We thought we'd try something different this time for the recap of our most recent Grounds for Thought discussion.

Two student journalists were in the audience for our talk on the Honest Ed's Redevelopment: ​The Back Story, which took place on Tuesday, September 27. As an exercise, both students were prompted to live tweet a public event and that event was our Honest Ed's talk.

Students Fallon Hewitt and Rob Lowrey both produced a thorough blow-by-blow, so to speak, of the discussion and those tweet streams follow below.

Our presenter for the night: Max Allen, a producer of the CBC Radio One program Ideas, curator of the Textile Museum of Canada, and VP for planning and development of the Grange Community Association. Our host for the night: David Cayley, a Toronto-based Canadian writer and broadcaster, and a long-time contributor to CBC's Ideas.

Note: Some additional background information has been added by The Grounds for Thought (@for_grounds) organizers in square brackets.

Fallon Hewitt ‏@fallonhewitt_ Sep 27

Free admission and a free cup of coffee for those who attend the monthly @for_grounds discussions. #JOUR3001 [We're now twice monthly. ~ @for_grounds]

Each table has two booklets; inside are design plans for the development at southern side of Bloor and Bathurst #JOUR3001

Tonight's talking points are followed. #JOUR3001

Producer Max Allen will be tonight's speaker for the event. #JOUR3001

Quite the crowd here for tonight's discussion. Half are debatably just here to have coffee and hangout. #JOUR3001 [It is good coffee. ~ @for_grounds]

Allen: Paid rent of 75 dollars a month to Ed Mirvish on Markham Street in the 1970s. #JOUR3001

Allen: None of the houses in Markham Street were built with the same permits and plans as today. #JOUR3001

Allen: The rule scheme that dictates building in Toronto is complicated. #JOUR3001

Allen: Directs to a brown paper bag in booklet; brings up people asking about corruption and displeasure with the development. #JOUR3001

Allen: Reflects on a lunch he had in the 80's with a developer; references the paper bag, believes it was filled with money. #JOUR3001

Allen: Can you buy favourable outcomes in the developer world today? #JOUR3001

Allen believes not. #JOUR3001

Allen: All developers say all the good things; they have to. #JOUR3001

Allen: Wind studies have never been properly done; puts City Hall in a position they can't get out of. #JOUR3001

Allen speaks about policy guidelines and laws. #JOUR3001

Policy guidelines are so elastic you could build an elephant in the intersection says Allen. #JOUR3001

Allen: The Mirvish Village was designed from the beginning as a massive commercial and residential project; 948 units proposed. #JOUR3001

Allen: Some units will be rented at affordable rates; always a question in Toronto; 10 percent of the units. #JOUR3001

Allen: Affordable is not subsidized, subsidized is affordable. #JOUR3001

Allen: 10 percent of the site will be devoted to a public park; not in the original design. Park will be maintained by developer. #JOUR3001

Allen: Originally the houses on Markham Street were going to be preserved; houses have been registered on heritage register. #JOUR3001

Allen reaffirms what the heritage designation means. #JOUR3001

There was originally going to be an open air garden; originally to span Markham Street; city made it impossible. #JOUR3001

Allen: The project has 600 parking spaces underground; won't be under the park. #JOUR3001

Allen uses the booklets as reference, a great visual tool. #JOUR3001

Allen: Markham Street will become a pedestrian village. #JOUR3001

Allen: asks crowd to distinguish which plan was first and second. Which one do you like better, he asks. #JOUR3001

The top version is what they intend to build now; building in bottom right has shrunk; design has simplified. #JOUR3001

The design is full of green roofs; developer plans on putting trees on each roof #JOUR3001

Allen directs people to look; gives them time to check it out #JOUR3001

Allen: Who has leverage in these decisions? #JOUR3001

Allen: City Hall has more than you'd think; residents have little. #JOUR3001

Allen: Believes the bottom buildings have aesthetically pleasing proportions.

Allen: You see pictures like this in condo ads all the time. These pictures are views no human will ever see. #JOUR3001

Allen: The views you see in architectural drawings are not realistic unless you're a bird. #JOUR3001

Allen: Every building follows the 45 degree angular plan, no building can protrude beyond it, reduces amount of obstruction of sun #JOUR3001

Allen explains the technicalities behind the design process and rules that apply to the development. #JOUR3001

These rules are what make a nice building, a nice city. #JOUR3001

Allen references to the condos that already exist at Bathurst and Bloor. #JOUR3001 [These are the B.streets Condos at 783 Bathurst St. ~ @for_grounds]

Discusses the retail at grade ideal; retail is a must; the trouble is that every space is empty, has been that way for months. #JOUR3001 [See here for more on "retail at street grade" and what it means ~ @for_grounds]

Allen talks about the dark glass; no good for displays; compares the retail space to older spaces across the street. #JOUR3001

The older retail spaces are full. #JOUR3001

This is intense. #JOUR3001

The four corner study is something facing the intersection; used to make more room for development. #JOUR3001 [See here for more on the Bathurst-Bloor Four Corners Study ~ @for_grounds]

Westbank is a Vancouver-based development company; has many projects proposed in Toronto #JOUR3001 [Westbank Corp. is the developer behind the Mirvish Village project ~ @for_grounds]

Westbank has just brought all the failed retail space in the existing condos. #JOUR3001

Gregory Henriquez is the designer of the new development; pictured in booklet; posing in front of Honest Ed's oddly enough. #JOUR3001

Allen turns the discussion to the behind the scenes factor of the development; it's a mess of rules and decision making bodies #JOUR3001

Councillors play a huge part in these plans; they vote or do nothing at all. #JOUR3001

Public is allowed little deputation on the developments; public have little say if any at all. #JOUR3001

Allen discusses adjustment committee and fees; fee is well over $4000. #JOUR3001 [More on Toronto's Adjustment Committee]

80% of cases sent to the Ontario Municipal Board are won by the City. #JOUR3001

OMB hearings cannot be recorded; no verbal recordings as well. Public is welcome to go; quite the show according to Allen. #JOUR3001

Allen: Policy law is always open to interpretation; always written to give the most favourable interpretation to developments. #JOUR3001

Allen says Westbank has been very transparent with plans; but they are very detailed. Everything about Mirvish Village is online. #JOUR3001 [See here]

Allen directs people to illustration of Ontario [...]; points out lots of transportation. #JOUR3001

Allen believes the Ontario government has woken up to the biggest issue facing the people of Ontario: transportation. #JOUR3001

Allen goes on to discuss the many projects Toronto has for transit. #JOUR3001

Also discusses the many four corner plans the city has going on at once. Countless projects. #JOUR3001

The plan makes Bathurst and Bloor look wildly different; it's actually incredibly sad to look at #JOUR3001

A question period has begun for the audience. #JOUR3001

First question from a resident #JOUR3001

Is it a balance between stakeholders and tenancy? #JOUR3001

Are they needed or not? - audience member #JOUR3001

Allen: The only way families can start out is to have units such as these according to the city; houses are too expensive. #JOUR3001

Current projects going on in the city. #JOUR3001

Do you feel the parking is adequate? - Resident #JOUR3001

Allen: Believes some parking will be for shoppers and residents; does mention that people are increasingly walking to work. #JOUR3001

Allen: The developer has agreed that no city parking permits will be given to residents of the building; can't congest streets. #JOUR3001

Next audience member reflects on where she shops in the area. #JOUR3001

Sees the development as positive [for the] area. Reflects on childhood; audience members demand questions. #JOUR3001

People are getting heated and it's awkward. #JOUR3001 [It was. Our apologies to that member of the audience. ~ @for_grounds]

Asks Allen what he thinks; negative or positive view; Allen doesn't think in those terms #JOUR3001

Allen goes on to reply regarding the reliability of Westbank in affiliation to the control of the development and how it's run. #JOUR3001

Allen is confident in the way it will be run. #JOUR3001

Some in crowd have heard ground for the project will be broken in March; Allen doesn't believe this to be true. #JOUR3001

Allen describes the construction as going to be "hell on earth" #JOUR3001

The construction will disrupt everything. #JOUR3001

If they don't get a construction manager things won't go well; they need a leg to stand on. #JOUR3001

Next question is on affordable housing and the concern for lack thereof #JOUR3001

How much will the units sell for? Allen replies that he has no idea. #JOUR3001

Affordable units will be market average. #JOUR3001

Development will only change if development charges are increased downtown and lowered outside of the core. #JOUR3001

Allen: "The buildings you like in Toronto were not built under the [planning] regime of today." #JOUR3001

Allen on Markham Street: "Not built under planning regime." #JOUR3001

Allen has a clear appreciation for the historical buildings of Toronto; one we should all share #JOUR3001

A glass broke and Allen kept talking, true. #JOUR3001 [True. ~ @for_grounds]

Allen discusses planning being based on infrastructure such as sewers and water needs; developers should pay for it. #JOUR3001

Another question: How are the proposed units possible? #JOUR3001

Allen goes on to discuss how developers just take money and run; buyers hand money to developer and it goes away. #JOUR3001

Audience member brings up how rare condos were 50 years ago; no need for the model then. #JOUR3001

I totally forgot that @joe_cressy was mentioned; why isn't he here tonight? #JOUR3001

Allen and audience member are getting into it; Allen isn't taking what he's saying for truth #JOUR3001

Allen tries to bring it back to the first question from the audience member. All has been lost on this question #JOUR3001

Allen believes the developer is honest; he believes people like that are out there #JOUR3001

Audience member asks about traffic problems; Allen is sure there will be problems #JOUR3001

Allen believes self driving cars will help; also brings up Uber and their self driving car involvement #JOUR3001

Audience member asks about congestion; Allen mentions wider sidewalks are planned, and more underground services will come #JOUR3001

Audience member also has concerns about light due to tower blockage; Allen reflects on Grange [condos] project and reflect light #JOUR3001

203 College St actually had to be adjusted due to too much reflection #JOUR3001

Shadow studies must be considered #JOUR3001

Allen says he's cold; an audience [member] jokes about lending him her hot flash lolol #JOUR3001

Audience member can't understand why services are poorer despite the city looking wealthy #JOUR3001

Allen: Politicians will avoid making unpopular decisions with any one of their affiliates #JOUR3001

Allen: City neglects to make decisions; everyone is off the hook; "the sound of hands being washed at City Hall is extraordinary" #JOUR3001

Allen: Believes they met a tipping point when @JohnTory rode the subway and roasted.

Allen brings up how the AGO's fire suppression service is not up to par; they have reached out to the water department #JOUR3001

Water department said they need a new system entirely #JOUR3001

Discussion is strangely cut off. Confused but the audience seemed pleased. #JOUR3001

Well I guess that's it! Thanks Max Allen for an informative discussion. #JOUR3001



Rob ‏@RobLowrey3 Sep 27

Hello! I'll be live tweeting the Honest Ed's redevelopment talk held at the Green Beanery. It will commence at 8pm. #JOUR3001

Audience members were given this for tonight's talk. #JOUR3001

Producer Max Allen will be the speaker this evening. #JOUR3001

The topics for this evening are as follows. #JOUR3001

Less than five minutes until the talk begins. Free coffee is available to those interested. #JOUR3001

The brownies however are divine #JOUR3001 [Thank you. ~ @for_grounds]

Allen: "My connection with Mirvish Village goes back to 1975." #JOUR3001

Allen: "Sometimes people ask me why the development project is corrupt." #JOUR3001

Allen tells a story about a lunch meeting he had with an architect in 1981. #JOUR3001

Allen: "Money helps and buys other things." #JOUR3001

Allen: "Policy law is full of descriptions with desirable decisions and outcomes." #JOUR3001

The Mirvish Village building complex has always been designed as commercial according to Allen. #JOUR3001

"There's a great need for rental houses in the city." Allen. #JOUR3001

Allen: "The units across the street will be affordable units" in regards to condos replacing Honest Eds #JOUR3001

Throughout the talk we're flipping through the booklet. All of which are outlines of potential plans for the future. #JOUR3001

An open air market in Markham street was originally on the plans. #JOUR3001

The city denied the outdoor marketplace. The market place would've included an intricate roof (why it was denied) #JOUR3001

Underground Parking located on the Bathurst side of the street. #JOUR3001

Markham St. will be mainly pedestrian used. #JOUR3001

Imagine Yorkville and Kensington being put in a blender. That's potentially Markham St. #JOUR3001

Allen: "Not only is there going to be grass and shrubs, but also trees will be planted on these buildings." #JOUR3001

City Hall apparently has lots of leverage towards the plans. #JOUR3001

That's a lot of trees...#JOUR3001

Designs were not done for aesthetic reasons, but for shadows #JOUR3001

The city must obey rules #JOUR3001

It can't protrude into anything that has a 45 degree angle. #JOUR3001

How the city feels about Honest Eds closing and condos being replaced. #JOUR3001

Peterson and Westbank are major developers endorsing the condos #JOUR3001

Allen: "This talk is all about the back story of the project." #JOUR3001

Behind the scenes are apparently a hydra of a mess of decision making #JOUR3001

The groups behind the decision making #JOUR3001

Ontario Municipal Board acts like the court of the situation. #JOUR3001

Allen: "People leave the court in tears all the time." JOUR3001

There's no voice recorders allowed in the OMB meeting #JOUR3001

Allen: "Policy law is always up for interpretation." JOUR3001

All of the planning documents for the Honest Eds site are available online. #JOUR3001

The City of Toronto currently has seven planning strategies underway. #JOUR3001

Questions are now being taken #JOUR3001

Max Allen is also the President of the [Grange] Condo Corporation. #JOUR3001

Allen is unsure if the parking spaces are open to shoppers or strictly for the residents #JOUR3001

The tension is very awkward right now. #JOUR3001

When do you expect the develop will break ground and when do you think it will finish?" #JOUR3001

Allen: "The construction for this site will be a nightmare. Hell on earth." #JOUR3001

It is rumoured the project will break ground in March, 2017. Allen doesn't believe this is true. #JOUR3001

Allen: "My solution for this planning hydra is to eliminate the planning rules." #JOUR3001

Allen referenced the beautiful buildings at the U of T campus and questioned how they got them. #JOUR3001

He says how the university achieved the buildings was because of the lack of rules. #JOUR3001

A glass broke and Allen didn't even address it. The real MVP #JOUR3001 [lol ~ @for_grounds]

This is the third time the moderator has spoken within this hour and a half talk. #JOUR3001

The audience member is holding the mic but not using it to answer the question. #JOUR3001

"Does the rental unit have to abide to a certain amount of units?" - audience member. #JOUR3001

Allen is unsure if the rental properties will turn into condos. Possibly someday. #JOUR3001

Audience members slowly trickling out of the coffee shop. #JOUR3001

One more question! #JOUR3001

"I can't understand why services aren't keeping up with the amount of condos being built." #JOUR3001

Allen: Because politicians won't make any decisions that are unpopular with their constituents. #JOUR3001 [Edited for clarity. ~ @for_grounds]

That's it for me tonight! Green Beanery hosts "Ground for Thought" every last Tuesday of every month. #JOUR3001 [We've gone twice a month for the time being. ~ @for_grounds]

I'm Rob Lowrey, signing off. #JOUR3001


Our next event is set for Tuesday, October 11 @ 8 PM: Trudeau's Human Rights Compromise. See here for more information.

Medical Coffee Encyclopedia

September 27, 2016

It was around this time last year that the news coffee was actually good for us begun to sink in. Months of building cheer on the Coffee - Friend not Vice front finally culminated in the fall of 2015 in the release of a Harvard School of Public Health study that connected a daily coffee habit to longevity. All manner of experts chimed in to say this or that wonderful thing about our favourite drink and it was the best fall, wasn't it?

Nothing can top the high of that fall so now we're knuckling down to institutionalizing this good news. Our first task has been an encyclopedic reference on the health impacts of coffee. Don't worry - this encyclopedic opinion supports the general viewpoint that coffee is A-OK, in moderation, taken as simply as possible (no additives) and so on. All that really matters is: the coffee party continues.

This past summer, Green Beanery volunteer and aspiring medical student, Anna Folwell, created for us a round-up of the various effects of coffee on a range of health concerns. In doing so, Anna uncovered a veritable A to U (some letters did not warrant coverage) of current medical opinion and everything we might want to know in relation to coffee and a particular ailment of the body. See: Medical Coffee Encyclopedia.

For instance, you might think coffee should be avoided in the case of a diagnosis of anemia. Well, you would be right. Coffee does not mix with anemia, it can inhibit the absorption of iron and worsen the condition, even potentially cause it in those susceptible to it.

But, for the most part, Anna's encyclopedic findings were positive. Oral cancer, for example, is reduced in risk by coffee consumption. Many things are - dementia ... What else from the D's? Let's see: depression, diabetes but not so much diarrhea (some things are common sense after all). But common sense isn't always reliable: for example, gallstones. You might think coffee should definitely be avoided there but no, it was identified as having a possible preventative effect on symptomatic gallstone disease.

The list goes on and on and covers a number of things none of us ever want to think about. But life can be cruel and if you are worried or curious about the health effects of coffee in regards to a specific problem, feel free to consult our Medical Coffee Encyclopedia. It is mostly good, often surprisingly good news when the news is otherwise ... not.

Coffee, Anna Folwell, thanks you.

Rediscovering Ivan Illich

September 12, 2016

Where to begin with Ivan Illich - the topic of our Grounds for Thought discussion evening at Green Beanery on Tuesday, August 30.

A deeply radical thinker, Ivan Illich - a former priest - gained a sort of celebrity as a public intellectual in the 1970s but has largely fallen from view nowadays. The vivacity of his anti-institutional worldview, however, is with us still in influence and his themes continue to excite newcomers who find their way to him. 

Of those who do, many find Illich's work surprisingly in step with the current time. For example, younger generations who feel cheated by the ideal of compulsory education or who train for work that does not match the jobs they will take on, if they are able to secure work.

Whether it's through his critique of compulsory education and the production of knowledge (Deschooling Society, the text he is best known for), the "medicalization of society" (Medical Nemesis), the dangers of technologies that lock us into dependence and distance us from one another (Tools for Conviviality) - or any of the many other subjects he tackled - Illich was fundamentally concerned with human relationships at a basic level. His voice was, and remains, a champion of human freedom and dignity in an age dominated by social systems and structures that control our view of reality and sense of self and autonomy.

Joining him on that journey along the way was David Cayley, our presenter on Tuesday night, whose association with Illich over the years led to the CBC series Ivan Illich in Conversation and various books, authored by Cayley, that explore Illich's way in to understanding society. That way was borne of Illich's time in Puerto Rico as vice-rector at a Catholic university there, where he set to wondering whether compulsory schooling was serving people well. The answer to his mind was 'no' and an argument for the de-establishment of education led to Deschooling Society, published in 1971.

Was the church supportive of Illich's work as a social critic? Although, Illich strived to separate this activity from his priestly ministry, he was considered a dangerous figure in the church by none other than the pope himself (that being Pope Paul VI at the time). Illich also considered himself rather "notorious" and eventually stepped down from his duties as a priest to pursue publishing and lecturing at the height of his seventies' run of fame.

From a '70s must-read to a '80s afterthought, Illich fell out of fashion after the publication of Gender in 1982, the outcome of a series of lectures he gave at UC Berkeley. Denounced by UC Berkeley feminists, that text ensured Illich would continue his work without fanfare, something Illich was actually glad of, telling friends his time on the lecture circuit had left him feeling like an intellectual "jukebox".

Illich's public profile, however, grew again with the release of The Rivers North of the Future, a 2005 book authored by David Cayley on Illich's thoughts about the fate of the Christian Gospel, a project that greatly benefited from the endorsement of distinguished Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. Taylor would later devote a section to Illich in his investigation of A Secular Age in 2007 - described as "the academic event of the decade" and Illich's inclusion as "a curious addition to this already-curious litany".

Max Allen (of CBC Ideas), and host of our Grounds for Thought discussion on August 30, noted that Illich's Deschooling Society and Growing Up Absurd, by American novelist and psychotherapist Paul Goodman, had served as a strong influence on the behaviour and thought of "a lot of people in what's called the sixties". The impact of books like these that "came and went," he said, "actually never went" because their imprint is still felt today.

How did Illich's Deschooling Society and Medical Nemesis change us? According to Max that change is "hard to point to" and has been realized in "a fuzzy way". David Cayley added that Illich's legacy is related to a growing disillusionment with authority. The readers Illich addressed at the height of his reach in the 1970s belonged to the "new church of schooling" and were believers in that church at the time, he said. They didn't cease to go to church after being exposed to thinkers like Illich, he continued, but they did cease to believe in it, which is largely "where we are now". In the case of medicine, Max agreed, saying: "The authority of the doctor is not the same as it was" and although the medical system remains pervasive and powerful, it is "treated more instrumentally, more cynically."


Ivan Illich died of cancer on December 2, 2002, aged 76, after living with a disfiguring tumor on the right side of his face for many years. As per his principles, Illich refused traditional treatment, not wishing to risk the toll it might take on his capacity for speech. He referred to the growth as his "mortality".


For a recap of our Grounds for Thought, July 26 event on the "Real Jane Jacobs," see here.

Our next event is set for Tuesday, September 13. See "Windy Lies" here for more information.

On Tuesday, July 26, American-Canadian self-taught journalist, author, activist, innovator and champion of livable cities, Jane Jacobs, headlined the discussion night at Green Beanery’s second Grounds for Thought event. Long-time colleagues Max Allen – a producer for the CBC Radio program, Ideas, and the co-founder and curator of the Textile Museum of Canada – held forth alongside Lawrence Solomon – who co-founded Energy Probe Research Foundation with Jane Jacobs in the late 1970s, the organization that owns Green Beanery.

As you might expect, there were descriptions that reflected the Jane Jacobs of popular legend: her newfangled thinking on the use of primary space, for example, was to be found in her own home, where there was no separation between the kitchen and living room. Although an open-plan layout is common today, at the time this was not the case. Jane had deliberately turned the main floor of her old house – built for a different era when servants were not permitted in certain parts of the home – into essentially a common area: a very modern idea that has since become a norm.

That glimpse of Jane in private is the Jane we have come to know in public as the revolutionary voice of mixed-use development and a relentless battler for "the good city," which she articulated as the aphorism: "Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings."

What is less known are Jane’s views on such issues as privatization – Jane was in favour of privatizing the TTC, Via Rail and Canada Post, all public entities reliable for their terrible service and high rates when Jane launched the consumer advocacy organization, Consumer Policy Institute, in the mid-1990s. Jane also believed in competition, respected property rights and was "allergic to expropriation," but was not, as some think, anti-development and anti-change: she simply had no desire for centrally planned solutions.

Illuminating Jane’s more surprising perspectives, Lawrence Solomon remembers Jane as principled, fearless and free of ideology. Her rigorous and wide-ranging intellect makes guessing "what would Jane say?" an impossibility even for those who knew her well. Jane sought specific solutions to specific problems, she was all about process.

Although he has wondered himself many times, "What would Jane say?", as Max Allen told the Grounds for Thought audience: "You never knew because she said so many things you had never thought of before."

For more on Jane’s lesser known perspectives, read Lawrence Solomon’s Grounds for Thought discussion notes here.

Max Allen is the author of Ideas that Matter: The Worlds of Jane Jacobs. He also produced the 1979 Massey Lectures featuring Jane Jacobs. [Pictured above at the Grounds for Thought Jane Jacobs night in sunglasses]

Lawrence Solomon was a colleague of Jane Jacobs at Energy Probe Research Foundation for almost two decades. [Pictured holding microphone]

Self-taught thinker: Jane Jacobs dropped out of Columbia University's School of General Studies after two years and never looked back. Unencumbered by planning orthodoxy, Jane formulated her views on urban living from the ground-up. How did she do it? She got out on the street, walked around, observed the "ballet of sidewalks" and what made a city good and workable for people by being a person living in and moving around the city.

Follow us on Twitter @for_grounds

Coffeehouses have always been spaces that attract the more serious thought or thinker, as opposed to the more serious drinker. They combine the spiritedness of an alehouse without the (vast) potential for alcohol's mayhem.

As engines of socialization fueled by the brain stimulant of caffeine, coffeehouses have throughout their existence served as sharp-edged but sober gathering places for the exchange and circulation of information, ideas and views, hence their at times being referred to as "Schools of the Wise" and "penny universities".

For example, back in the day, London, England's thriving coffeehouse scene of the 17th and 18th centuries provided an intellectual arena for great and otherwise (male) minds — female minds of either description were generally excluded — to gather, even across class, to discuss, debate and shape the world we live in today. If famed British essayist, biographer and cultural critic, Samuel Johnson — regarded as one of the greatest figures of 18th-century life and letters — wanted to take the temperature of his time, he'd head to his local coffeehouse, a place he defined as "a house of entertainment where coffee is sold, and the guests are supplied with newspapers." A description that suggests Johnson equated coffeehouses with ideas and, by extension, "connotations of alertness, sobriety and volubility," according to Markham Ellis, author of The Coffee-House: A Cultural History.

To that end, inspired by the tradition of the great coffeehouses of yore, we pulled the plug on WiFi at Green Beanery in the hopes of re-energizing face-to-face interaction [see: No WiFi]. And now we're taking that controversial (some would say outrageous) move one bold step further with a public discussion series called Grounds for Thought to be held on the last Tuesday of every month, beginning this month on June 28 at 8 p.m.

Grounds for Thought will feature guest speakers offering "provocative perspectives" on a range of topics. Our first topic is one many of us already hold views on: Toronto Hydro and, in particular, sky-rocketing Hydro bills. Details follow below.

Our Hydro Bills Will Soar 18% This Year

A Green Beanery Grounds for Thought discussion, held at the Green Beanery store and cafe on the corner of Bathurst and Bloor streets on June 28 at 8 p.m.

Economist Brady Yauch of Consumer Policy Institute [NOT pictured] explains why Ontario has North America’s worst record in controlling power prices.

To whet your pre-discussion appetite, read: "Toronto Hydro customers face 18% rate hike in 2016".

Grounds for Thought: mark your calendars and see you there! 

Come early to be sure to have a table. No admission charge.

For more information, contact us at

Joe's playlist

June 08, 2016

What's coffee without ambience? This coffee-themed playlist captures the many moods of our favourite beverage and the range of artists coffee has inspired.

Video links are supplied wherever possible.


Arabica by Didula

Au Café des délices by Patrick Bruel

Black Coffee by Black Flag

Black Coffee by Ella Fitzgerald

Black Coffee by Heavy D and the Boyz

Black Coffee in Bed by Squeeze

Caffe Per Due by Giacomo Bondi and Didi

Calling You by Jevetta Steele [from Bagdad Cafe]

Coffee and TV by Blur

Coffee Blues by Mississippi John Hurt [pictured]

Coffee Break from How to Succeed in Business

Coffee Club by Spandau Ballet

Coffee Cups by Langhorne Slim & The Law

Coffee Homeground by Kate Bush

Coffee Shop by Yung Joc [Feat. Gorilla Zoe]

Coffee Song by Frank Sinatra

Coffee Talk by Jazzanova

Coffee to Go by Club des Belugas [pictured]

Cooking Coffee by Stimming

Couleur Cafe by Serge Gainsbourg

Cup of Coffee by Johnny Cash

Cup of Hot Coffee by The Outsiders

Duncan Hills Coffee Jingle by Dethklok [from Metalocalypse]

Espresso: All Jacked Up by Todd Rundgren


40 cups of coffee by Ella Mae Morse [pictured]

"When it comes to beats well I’m a fiend/I like my sugar with coffee and cream/Well I got to keep it going keep it going full steam." ~ Beastie Boys

Intergalactic by Beastie Boys

Java Jive by Manhattan Transfer

Kaffeekantate [Coffee Cantata] by Johann Sebastian Bach

Keep that Coffee Hot by Scatman Crothers (Defunk remix)

Kids on Coffee by The Descendents

Le café des trois colombes by Joe Dassin

Matin du café by Felipecha

One Cup of Coffee by Bob Marley

One More Cup of Coffee by Bob Dylan [pictured]

Percolator by The Ventures

Put Me Somethin' Warm in My Cup by Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Sugar in My Coffee by Ginger Leigh

Taylor the Latte Boy by Kristin Chenoweth

The Coffee Song by Cream

The Coffee Song by Hildegard Knef

Turkish Coffee by Herbie Mann

You're the Cream in My Coffee by Nat King Cole Trio

You're the Cream in My Coffee by Annette Hanshaw (1928)

This is a dynamic list. New titles will be added on an ongoing basis. Feel free to contact us with suggestions.

Many thanks to Audrey Mangin for her music research.

June — that magical time of long days and late sunsets, lush foliage and blooming spirits — has long been one of the most popular months of the year for weddings. For those of you with weddings to plan, why not make your day more memorable with a theme? And what theme could be more memorable than coffee?

Well, some things obviously: ceremonies performed in underwater cages surrounded by sharks, wedding parties painted green decked out in Shrek costumes, even stark naked, or couples strapped to the wings of planes for their I Do's are hard to top. Coffee is the sensible choice and a doddle to arrange by comparison.

Interest is definitely on the rise. Examples online of people who have pulled off coffee-themed weddings with elegance and flair is impressive. Ideas abound on Pinterest and Etsy. What's noticeable right away is how decorative coffee beans are and how variously they can be put to use: such as this bean laden, ring-bearing basket [pictured], which is so attractive it almost isn't peculiar.

What also isn't odd is a coffee bar — something all wedding receptions need to both fuel the festivities and contain the overly festive. Although servers and brewers that accommodate large events are often supplied by caterers or the venue itself [see here for what these options tend to look like], more intimate gatherings can incline to the imaginative and set tables in lovely ways with banners, condiment trays, servers, novelty mugs and/or disposable cups with DIY customized sleeves [see below].


Coffee-themed weddings or coffee-elevated weddings have become something of a thing with the rise of the budget-conscious DIY movement and the availability of resources via content-sharing online communities. Third Wave coffee culture with its emphasis on artisanal craft is also driving enthusiasm and, as you might expect, coffee industry professionals, who happen to fall in love with one another, are more likely to see the beloved beverage as matchmaker and one deserving of pride of place at their nuptials.

A case in point would be Drew Moody, founder of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe, who celebrated a love of the brew with his industry partner Ashley at their "the whole wedding was coffee-themed" event, complete with table cloths made from burlap (the sacks coffee beans are stored and transported in), antique brewers and hand grinders found at flea markets used as flower vases, bean-filled candle holders as table centerpieces and beans as wedding favours. Drew's blog on "Planning Your Coffee Themed Wedding" bounces with suggestions for amping up the coffee aspect of your big day, including links to other blogs for making coffee-themed invitations and ways to use burlap at your own wedding.

Just as coffee varieties are bountiful, so are suggestions for coffee-themed creativity: such as adding chalkboards with personalized messages and vintage coffee tins and cards for a coffeehouse vibe, mismatched mugs arranged artfully as a photo booth backdrop, liquor-like coffee shots and more [see: 14 Buzz-Worthy Wedding Ideas for Coffee Lovers and 7 Things Every Wedding Coffee Bar Needs to Have]. In fact, coffee as a style element is adorable! This inspiration for pour-over lovers [pictured] is both a clever and cute setup for a small ceremony [see here for pour-over specific cones, servers and kettles]. And of course many of these suggestions can be recycled for birthdays, housewarmings and celebrations of all sorts — including bridal showers and bachelor parties.

For food ideas, stop by the Green Beanery store and cafe at Bathurst and Bloor. Along with a range of coffee beverages, we serve cappuccino tartufo and crepes with coffee ice-cream. Continue to Pinterest and Yummly to browse recipes for similarly themed desserts and mocktails.

Although we don't offer a catering service as yet, we may be able to assist your event with an espresso/cappuccino station. Contact us directly with details of your requirements.

We do carry a small stash of stale beans that can be purchased for use as decoration. Do not go this route for wedding favours for your guests though! For that, you will need quality, fresh beans. Contact us here for suggestions.

Not that far along yet? For product recommendations that pop the question for you, see Marriage Proposal Ideas for Coffee Lovers.

As if we'd forget the music! Joe's Playlist is a collection of coffee-themed songs, so extensive it required its own blog: continue to Joe's Playlist.

What would it be like to travel back in time to a coffee culture from which our own was born or to one of the legendary coffeehouses of yore?

This is the inspiration behind a new performance piece by by the Toronto-based Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, which received its world premiere last night at Kingston's Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. Set in 1740, Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House draws on the coffeehouse culture of old Europe and the Middle East to explore the early music of that period — in particular, the ancient Syrian coffeehouses of Damascus and the coffeehouse era of Johann Sebastian Bach in Leipzig, Germany.

Although 3,500 kilometres apart, Damascus and Leipzig shared much in common. Both served as entrepôts for key trade routes — Damascus as a caravan city at the heart of the Silk Road linking the Roman Empire to China, and Leipzig as a crossroads city between two major medieval "highways": the east-west “Via Regia” (Royal Way) and the north-south “Via Imperii” (Imperial Way). Thanks to their geographic connections, both cities spawned thriving coffeehouse communities and developed into important commercial, cultural and knowledge centres.

Referred to as the City of Heroes (or Heldenstadt) for its role in the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Leipzig is also known as the city of music owing to the hundreds of composers who have lived or worked there over the centuries, including Bach, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann, Georg Telemann and Richard Wagner, to name a few. It is said tourists to the area can visit the places where illustrious composers once performed or occupied "in a concentration unmatched anywhere in the world." But alas, not so for the city's famed Zimmermann's Coffee House, since razed in World War II, which survives now in legend only as an informal venue where Bach and his contemporaries would debut new music. Zimmermann's is where Bach conducted a musical society, founded by Telemann, during winter months on Friday evenings. It is also where Bach is believed to have first performed his Coffee Contata, a miniature comic opera about an obstinate coffee addiction at a time when coffee was all the rage but viewed by some as a bad habit.

Damascus, meanwhile, is considered the longest habitable old city in the world and Syria one of the planet's most ancient civilizations, dating back to at least 800,000 BC. Syria shares an al-hakawati oral storytelling heritage with other regions in the Middle East personified by itinerant story "experts" who would pass on Arab culture through folktales and fairy tales performed "always in coffee houses." The al-hakawati (a Syrian term for poets, actors, comedians, historians and storytellers) would sit on a stage facing their audience and recite fables, adventures and stories from memory or text, interspersed with poems and jokes, sometimes accompanied by instrumentalists playing classical Arabic music.

The Tafelmusik project aims to evoke these rich, contrasting experiences: for the Leipzig portion of the program, through the music of Bach, Handel and Telemann; a Trio Arabica ensemble will bring to life the sounds and rhythms redolent of the old Damascene coffeehouse landscape. Alternating images of 18th-century interiors descriptive of the raised ajami surfaces common to the late-Ottoman Syrian period and the rustic wood paneling of old Saxony deepen the mood on a projection screen set behind the musicians.  

Dr. Anke Scharrahs, an international expert on the conservation of Syrian-Ottomon interiors, will be on hand during the performance week to speak to audiences about Syrian culture [see here for more details]. For Tales of Two Cities booking information, refer to Tafelmusik's concert calendar. For an in-depth interview about the event with Tafelmusik's concert curator, Alison Mackay, see here. A Tales of Two Cities video teaser is available at this YouTube link.

Did you know? Tafelmusik events at the Trinity-St. Paul's Centre feature coffee supplied by Green Beanery. Tafelmusik concert-goers are eligible for a 10% discount on all food and beverage items at the Green Beanery cafe on the corner of Bloor and Bathurst streets. [Beans and retail items are not included]. Just show us your Tafelmusik subscriber card or retain your ticket receipt as proof of attendance. Offer ends May 2016.

For more photographs of the stage set, refer to the social media page of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

Interview with Green Beanery Cafe founder, Larry Solomon, on what makes his cafe stand out

By Michael Wacholtz for The Annex/

How would you describe Green Beanery Café?

Green Beanery is a coffee shop, roastery and equipment store that has the world’s largest selection of coffee beans. It’s also one of the funding sources for Probe International, with all of the profits from the café and coffee business going to support the activities of this charity.

What was the original impetus for the business?

I love coffee. I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal in 2004 about home roasting of coffee and one of the roasters was rated tops in the reviews. I bought that for personal use, and my experience of roasting my own beans was incredible. I compare it to the difference between freshly squeezed orange juice and that stuff you get out of a can. One of the things I do in my association with Probe International is look for funding avenues. Over the years we’ve been successful in starting various businesses and I thought coffee might be a promising one. To begin, we ordered a sack of beans, like you would see Juan Valdez put on the back of his burro and we sold those over the internet. It sold quite quickly, and we grew from there. We expanded from selling beans, to roasters, and it just kept growing and growing. Initially we were doing everything out of our offices on Brunswick, but it was getting too big. You’d open a cabinet drawer and find bags of coffee beans, so it was necessary to ensure that file folders for our research staff were not being replaced by bags of coffee.

How did you find opening your current store?

Initially we were an entirely online enterprise. The café came later, and there were some bumps along the way in that process. For example, in trying to save some money, we tried to act as general contractors ourselves. That took some extra time, but the real challenges we found were dealing with the city bureaucracy. Everything required permissions from them, which affected every aspect of opening our small business and we didn’t expect the delays to be so extensive. But we eventually opened our doors and haven’t looked back.

And what do you get as feedback regarding the customer experience you have created at Green Beanery?

The ambiance is a highlight. People also love our array of coffee paraphernalia. They like our extensive variety of coffees, and that all the profits from the business go to help a Third World environment and development charity, Probe International.

Any interesting plans for the future?

We’re planning to have evenings at the café where speakers come in and discuss topics like international development, nuclear power, mass transit and the TTC, power rates, things of that nature that are local, national and international. The speakers’ perspectives won’t all dovetail with those of Probe International – we’ll often have competing perspectives, to let the audience understand both sides of an issue. The timeline for this to launch is sometime this spring.

No one gets to where they are by themselves. Any inspirational role models in business or life?

Jane Jacobs was a founder of our foundation, so she’s been an inspiration not only to me but also to the entire foundation. Margaret Laurence was another inspirational director and she was very feisty; she and Jane were quite the pair. Dai Qing, a Probe Fellow, and really the whole Chinese democracy movement have also been inspirational to our foundation as well.

Why the Annex for your business?

It’s near our office. We believe in the area and love it. The Annex is a great place to invest. We knew it wouldn’t go downhill over time.

Any favorite things about the Annex you want to share?

It’s just a terrific neighbourhood. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I’ve been here since 1982 both living and working here. I like all the shops, the architecture, the high density. It’s a great neighbourhood to walk.

Why do you think it's important for people to shop local?

I wouldn’t say it’s important to shop local – I see nothing wrong in patronizing shops in different neighbourhoods or different countries – but I do believe it’s important and wonderful that we actually are able to shop local. It means the Annex has the variety, the diversity of enterprises in our neighbourhood that makes it possible to shop locally. We need to maintain and keep that variety in the Annex.

If there were one thing that you could change about the Annex, to make it even better than it already is, what would it be?

I would de-regulate. I would not put all of these obstacles in front of business owners. The city’s tax regime and regulatory structure is making it difficult for the non-chain stores to survive. We need these small businesses and upstarts to have a vibrant city. We need to remove the roadblocks that prevent them from thriving.





Interview conducted by local REALTOR® Michael Wacholtz

One of the most frequent questions we field at our cafe-roastery on the southeast corner of Bathurst and Bloor is, "What's the WiFi account and password here?", inevitably followed by, "You don't have WiFi?" The expectation is that connectivity and coffeehouses go together and it comes as a shock, even an affront to learn that we're WiFi free. Why would we do that? Are we inhuman?

In fact, the decision to forego WiFi was one we pained over for quite some time and it wasn't an easy one to implement as we actually had outlets in-store available for customers to plug their devices into; so we ripped them out. That's how dedicated we were to our vision for Green Beanery as a follow-on from the traditional coffeehouse, old-world style, sans internet; back in time to the hurly-burly of a human connection circa 1993, the possibility of dramatic eye contact, and the circus of emotions awareness of one another forces upon us, heightened and/or relieved by the magical elixir of coffee.

As far back as the 15th century and the establishment of the first coffeehouses in Mecca, our sense of self has deepened in the attentive presence of others. In the Mecca qahveh khanehs, coffee drinkers gathered to gossip, sing and dance; in the English coffeehouses of 1728, patrons would "talk of Business and News, read the Papers, and often look at one another".[1] Coffeehouses are said to have fueled the Enlightenment era[2] and they have served throughout their history as a forum for the exchange of news and views at times when political and social chaos imperiled community otherwise.

Whatever the backdrop, the sobering yet invigorating effects of caffeine in a confined space, outside of the home, have enabled us to further the human project of sociability. At times this has led to violence, and at other times to great works of art, but despite variable outcomes, there's no getting around it: even our modern technology will not save us from the fact of one another. And according to Harvard researchers, that's a good thing.

Beginning in 1938, Harvard researchers followed the lives of more than 700 men in Boston over the course of 78 years in an effort to understand the factors that would determine which of them would grow old and enjoy health and happiness or not. It turns out that the single most important indicator of long-term happiness and health aside from not smoking and drinking too much is the strength of a person's relationships. "The people who were most satisfied in relationships at 50 were the healthiest at 80," said Dr. Robert Waldinger, the current director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.[3] How to obtain these life-sustaining humans? He recommends doing "something as simple as replacing screen time with people time". He did not mention coffee, so perhaps this study isn't all it could be.

Today, seated at Green Beanery to observe the novelty of no WiFi in action, I found myself immediately reaching for my cellphone. Darn it. No WiFi. A think piece I had the foresight to print out entitled, "Why Modern Relationships Are Falling Apart So Easily Today" could not hold my attention (they are falling apart because of societal malaises such as impatience and too many walls, aka computer screens).

No matter how I tried to distract myself, the drama of humanity kept calling me back; to the people walking past the enormous windows that look out onto one of the city's busiest intersections, to the conversations around me and a couple a short distance away in the corner, consoling one another, talking closely for what seemed like twenty minutes, mouth to ear.

And then they did something I haven't seen anyone in a coffeehouse attempt in years: they hugged — not a "hello" or a "goodbye" hug, nor was it a romantic cuddle, but a deeply felt embrace; the sort we give one another as comfort in times of stress. A movie-length embrace.

Without the escape of technology as a default from the physical present, I felt the urge to get in on that hug. I also felt connected to a larger sense of myself and the world around me. There really is so much to drink in besides the coffee, although that in itself was pretty good.

1. The Coffee House, Henri Misson, pp. 39-40
2. Did Coffee Fuel the Age of Enlightenment? Steven Johnson
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