I didn't have my camera with me when I heard about the coffee - but they provided me with a nice little map

Coke Takes on Starbucks

It's not everyday that one gets to witness the birth of a mega-chain - but that's exactly what's happening just south of Yorkville today, as Far Coast Coffee opens the doors of the first link in what they're hoping will become a global chain. Seeing as how it's backed by the dollars of Coca-Cola, I'm guessing it's more likely to happen than not.

The location is gorgeous - three stories on the south side of the Bloor Street's 'Mink Mile' - with a variety of chair and couches, as well as hardwood floors throughout. The snacks, with everything ranging from banana-chocolate chip cookies to more exotic sundried-tomato cheesecakes, are tempting and sumptious. Of course, the measure of a coffee house is in the coffee.

There are a lot of choices available at Far Coast, which works its menu on a multiple-selection system (you choose the coffee blend, the style, the size, etc... all interchangeably); I counted at least five coffee and six tea blends, plus hot chocolate. Given that everything is free there today, I helped myself - for research purposes only - to a chai vanilla latte and two espressos - a belagrande and a opale noire. Due to the demand, everything was served in paper cups, but I was assured by the management that once they start charging for their drinks, there will be a china option.

The tea was decent, if overly milky. The chai notes were there, although the spice seemed to be somewhat washed out by the vanilla tones; next time it'll be just the straight chai for me. As for the espressi, they were delicious if slightly large for my tastes. A good crema on both of them, with the opale noire being rich, heavy, and chocolaty, and the belagrande lighter with notes of cinnamon and cloves. Far Coast assures us that each cup of coffee or tea will be made exactly the same: and that's the main problem.

With Far-Coast, Coca-Cola is attempting to do away with the touch of the Barristas, and introducing in its place a pod-system for its coffee (think: a commercial varient of the Nespresso systems). In theory, every cup of coffee, regardless of if it's being made by an old hand or a newbie, should taste exactly as it would have the day before, or the week after. Fantastic for consistency, but terrible for the individual touch that some coffee afficianados demand.

In the end will it fly? My guess is yes. You won't see Far Coasts on every street corner, but especially in the ritzier neighbourhoods, expect the Starbucks juggernaut to start feeling the heat.

Far Coast Coffee is located at 95A Bloor Street West

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