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I’m really happy to say that I am blessed with an abundance of great coffee in my life. While I don’t drink a lot of it (1-4 cups a week) when I do I want it to be really really good (duh. I’m a food snob after all!). The nearest place to get a proper espresso near my office is Street Level Espresso. It’s a tiny shop (and I do mean tiny – this photo shows pretty much the whole place… no starbucks arm chairs here).

Photo courtesy Ken Gordon

Owner Ken Gordon’s girl-friday is the lovely Mal. Just this weekend Mal went to Toronto to represent Street Level, Victoria, and BC in the National Barista Championships (this was Mal’s first year competing!). In the competition, each barista must prepare and serve 12 coffee beverages – four espresso, four cappuccino, and four signature drinks for the judges. I went into the shop this morning to ask her how it went, and she offered to make me her signature drink, and we chatted about coffee a little.

Mal said that she loves the complexity of coffee–both the beans and the brewing. She pointed out that coffee beans come from far more places in the world than wine, and carry with them far more flavor profiles. If being a wine expert is tough, being a well versed bean lover is even a more daunting task. Mal also loves the science and nerdy goodness of learning how to extracting a perfect espresso. She also said that she loves that coffee brings people together – Street Level is always hopping with people chatting and connecting.

Mal’s signature drink is a shot of espresso supported by a little chia tea to bring out the flavours in the coffee. The espresso is a blend of beans and each brings it’s own flavours to the drink: Columbia (cocoa), Panama (spice and dried fruit) and Costa Rica (citrus). Mal brewed a black chia tea with cardamon, ginger and cinnamon, and put a small amount (1 tbls?) into the espresso cup. She also rimmed the cup with frehs lime. The tea and the lime helps bring out the notes of spice and citrus in the coffee, and makes the flavours pop. I’ve never tasted anything like it, and it was a real pleasure to drink. It was like a great wine – the flavours changed with every sip, inhale and exhale. I’ve suggested she name this drink the “Malacano”. 🙂

So my friends, go forth caffeinated, and have a wonderful day.


ps – By the way, Ken and Mal make the BEST MOCHA IN TOWN. (read this testimonial. Really. Trust me).

pps – if you are in Vic and want to learn a lot about coffee (i.e. why does a Kenyan taste different than a Colombian bean?) head over to Habit Coffee and Culture for one of their free weekly coffee cuppings.