CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> It's A Grind
During my visit this past summer to America I spent a day exploring my home town of Long Beach, accompanied by my old friend and fellow bizzareal artiologist, Kimmer. After a scenic waterside lunch near the Queen Mary we strolled through the streets of downtown Long Beach. Standing on Long Beach Boulevard we reminisced about hours spent in the now-defunct Acres of Books, now a shell of a building surrounded by empty lots but with lots of books still visible through the upstairs windows.
This whole area has changed drastically since both of us moved away years ago. Many of the buildings we remembered, old and modern, are no longer there. On the other hand Pine Avenue, the heart of downtown Long Beach, has experienced a rebirth, with a multitude of sidewalk cafes, bars, cinemas, and shops, some in restored art deco buildings and some in new constructions. It's a different downtown from the old post-Nu-Pike days in the 1980s, when art venues and new wave clubs would spring to life only to fade away when the fire went out.
Naturally all of this reminiscing leaves a body requiring some caffeine rejuvenation, especially on such a hot blistering day as it was. So we escaped into the refreshingly air-conditioned refuge of It's A Grind. Although now a chain that is expanding across the country, the first It's A Grind was opened in my mother's suburban neighbourhood in 1994 by a couple named Marty and Louise; and whenever I visit my mother I've happily purchased beans for my morning coffees from that outlet.
This city centre location is a typically inviting California coffee house with a couple of comfy chairs by the windows and plenty of tables and chairs elsewhere, with the obligatory Pine Avenue sidewalk tables outside. Large paintings hang on the walls of musicians including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Eric Clapton.
As it was a very hot day, I ordered an iced cappuccino and Kimmer had an iced mocha. When I first lifted my drink I ran back to the counter to make sure they hadn't made me an iced latte by mistake, because the large plastic glass was filled to the brim with liquid milk. But no, unfortunately this was what they call an "iced cappuccino". And this was the smaller of the two sizes. At least the espresso asserted itself through the milk and tasted good. But there was no way I could drink even half of it, especially since I'd just eaten and wasn't ravenously hungry for a pint of milk. Kimmer's iced mocha was quite tasty, and it simultaneously satisfied her desire for both coffee and dessert.
Over on a self-serve side counter are pots of coffee refills for 50 cents, with the choices Strong, Medium, Mild, Decaf, Flavoured (today was Vanilla Nut or out-of-season Winter Blend), and Flavoured Decaf (Hawaiian Hazelnut). This was the first time I'd seen this and I think it's a great idea. Because sometimes one just wants to sit and have a regular cup of coffee. Even me.
As Kimmer and I sat and sipped our drinks we listened to Small Change-era Tom Waits and chatted about computers, Photoshop add-ons, iTunes, and other modern coffeehouse topics. When Tom Waits sadly segued into Kate Nash we decided to move on in search of other amusements.
Speaking of amusements reminds me of a recent e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend about toy-themed films: