Jet Fuel Coffee
Jet Fuel Coffee is pretty rock n' roll, you know. Not folky or indie or garagey, but like, the good old-fashioned kind. The kind that drives a Harley.
Like any good rock star, the presence felt upon our first meeting is larger than life. Though I had previously never heard of this place, it sinks in pretty soon that I probably should have. Or I should feel like I should have.
I will also soon realize that these are not some cool new kids on the Cabbagetown block, but a neighbourhood staple that has been working its Jagger (-esque) swagger since I was in short pants (1992, to be exact). Though the shiny chrome (and absolutely kickass sign!) looks hot off the assembly line, these guys have been around.
All these feelings within the first minute spent. An imposing figure is cut by the steely counter that seems more from a bar than a coffee... bar. My nervous eyes dart around, looking for a beacon of equilibrium - some sort of list to detail the things I might buy, for instance.
I guess my disorientation is palpable, because the barista asks me - with terrific kindness, might I add - "you alright, love?"
Clearly, I am not playing it as cool as I thought.
"You need a coffee?" She seems concerned.
"I need a coffee desperately," I say with a heavy truth. It feels more like I am ordering a beer, and this is only further cemented by the sudden appearance of my Americano, poured in a tall and elegant pint glass.
I case the joint a bit more, and it becomes apparent that there is no case in which bakery treats might be stored. Very well, then. I ask no questions, and simply check out the glasses of my fellow patrons to see what this place has to offer. The fun-looking contraption behind the counter also gets my attention.
"It's a lemon squeezer." I should have known.
"For lemonade??" my eyes widen.
"Lemonade, or hot lemon and ginger," she says. I write them on my mind's menu board, along with the London Fog I hear her call out to someone else. Yeah, I am in the know now.
I like the fact that they have regular sugar and cream, only for the fact that non-organic has become a bit of an anomaly, and thus, sorta dangerous. Ha. I like the long sundae-style spoons. I like the huge CD collection piled on shelves up the wall.
And I like the fleet of red-and-white "Jet Fuel" uniforms lined up beside them; something I can honestly say I've never seen at another cafe. Though I have no idea what they are for, they seem to convey a need for speed or some such badass thing (they end up being the uniforms of the cafe's very own cycling team). I really like the fact that they do not serve decaf--when I find out, many hours later.
And how I love hearing Bowie, the Stones and T-Rex all come bursting out of the stereo in glittering succession.
I take a cue from the heavily-populated sitting area, all engrossed in books and laptops and settle in pretty quickly.
With no food to keep my hands and mind occupied, I am grateful for some discarded reading material, and get comfortable. My coffee (their own special, CAFFEINATED blend) is strong enough that I will be feeling it for the rest of the day.
I chat with the barista, and recognize at least two familiar faces (one I am accustomed to seeing around town, one that I used to work with); overall, it's a pretty diverse group.
Most orders are called out by the customers' names. There is an easy and familiar interaction with nearly everyone that walks in. "We get a lot of regulars," she smiles. Yes, it would seem that way.
She implores me to try the frothy drink she has just expertly concocted. "The Guinness effect," she says, as we watch the bubbles float and settle. Pretty cool. And pretty much like a bar, again.
There is no way that I can ingest another ounce of espresso, and I don't want to waste a whole drink for a little sip, but she still insists I give it a go.
"Take a spoon, put some cinnamon on it, and eat it like dessert," she says, as though it's the most obvious thing in the world. But you know, it really should be.
"People feel very strongly about this place; they either love us or hate us," she shrugs. I won't realize how true this statement is until I go home and discover the unprecedented war of words between the lovers and the haters of this simple cafe on our very own blogTO listing.
It's good to know that someone's still out there shaking things up. Rock on, guys.