Quest for coffee

I love a strong cup of Dark French roast to start the day, especially when I’m travelling. That first sip of Joe breathes an air of familiarity into whatever corner of the world that you might find yourself. It grounds you.

 (Darrell Noakes)

Mmm. . . . first coffee of the day, a rare treat on this tour. Binscarth Regional Park, Manitoba. (Darrell Noakes)

Camp coffee is my favourite. The aroma wafting through the morning air starts the day off right. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, or if it’s minus 40 degrees Celsius. Coffee makes every day warm and sunny.

I don’t mean cowboy coffee, either, although that’s pretty good — coarsely ground beans dropped into a tall enamel coffee pot that has been brought to a boil, then left to cool slightly (a dash of cold water helps settle the grounds just before serving).

I prefer to travel with one of my little macchinetta coffee makers, setting the pot on a compact alcohol stove to heat and brew while I go about other camp chores or preparing breakfast. Whether I’m bike camping or car camping, it’s always possible to find someplace to tuck the coffee supplies.

There’s also the delightful adventure of searching out the best coffee shops while travelling. They can be few and far between outside the big cities. When you find one in a small town, or in the middle of nowhere, it’s a treasure.

 (Darrell Noakes)

TinHouse Designs & Coffee Co., Russell, Manitoba (Darrell Noakes)

On the GASP tour this summer, our daily ritual seemed more like an Arthurian quest. Coffee in camp was elusive. Most campsites lacked potable water, and what water was available was a long hike from the tenting area.

Then there was the matter of where to brew it. We counted ourselves lucky if we could find a picnic table, and especially so if it was level and well maintained. In the wilderness, at least, you can always find a good log or tree stump or rock to use as a stable work surface, and water is plentiful even if it does have to be boiled.

Out of eight days on the road, we were able to make coffee in camp only once, and only because I happened to have brought water (no potable water in camp), and then had to carry around the dirty pot for two days afterwards until I could find a place to clean it (I am most definitely not going to wash my camp dishes in a dirty, smelly camp washroom). Such is the life of tent camping in Saskatchewan. It’s enough to make a coffee lover desperate.

On the other hand, we found some comfortable little coffee shops that made some really excellent brews:

 (Darrell Noakes)

Valley Coffee in St-Lazare, Manitoba (Darrell Noakes)

  • Bevanda Coffee House, Kamsack, SK, across the road from the Duck Mountain Motel on Queen Elizabeth Boulevard (Highway 5). What a godsend to find this place after all the rain we got on the first day, and standing in rain again in the morning while waiting for the place to open. Warm and cozy inside, and the fresh brew chased away the rain.
  • TinHouse Designs & Coffee Co., Russell, MB. The coffee shop is new, officially opening only a few weeks before our trip. The day we passed through Russell was a long day on the road. Cyclists lingered in the town, most of them finding their way to the coffee shop at some point or another.
  • Valley Coffee, St Lazare, MB, a bustling little coffee shop on Main Street downtown. The place looked like it would be busy enough on any day, but some 40-odd cyclists piling in the door must have really made their day. Not far from Binscarth Regional Park, it was a very welcome opportunity to get a good cup of coffee to let us get on with the morning (and a good jolt to help everyone up the steep hills out of the valley, too).
  • Save Room For Dessert, Langenburg, SK, on Highway 16.  We got there early and paced around in the drizzling rain downtown until they opened. Well, all of us except Bob, driving the other sag wagon, who thought he’d find good coffee in Churchbridge instead. No such luck, but we did order an extra big cup of takeout to ferry over to him while it was still hot.
  • Chocolate Bean Cafe, Melville, SK. Located in the middle of downtown, on the corner of Main Street and 3rd Avenue, it was a bit of a hike from where we were staying, but well worth the many trips we made to sit and sip a cup — plus a big mug “to go” in the morning as we headed down the road for Yorkton.


Downtown Melville, SK (Darrell Noakes)

Cyclist rides past Chocolate Bean Cafe, Downtown Melville, SK (Darrell Noakes)



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