Thursday, March 12, 2015

Where in the world is YOUR favourite cuppa joe?

"Where is your favourite place to travel?"
Cups up! Campfire cappuccino.

As a travel writer, that's one of the questions constantly asked of me when I meet someone for the first time.

That's not what I'm writing about, though.

If you've ever wandered onto my Facebook personal page, you probably know how much I love coffee. And coffee culture. And trivia about coffee. Friends are constantly posting stuff about coffee onto my Timeline.

And, of course, people always like to know what my favourite coffee is, where is my favourite place to drink or purchase coffee, and - since I'm a travel writer - where is the best cup of coffee I've ever had.

That's easy.

The best cup of coffee I ever had was during my very first international trip (outside of Canada and the U.S.) in 1991.


I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was our last day, we had an afternoon flight out of Belize City to LAX, then on to Vancouver.

For our last meal in the country, we decided to go for brunch at the Fort George Hotel.

From the first sip, we knew we'd stumbled on something exquisite. We were having coffee-gasms. Right there in the hotel dining room.

Several cups later, we finally came up for air, and asked our server what kind of coffee it was.

He smiled, and said, "Guatemalan chocolate coffee."

Even Nikki, our African grey parrot, loved Second Cup.
We never feed our birds caffeine, though.
Now it was not "flavoured" coffee; I'm not a fan of that type of coffee (yeah, I'm a purist). The "chocolate" was simply what it was called. It was rich, sweet, fragrant, smooth - and that was just the aroma. It almost didn't need cream or sugar.

After I returned home, I was on a mission to find a coffee as close to that coffee as I could. None of the Guatemalan coffees I tried came close, though. Then, eight months later, at a mall in Edmonton, I decided to grab a coffee at a Second Cup.

Now I'd never tried their coffees, since, at the time, I lived in Fort St. John, B.C. and there were no Second Cups, not even a Tim Horton's there, at the time. I looked at the menu, saw "Guatemalan" beside something called "Huehuetenango." So, I tried it.


While it wasn't exactly what I'd had in Belize, it was the closest I'd ever come. Or ever would come: Sweet, rich, mellow, just about perfect. I liked it so much, I gave them my address and credit card info, and set up monthly shipments of a few pounds to Fort St. John so I could enjoy it all the time.

Slurping coffee aboard a Chilean ship docked in North Van.
Sadly, Second Cup - the only company licensed to sell it in Canada, then - stopped carrying the brand in 2008. I found a place in Ontario that now sells it, and will ship it, but it didn't taste as good as it had in the past, so I've resigned myself to life at Tim's. Cheaper, less hassle, but not as good.

Since that trip to Belize, I've sampled coffee all over the world. Ironically, because we import coffee from places like African and South America for consumption in North America, that often leaves lesser-quality coffee in those countries.

Travelling around Africa for six weeks, I gave up trying to enjoy a good cup of coffee, and opted for tea instead.

Ditto, in Ecuador. Although I didn't give up coffee for tea, it was not as good as the coffee I drank at home.

When I returned to South America six years later, Starbucks had infiltrated the consumer coffee market, so forget about enjoying an authentic native coffee.

Starbucks in Lima tastes the same as Starbucks in Taipei, which tastes the same as Starbucks in Vancouver, which tastes the same... you get the picture. And yeah, I'm not a Starbucks fan. If I want burnt coffee, I'll take a cup of Tim's and re-heat it in the microwave.

I have enjoyed good cups of coffee elsewhere.

The best iced cappuccino I've enjoyed was a Terri's Cappuccino Bar in Fort St. John. It was a regular daily indulgence there, winter and summer, for two years.

Don't forget to add the Bailey's!

And nothing beats a cup of "campfire cappuccino, brewed on a camp stove, served up with a healthy portion of Bailey's, during a camping or paddling trip.

I tried to obtain some samples of Kopi Luwak during a trip to Malaysian Borneo, as that renowned "civet-poop coffee" is produced in Indonesia. No luck, though - although I did enjoy some wonderful "pulled tea." (As it turns out, the way this coffee is harvested may not be in keeping with good practices with respect to treatment of wildlife, so I may postpone the hunt indefinitely.)
Enjoying a coffee on the road in Haida Gwaii.

As for other coffees...

Kona coffee from Hawaii is VASTLY overrated, in my opinion. I've sampled several cups on both Maui and the Big Island, including some at a coffee plantation.

Quite frankly, I couldn't figure out what the fuss was all about.

And while I've never sampled Jamaican Blue, I suspect my reaction would be much the same as it was to Kona.

That's not to say I'll never enjoy a cup of coffee on the road. But I feel like I've already found the Holy Grail of Coffee, so I'm resigned to the fact that even if I'm at Avalon, the coffee they serve there probably will not match the cup I enjoyed back on that April morning in Central America.


  1. John`s article is a story we hear quite often at the shop. Not because of the Belize affiliation, but, how several of our travelling customers are on the worldwide search for the best cup of java..... all who have told us their stories, usually finish with `we absolutely love your coffee`or `this is the best we have ever had`. We at Caye Coffee Roasting Co. Ltd. are committed to putting Belize back on the map when it comes to a great cup of coffee. We encourage John to stay on the hunt. Hopefully it will bring him to San Pedro and possibly rekindle his passion. We are very close to being able to send him some via our webstore. Hold on John, help is on the way soon. Being a former daily Timmie`s drinker, then jumping on the `Venti Bold pick of the day` bandwagon for the last seven years prior to coming to Belize and opening our own Roastery, I can honestly say that after drinking our Back Street Bold roast, I can no longer tolerate the burnt pick of the day from Starbuck`s. See you soon John, you won`t be sorry you revisited the best place in Central America, again. I have to agree, I didn`t see the hype about Kona. I have also tried Jamaican Blue Mountain several times. I believe that Caye Coffee Back Street Bold leaves both of them in the dust. Another travel writer from here in San Pedro has abandoned Starbuck`s now that he can get Back Street at the grocery store. Hope you find your Holy Grail in Belize once more. Sincerely, P. DuVille, Owner of Caye Coffee Roasting Company, San Pedro, Belize. &

  2. Thanks very much for your comment, Paul! Much appreciated.