When traveling away from home, the farm-to-table dining directories, our most popular webpages, come in handy. But for this traveler, it’s also the craft bakery listings and coffee directory which are especially useful. On a recent vacation in Niagara on the Lake in Ontario, the coffee directory made it easy to find a great daily cup or two of coffee.
The pandemic temporarily put a stop in 2020 and 2021 to an annual five-hour road trip of 320 miles (plus the time to cross the border into Canada) to Niagara on the Lake from home in Albany in upstate New York. But with the pandemic easing, we decided to renew the annual trip this fall.
With the cost of the rental of a small house and tickets for this season’s Shaw Festival plays all paid for months ago in late spring, it was anxiety-making to discover that although the border had reopened to visitors, we would need to create an electronic file with ArriveCAN that required downloading proof of vaccination and answer many questions about our travel in Canada.
We were long passed the years of merely showing a state driver’s license, or more recently providing a passport to cross the border into Canada. (Good news: as of October 1, 2022, it was recently announced by the Public Health Agency of Canada that “Canada will no longer require the use of ArriveCAN and will no longer have to show proof of vaccination, take a test before or on arrival or follow quarantine rules.”)
Staying in a small house also permitted this home cook, who prefers to know where his food comes from and the ingredients used in cooking, to prepare most meals economically in the vacation rental. But for a good cup of coffee for the morning’s burst of energy, the coffee directory was the go-to resource.
Over the past decade, the useful coffee directory has grown to include 89 listings of coffee roasters, coffee shops and cafés that are committed to supporting fair and sustainable trade relationships for the benefit of coffee farmers and growers that sell the highest quality fair trade & organic coffee on the market. There are listings throughout the United States, Canada and Australia.
And in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters has long operated a wonderful neighborhood café that serves up fair trade and organic coffees as well as seasonally sourced limited edition direct trade coffees. The company founded in Stratford, Ontario in 1996, 22 years later has grown to 17 locations and can be found on the shelves of grocery stores across Canada.
On its website, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters notes, in the words of French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac, “the café is the people’s parliament.” The company takes pride that each of its cafés “is specifically designed to embody the cultural nuances and historical significance of the location it’s in.” This Canadian coffee roaster also takes pride in the “four cornerstones” of its business operations: Local, Natural, Sustainable and Artisanal.
In Niagara on the Lake, its café is steps away from the Festival Theater, the main theater operated by the Shaw Festival, and where three main-stage productions are mounted. This year’s season at the Festival Theater, the 1950s musical Damn Yankees, Bernard Shaw’s The Doctor’s Dilemma and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest were produced. Eight other plays were produced at the Shaw Festival’s smaller venues, the Royal George Theater and the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theater.
For its 2023 season, the Festival Theater’s main-stage productions for 2023 have been recently announced: the 1959 musical Gypsy, Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirt, James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner and Mahabharata by Ravi Jain and Miriam Fernandes. Eight other plays will be produced in 2023 at the Shaw Festival’s smaller venues.
(Frank W. Barrie, 9/29/22)