Phil and Sebastian, Calgary

Somewhere on the ‘net (perhaps on Yelp) I read a review that said Phil and Sebastian was the only thing that brightens the mess that is Chinook Centre. It’s “an orgasm in a cup” and “the best coffee in Canada.” After reading review after review about how fantastic the coffee was we decided to make a special Saturday afternoon trip to one of the locations to taste a bit of this “liquid gold.”

We started with the Chinook Centre location. However, after attempting for 30-minutes to get into the parking lot, we gave up and opted to try the Marda Loop location. Again, after much searching for a place to park we eventually found a spot, our destination, and joined the throng of people waiting to get coffee.

The staff were perfectly friendly but surprisingly lacking coffee and basic food knowledge. And, after a couple of attempts at getting the nice lady taking my order to understand my name I opted for the name Shirley. “Sure. Shirley works.” As long as it gets me a fantastic coffee at the end of the journey.

15-minutes later I finally had a Phil and Sebastian latte in hand and after all the hype and the “better than coffee in Italy / best coffee in Canada” reviews, I was excited for that first sip — expecting the immediate satisfaction of a really good latte on par with that which I’ve tasted in Europe, New York, Nicaragua, Seattle, and California.

I had the sip. I waited. Had another sip… and waited some more… but after the 5th sip I couldn’t find it — that moment of, ahhhh, this is a really good latte. Instead it was a rather meh coffee experience. I couldn’t find that one signature thing that made this particular coffee a phenomenon.

I really really wanted to like the coffee. REALLY wanted to. I wanted to know that there was a Calgary owned phenomenon like Pricillas (where the owner wanders the parking lot to make sure everyone has a spot), or a Monmouth (whose coffee fills my bag every time I come back from London) or a Jittery Joes (my favourite coffee shop in the world). I wanted to know that the people who left reviews on Yelp were right and that there was a reason behind the insane number of people willing to wait for a coffee.

Instead I got heartburn.

Suddenly not trusting my experience (because how can so many other people be wrong), I asked La Niña what she thought. Her response: “The Ginger Beer is good and they have corn starch free cookies (+1 for doing their own baking). But, it’s so busy and I feel like I’m sitting in Ikea.”

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