Man. I love coffee. The crew at Pennylicks Gourmet Cafe in Toronto - in short - were amazing. Chris, Steve, Rene, and Diego - THANK YOU!
Even though it was sweltering outside, inside the cafe I learned how to froth milk, deal with crazy customers, and make a mean panini...!
I spent the majority of my time at the cafe with Rene, a cool dude from Mexico who is Steve and Chris' "Right Hand Man." He's super laid back, great at milk-frothing, and always willing to help out. His way of teaching was definitely hands-on - within the first hour, he had me making lattes and washing dishes :) Iced drinks were popular thanks to the heat, but a good number of espresso's were through as well.
Steve would pop in from time to time to check on the cafe in between errands, and speak a few words of wisdom. When I asked him what he thought the MOST important thing is about making a good cup of coffee - he singled out 'Consistency'. From the roasting to the brewing, to the frothing and the customer service - each cup of coffee should be as tasty as the one that came before and the one that will come after.
We also chatted about doing business with family, and Steve and Chris are brothers as well as business partners. Of course there are times when they wanna pull out each other's hair - but Steve is the first to admit that each brother complements the other. One is strong when the other is weak, and vice versa. At the end of the day, they're still family, after all.
The time it takes to start up your own business is MASSIVE. Maybe you're only physically at the business for a few hours a day, but even your time 'off' is spent running errands for the business, dealing with the finances of the business, and planning for the business. It's definitely not something to take lightly. Vacations will be few and far between due to time commitments - not to mention the financial pressure to succeed.
Something I really loved about the cafe, were the customers who came in. There are a lot of other small, local businesses in the area, and everyone tends to come out and support one another. I quickly grew to know the owners of the clothing store next door, the restaurants down the street, and the regulars from the neighborhood. I could see myself running a place like this and getting to know my customers as friends... now, if only they would all write poems like 'Wunder'...
Wunder came in around 11am one morning...he wasn't wearing a shirt, but had some sort of cape-like-contraption strung up around his neck to protect from the sun. He offered a banana muffin in exchange for an espresso, and then threw in a poetry reading as well! Haha! The muffin was dangerous (don't take candy from strangers - right?), the espresso was great (even if I do say so myself!), and the poem was fantastic (even if it was a little racy...)!
Something I've really loved about my first two jobs is that the people I've worked with have actually become my friends. I've been invited out to suppers, tea parties, and even poker nights! Steve even stopped in today and dropped off a book for me to read: 'Achieving Success in Specialty Coffee' - all about the first espresso machine, the roast, the art of latte making, customer service, and even starting your own business. It's going to make some great airplane reading!!
You see, I'm actually writing this from the airport as I wait for my boarding call, as I'm flying to Edmonton, Alberta tonight!! And believe me - words cannot describe how insanely excited I am to be visiting my home province!! My cousin is getting married on Saturday, and this will be a family-reunion of sorts. There will be farm-living, cat-petting, and family-bonding.
I. Cannot. Wait.
I'll be doing my next One Week Job in my hometown of Beaverlodge, Alberta - as...get this...a butcher. !!
More to come from my cafe experience - but I think I have to board my plane now...
In the words of the great Matt Mays:
"Good-bye girl gone to see the world, Out to see every thing you choose Now it's becoming so clear That your feet are planted deep In your travellin' shoes"
See you on the other side of the country folks!!