that it is anything more than a well done local shop.


Here, you can order your coffee at the bar or sit and be served. I again ordered the Cafe con Leche. They serve up your coffee with a side of milk chocolate, which is a nice touch.

The coffee was better than my experience at the train station. More foamy, but still with that subtle coffee and silky milk texture that I enjoyed about Spanish coffee. Firenze seemed to perk up at night again when people flocked there for dessert. Worth a shot to anyone in Sitges.

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Dunkin’ Coffee in Spain

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Dunkin’ Donuts is quite entrenched in Spain - more so than Starbucks, for example. It is, however, called something different. It is known as "Dunkin’ Coffee":


All of the chain stores we saw were busy, all through Barcelona and even one in Sitges. The prices were very good for a coffee & donut (under 2 euros), and there seemed to be a mix of both locals and tourists buying the fare.

I have to say I was surprised to see this chain there. Both the coffee and the fare seemed out of place. And yet, it seems to do quite well.

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Coffee at Barcelona Train Station

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My first experience of coffee in Spain was at the Barcelona Sants train station. We were stuck there waiting for a connecting train, so I went to the cafe.


All across Spain, you basically have the same three coffee choices. Café (espresso), Café con Leche (espresso, half and half with milk) either with hot milk or cold milk, and Café Cortado (espresso with only a bit of milk).

I went with the Café con Leche, which is made with whole milk. The whole milk adds a lovely silky richness to the coffee. I actually enjoyed Spanish coffee - it was not as hard of a roast as in Italy or France, and I enjoyed the creamier texture of the whole milk.

Now, I didn’t exactly start off with the ‘best’ place to have coffee in Spain, but I enjoyed it nonetheless!

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Portaflon Portafilter

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The portaflon - a coated portafilter for better tasting espresso.

What is a portafilter?

A portafilter attaches to an espresso machine, and carries a tamped puck of coffee with its coffee basket. It is usually made of brass, and also includes a plastic or wooden handle. The portafilter forms a seal with the espresso machine’s gasket, and directs high-pressure hot water through the coffee puck. - Wikipedia

Portaflon is a non-stick coating. This portafilter, coated in portaflon, there will be no metallic taste to coffee nor will you accumulate as much sediment. The cleaner, non-oxidized portafilter will ensure a better coffee experience.

I look forward to seeing one of these babies in action! Prototype or not, I am hoping someone grabs one to test out :)

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Caffe Artigiano Sold

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Vince and Sam Piccolo have sold their Caffe Artigiano chain, for an undisclosed price, to former Earl’s exec Willie Mounzer.

Vince has grown his chain of coffee stores from one in 2000 to 5 in 2006. He is well known for his dedication to the craft of coffee and his brother, Sammy, is the 3 time Canadian Barista Champion.

Vince and Sam still own their new roasting facility, 49th Parallel, and it remains to be seen what next they have planned for the coffee community. It will also be interesting to see what happens to the Artigiano chain and its ability to keep such high coffee standards.

Via Vancouver Sun ; Tags: , , , ,

So-called ‘cream of Vancouver coffee shops’

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The Vancouver Sun just came out with a list of the so-called ‘cream of Vancouver coffee shops‘.

The criteria seems to be: independently owned, has coffee. The title of the article seems to imply that you will get the ‘creme de la creme’ of coffee shops, but in reality it’s just a listing. Each listing talks about atmosphere, for the most part.

I had a quick glance through their list of 10 ‘top’ coffee shops and spotted a few I would never dream of having a good cup of coffee.

Perhaps the article should be renamed ‘good Vancouver hangouts’ instead.


Coffee in Lucca, Italy

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This is our coffee from a small town in Italy called Lucca. We were there on a Sunday so most of the town was closed, but this one Piazza (S. Michelle) was bustling with activity. From kids chasing pigeons to street performers and people on their bikes.

It’s a nice Piazza to sit in and enjoy the town life - not as big or showy as the other Piazza’s in Lucca. The coffee - nothing spectacular. Good fare though.

Cafe del Star, Marseille

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Bad coffee. Very good crepes. Totally need to have the Nutella version.

Also amusing: the locals playing poker and settling their bets.

Coffee in Nice

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One of the specialties in Nice is a food called Socca, which is made from chickpea flour and oil, and is fried. Very tasty and filling.

At Chez Rene Socca, I had a hot chocolate (made from a strong dark chocolate, but in powder), and Ianiv had an espresso. Decent. Socca was better than the coffee ;)


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Ran out of coffee, Arieanna had a meeting in 15 minutes, Starbucks is just 2 blocks away… and I like those pumpkin scones.

Coffee in Holland

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This is the coffee we had at a bakery in Holland, specifically in Gouda. The coffee was decent and satisfying, as it was quite a cold day. We found that coffee in Holland was more consistent of a certain level. And, as a bonus, a great deal of places in Holland serve you a little cookie with your coffee. With tea too. We ate a lot of cookies.

This is the only picture of coffee we took in Holland, but we did have others - at another lovely bakery in Gouda (where they also make stroopwaffels) we enjoyed also a good cup. Now, good is not great, but after a month of bad, it was quite refreshing.

An interesting thing to note: the Dutch enjoy more coffee per capita than any other country in Europe. My family, with whom we stay, have about 3 cups a day (and note that this is ‘not as much as others’) - the national average is at 3 cups per day.

Trattoria Bar il Baretto

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We had coffee at the Trattoria Bar il Baretto in Manarola, which is part of the Cinque Terra region in Italy. Manarola is a tiny place, with not too many options for coffee.

Well, apparently we did make the wrong choice.

The coffee was quite horrible, but aside from that we can confidently say it was made by the most inept person of our entire trip. Aside from bad coffee, the milk is the topper. Imagine for yourself the steamer, caked with milk, and there you have this situation. It’s called a cloth. Concept.

Perhaps I should have just refused to drink anything made with that frother, but truth be told this was one morning where I wanted coffee not just to try coffee, but because I really needed a cup of coffee. The things we do in desperation!

Bon Cafe

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This espresso was made in a small bakery in Arles. The coffee is Bon Cafe (, which is kinda Starbucks or Nescafe-ish in size. I would not say it was the best nor the worst coffee we had in Europe. It was, actually, prepared with care (which was rare).

I do admit to adding the sugar, however, since it was not good enough (IMO) to be had on its own.

Luxembourg Cafe Amsterdam

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Our first coffee in Europe. Ok, not mind blowing, but actually good compared to many we had. It was a cappuccino, with the nice addition of chocolate on top.