Analog Coffee, 740 17th Avenue, SW. Excellent, excellent coffee and pastries; friendly and knowledgeable servers. A real opportunity to stop and smell the coffee and watch the world go by.
Remember the first time...
....You rode a bike without training wheels?
....You rode the big yellow school bus, or even the first day you went to school?
....You drove a car, alone?
....You asked a girl/guy on a date?
....You had a kiss, with someone you really wanted to kiss? Or two or three or four…? Or more?
....What about the first time you had a cup of coffee...? No?
You probably don’t remember that. Maybe you snuck a sip from a parent’s cup; it was bitter and sweet at the same time, filled with milk and too much sugar, probably cold, and very stale. And not very good. It tasted like their breath smelled. Ugh.
Or maybe you started in high school, when you were trying to be cool and you got a cup at the 7-Eleven or the deli. It tasted awful, but somehow you managed to choke it down...probably because everyone else was doing the same thing ("...and if your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, you would do that too?!")
Then came the all-nighters, when you studied for your finals in college, a necessity more than a choice of beverage.
Today, for many of us, we have to wonder how we ever lived without it; I know people who absolutely cannot start their day without a cup of coffee. Really-they’re non-functional without that hit of caffeine—and it has to be coffee. No energy drink, no soda, no tea—only coffee will do.
So, how does someone get to be 50 and manage to avoid having a cup of joe?
“It smells like dirt”, says my friend Kim, by way of explanation as to why she has never, ever had a cup of coffee in her life.
Kim’s about to hit that milestone (I don’t think she minds that I’m telling you this), and so she's decided to make a list of 50 new things she wants to do before she turns 50.
So far, she’s thrown an ax (I can attest to this; I saw her do it just the other day—right into the bulls-eye too!); she’s baked a loaf of bread (I haven’t done that, unless you count soda bread which doesn’t have to rise); she took her family on an escape room adventure (nope, no way, nooooo, not on my list. Ever).
Another thing she hadn’t done that she jotted down was to try coffee.
How perfect is this?? She wants to lose her java virginity and the shop that’s been rated as one of the very best in the city is just a few blocks from me on 17th Avenue. And I’ve been wanting to go for some time.
Analog is unlike any coffee shop I’ve ever been in. This is not a joint you race into to grab a quick cup to go as your car sits double parked on the avenue, pissing people off who have to drive around oh-so-important you; this is a place where you come to savour the beans and the blends; a place where you come to watch the brewing process; and a place where the French pastries are flaky and perfect.
I also happen to think it’s a place where you don’t order anything too fancy, because coffee is at the center of what Analog does. Of course, I’m sure that there are those who will disagree, and I love a cappuccino or a latte as much as the next person, but decades ago in another life as a waitress and then a bartender, Barry, my boss and the owner of the New York restaurant in which I worked for a half dozen years taught me that to truly taste and appreciate a cup of coffee, it had to be taken black.
Blech, right? Actually, he was right, and although it’s taken me a couple of decades to get there, this is how I take my coffee today.
Usually, it’s too strong, or too weak, or too bitter, or sometimes (horrors) flavored. You certainly get to know the tastes of the coffees from the various popular shops (you know the ones I mean). Most of time you don’t even notice and you just drink it… but every now and then, at a restaurant or a lunch counter, you get a cup of perfectly brewed, perfectly rich, perfectly perfect tasting coffee. And you remember it.
Analog is one of those times, and one of those places. Every time. Because they have a process they follow very closely.
Each cup takes about five minutes to make; first the beans are ground, then carefully weighed and measured into a filter, then water—hot water, set to a specific temperature--is slowly poured over the grounds until the cup is full and the coffee is ready. No sediment, no bitterness, just an excellent cup of coffee.
I decide on a large cup of the Costa Rican (Finca Santa Rosa), following the advice of the barista (a for-real barista!) which I’m told has good body but is smooth and has some fruity tones to it (kind of sounds like wine doesn’t it?), and I grab a seat outside for just a few minutes, before the sound of the street traffic becomes too much to bear.
And yes, I’m waiting for Kim, because today she's going to do it.
And what better place than Analog to try your first cup?
I see her silhouette before I see her face, as she’s walking down the sidewalk towards me with the sun rising behind her (yes, it’s very early on a Sunday morning and we both have places to be, so this is a perfect break before we get on with our respective days).
She looks a little tentative, maybe even a little scared. Now if you know Kim, you know that she's not the type to shy away from any challenge.
This is going to be fun.
Inside, we choose a couple of pastries—one an almond croissant I have been told by my son we need to try; the other, something called a Kouign-Amman that is just layers of flaky croissant-like pastry studded with apples and cinnamon and oh-so-perfect with coffee.
And we order her up a Costa Rican, half the size of mine—don’t want her to get too crazy, after all—we watch the barista make her brew, and then we grab a seat.
She sniffs it, looks at it, hems and haws a little, but then she goes in for the taste:
“Hmmm, I’m not sure what I think,” she says. “Better than I thought, I guess,” she says.
Intrepid adventurer that she is, she tries it with the Kouign, which she likes better, as she begins to understand the pairings that go well when coffee is on one end. She downs half the cup before trying a little sugar, and seems to like that better.
But now the coffee is growing cold and I think she’s satisfied that she’s had a sufficient amount to cross this off her bucket list.
Will she have another on another day? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I will most definitely be back to Analog, a place in the middle of a busy, busy street where you can take the time to stop and smell the coffee.
And what did I learn from this adventure with Kim? Well, that there’s a first time for everything, and also that you’re never too old to go out on a limb and try something new.
Thanks for the very, very valuable lesson, Kim. And thanks for sharing your list with me. Now, on the question of whether I’ll go rafting on the Bow with you?