Hear me out Opinions

Hear Me Out: Coffee isn’t that good — you’re just addicted to caffeine

I get it though, coffee is such a mood

Describe your perfect morning.

For me, it would be waking up to light rays of sun hitting my face, my body all wrapped up in a fluffy duvet, to the smell of warm coffee.

Now this might not be what you would answer, but does your perfect morning ritual include coffee?

For the longest time, I didn’t drink coffee. I just never liked the taste.

Now, approaching 26, I can say I’m an avid coffee drinker, but only for a year or so. And let’s be real, if you pour me a cup of coffee, I probably wouldn’t drink it.

My coffee is not even considered coffee for certain people. *cough, cough* Hi, dad.

I like my coffee with a good amount of flavoured creamer and oat milk.

With that being said, I use a coffee face mask religiously and my favourite candle is called Paris Cafe. So, I get it.

For me, there’s also something about getting hot coffee on a cold morning. Which is why I started to wonder if what I liked was really the coffee or if any hot beverage would suffice.

Coffee is different though, and there’s a reason why it’s the drink of choice for most adults in the morning. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that helps reduce sleepiness, which makes it the most consumed psycho-active drug in the world.

Ever since the late 17th century, caffeine dominated popular consumption which corresponds to a rise in the capitalist economy.

Today, with our lives being defined by our work and productivity, it makes sense that a beverage with such effects on the body and mind would be so popular.

However, it’s just not that good. Just admit it already.

If you say coffee is your favourite drink, stop lying to yourself and realize that a part of what makes coffee so popular is the addictive effects of caffeine.

According to a study conducted by researchers from the Université de Nancy on the effects of caffeine on the central nervous system, the human body does not seem to have developed a tolerance to the effects of caffeine, though signs of dependence and withdrawal symptoms have been present.

Coffee addiction is not a new discovery though, and most people are aware that their love for coffee is just blinded by their dependence on it. Although I appreciate the self-awareness, can we stop with the quirky and sometimes cringy “but first, coffee” merch?

How about a “but first, central nervous system addictive stimulant that doesn’t actually taste good?” Just an idea.

Student Life

A new way of recycling coffee bean packaging

A recycling project by Ethical Beans and TerraCycle mends the gap in the recycling industry one step at a time

Coffee is not just a drink, it’s a culture, a community, a lifestyle.

And like any lifestyle, you can buy swag. Certain key items you can acquire to help prove to others you aren’t a poser.

The entry-level includes single-use take-out coffee cups, a small drip coffee machine, a French press or a stovetop Italian espresso maker. You can upgrade to a reusable cup, a nice espresso machine at home, and the barista at your local coffee place knowing your name and/or order. And finally, you can call yourself a full-on coffee snob if you buy your own beans.

The highest level of coffee swag — walking home with an aesthetically pleasing bag of coffee beans that cost you between $20 to $30.

In Montreal, there are many different coffee beans you can buy, from Cantook to Café Rico, with distinct flavour profiles. But no matter where you get your beans from, the bags go into the trash and onto the landfill. NO MORE! There is now another solution to help make your morning routine more green.

Ethical Bean, a coffee company established in Vancouver, has partnered with TerraCycle, a global recycling solution conglomerate, to create a new recycling project key to helping the coffee consumer grow greener.

If you haven’t heard of TerraCycle yet, let me have the honour of introducing you. The company’s mission statement is to “eliminate the idea of waste.” It recycles materials in products and reshapes them for reuse. For example, melting down a bunch of plastic single-use packaging to make a new park bench.

Together, they have created a new recycling program that allows consumers of a hot cup a’ joe to participate. All you have to do is sign up for free, fill up any cardboard box lying around with coffee bean bags (perhaps a past Amazon order?), print the free shipping label and off the pretty coffee packaging goes to become something new!

In a city like Montreal, where one in every five people you see is a coffee snob, how will the community engage with this type of program? Will the endless array of coffee shops start recycling their packaging too?

Léa Normandin, an employee at Café Le Loup Bleu, one of Montreal’s “third-wave” coffee locals, is a self-appointed coffee snob. Her qualifications include spending over $20 on coffee beans.

She describes a coffee snob as someone who enjoys their coffee, for whom it isn’t just a drink you have in the morning, it’s the best part of your morning. She said, “Overall, someone who considers coffee as more than just their morning pick-me-up… like myself.”

Normandin sees first hand the kind of waste coffee shops and coffee consumers can create, like “coffee packaging, single-use plastic or cardboard cups when you go out to get coffee, […] not to mention all the waste we create when choosing what goes into our coffee, such as sugar packets, cream [containers], straws, etc.”

Excited at the prospect of new recycling possibilities, Normandin will eagerly take part in the new recycling initiative. The only thing left to do is get the city on board!


Graphics by James Fay


Let us use reusable coffee cups again

Single-use containers are wasteful and don’t actually protect you from COVID-19

Let’s set the scene: it’s a warm, rainy autumn afternoon, and I am running errands —  looking for linen pillowcases in the Plateau, to be exact. I found them; gorgeous, bright yellow ones. I had to look for them because I had ordered some online and they were “returned to sender.” Long story short, I asked for a reimbursement but still ended up paying for shipping, so I decided to continue my search in real life and support a local business. So, I get the yellow ones to brighten up my life, I stop to pick up some groceries (frozen tortellini), and impulsively walk into a new coffee shop on Mont-Royal Avenue.

My sisters and I had stumbled upon it a few weeks ago, when we could still sit in a café, only to find out they weren’t actually open to the public yet (their door was literally wide open at the time). So the shop is that brand new, to me anyway. We were intrigued because the new shop is called Columbus Café, and why is anything called “Columbus” anymore? It’s 2020. F*ck Columbus. I thought we were all on the same page.

Back to this warm, rainy day. I follow my query and order an elaborate coffee —  the only reasoning I can come up with to justify paying for coffee when I have a perfectly good espresso machine at my apartment. The “Café Latte de l’Ours” is Columbus Café’s signature drink, with crushed speculoos (a type of cookie) and honey. I order it with oat milk and whipped cream.

The entire time I drink it, I’m honestly hating myself, thinking: “Why did I just do that? Why did I buy a cup of coffee just to see… see what? I’m only adding to the waste cycle —  no matter what this cup says, it can’t be recycled or composted in Montreal.” I finish my cup and ceremoniously throw it in a garbage bin at a nearby park. Was it worth it?

I’m a big fan of treating yourself to a fancy coffee every once in a while —  with a reusable cup. I miss my reusable cup, something that has stayed deep in my kitchen drawer over the course of the pandemic, safe for a few camping trips. I’m so angry, fueled by an article I read about how the recycling industry is a lie, another that reveals the truth behind “biodegradable” labels, and a third that announces Tim Horton’s “miraculous” new reusable takeaway container program.

Why can’t they just let us use what we already have?

Not that I would ever go to Tim Horton’s anyway —  I’m of the opinion that the Canadian company’s splendour took a major downfall when Burger King bought them in 2014. But waste production levels have surged over the past six months, and it’s time we bring the reusable coffee cup back into the picture. Providing plastic take-away containers for a small fee, made from recycled plastic or not, is only creating more waste in the long run.

So, as it turns out, Columbus Café was the very first coffee shop chain to be established in France, first opening in 1994. The chain has about 200 shops in a number of countries and also specialises in muffins. In sum, while the name might be questionable, Columbus is definitely better than Starbucks or Tim Hortons. The company is committed to serving fairtrade and eco-certified coffee, “using only eggs from alternative farms to cages, by 2020 at the latest” (whatever that means) and free-range poultry.

Their website also outlines their source of paper packaging and compostable straws, as well as identifying an interest in opting for wooden cutlery. While their transparent cups (cold beverages only) are made of PLA, a fully “biodegradable” polymer, they say nothing of their hot-beverage cups, and under the current circumstances, we can assume reusable cups are out of the question.

Pretty please, let us use reusable coffee cups again. I am begging you. 

Even science “supports the end to the reusable coffee cup ban,” according to this article by Jodi Helmer for FoodPrint. “Banning reusables failed to account for possible contamination of single-use plastic cups … latest research shows that the virus lives longer on plastics than other surfaces, increasing the risk from single-use plastics.” Even though potentially contaminated single-use cups will be immediately disposed of after their use, it doesn’t stop opportunities for cross-contamination, even before the coffee is served by a barista and their (hopefully) disinfected —or better yet, gloved — hands.

Furthermore, what’s the difference between the virus staying on single-use coffee cups and say, something like door handles or public benches? Long story short, using reusable cups is no safer than single-use cups.

If this is the case then why are we still stuck on banning reusables?

I really just want to have fancy coffees from coffee shops and walk around with them. In my own mug. I need a reason to leave my apartment, especially now that our lockdown has been extended once again. I also really want to support local businesses. Sure I can buy coffee grounds from them to bring back home, but it’s just not the same.

I would also love to know the story behind Columbus Café’s name and bear logo, because right now, that’s oh so very *French* of them. And by *French* I mean nationalist, bourgeois and colonial AF.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

Student Life

A coffee snob’s guide to third wave cafes

My first real foray into the vast world of coffee came during my second semester of CEGEP. The school year was nearing its end and I desperately needed something to boost the dwindling morale that exam season had inflicted upon me. Enter: The stimulating effects of coffee.

Since then, coffee has become a staple of my morning routine and very rarely will I make it to lunch without a cup. My bean dependency soon led me to third-wave cafes, which took my fondness for coffee to new heights. These cafés had tremendous ambience and beverages created with care and of higher quality than what I was used to.

This third wave of coffee is grounded in the belief that coffee should be treated as an artisanal product akin to wine, deserving the same level of care and respect. The worldwide movement emphasizes the importance of knowledge and craftsmanship in the preparation of coffee and how they affect the way that we think of and enjoy each cup. 

Through various methods of growing, cultivating, and roasting the coffee beans, as well as different means of preparing the beverage itself, third-wave coffee seeks to emphasize unique characteristics of various coffee beans and accentuate nuances in flavour. In short, the third wave’s entire raison d’être is to enjoy and appreciate coffee of higher quality.

The term “third-wave” was originally coined by coffee connoisseur Trish R Skeie in a 2003 newsletter for The Roaster’s Guild. In it, she writes: “The Third Wave is a reaction to those who want to automate and homogenize Specialty Coffee.” So, what then, were the first two waves? 

The first wave is attributed to the commodification of coffee kicked off by the emergence of instant coffee in the 1960s. By all accounts, the coffee itself wasn’t particularly great, but it was now easily accessible and could be enjoyed in homes. 

The second wave began around the 1970s and came alongside the popularization of cafés such as Starbucks, which improved upon the quality of coffee from the first wave. Alongside the preparation of the beverages, one of the major differences between second and third wave is the knowledge possessed by the baristas, who can generally tell you all there is to know about the coffee itself, including how and where the beans were cultivated.

I’ve only but scratched the surface of third-wave coffee. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d recommend checking out the th3rdwave mobile app, a hub for everything caffeinated. 

Café DAX

Cafe DAX is located in Outremont. Photo by Britanny Clarke.

Located in the heart of Outremont, Café Dax has quickly become a staple in the Montreal third-wave coffee scene. Its staff is incredibly welcoming and their passion for their craft is evident in the quality of their product. In the warm summer months, you can enjoy a delicious ice cream or popsicle while sitting outside on their sidewalk terrace. A definite must-try.

Hof Kelsten

Hof Kelsten is a bakery that specializes in traditional Jewish and French pastries and bread. Although baked goods are their forte, their coffees need not be overlooked! Paired with one of their fresh croissants or chocolate danishes, it’s an absolute delight.

Café Orr

Cafe ORR is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day. Photo by Britanny Clarke.

Café Orr has the unique distinction of being a cinema café, meaning that you can enjoy a free screening alongside your coffee. Its sizable menu, wonderful ambience and unique angle make Orr a standout in Montreal.


Café St-Henri

Cafe St-Henri has several locations across the island. Photo by Britanny Clarke.

One of several St-Henri cafés across Montreal, this location near Villeray is undoubtedly my favourite. Its ample seating, lowkey and quiet atmosphere make it the ideal café for getting some work done or chatting it up with a friend. At the back of the café sits their coffee lab, where the curious can watch the beans being roasted on-site.


There is perhaps no better way to enjoy a book than with a coffee in hand, and Éclair is well aware of this. Éclair is a new café-library hybrid that opened in the Mile End last summer. Its

Éclair, a new café-library hybrid, opened in the Mile End last summer. Photo by Britanny Clarke.

space is intimate and minimalist, making it the perfect setting to read a book and digest some stellar coffee. 

Photos by Britanny Clarke

Student Life

Jad Does Things! Quitting coffee cold turkey

Hi! I’m Jad Abukasm, News Editor at The Concordian, and in this new segment, Kayla runs my life!

[Upbeat music]

This week, Kayla challenged me to quit coffee during my midterms. Here is how it went down.

It’s important to note that I love coffee. There’s nothing better than the first sip of liquid gold on a chilly February morning. You feel your senses wake up and a rush of energy shoot through your veins. In short, I love coffee, and I’m addicted.

Day 1:

I never really understood what people meant by “I have a headache because I didn’t have my coffee yet.” Well on Monday, I learned the hard way. After a long weekend of studying on about five to seven coffees a day, on Monday I crashed like a truck on a highway. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, felt nauseous, sleepy, and mostly, I had the worst headache of my life. Popping Tylenol and Advil every few hours, I was just looking forward to going to bed.

Day 2-4:

I feel AWESOME. From then on, I might have become a superhuman. My attention span (of usually about three seconds) drastically increased. For the very first time during my undergrad, I was able to multitask on more than two basic things at a time. I felt happy and full of energy. I became way more productive; instead of downing cups to battle the daily lows, I took the time to breathe, take a break and actually rest for a bit before I kept going.

Day 5-7:

Maybe the first rush mellowed down since I wasn’t as excited all the time, but I was still feeling great. The only issue was that I craved the taste of coffee. I was at my friend’s place on Friday morning and he made coffee for everyone. I found myself sniffing everyone’s cup for some kind of comfort. 

Overall, I realized that coffee is not necessary in my life, and really shouldn’t be. Why drink something that gives you short-term benefits, and only troubles in the long run? But things aren’t all-or-nothing either. Instead, I will start drinking coffee in moderation whenever I’m craving it for the taste! After all, we all have our weaknesses and mine, when coping with stress, is drinking coffee. So, my early February resolution is to take time for myself whenever I need to, consume stress-related foods and drinks in moderation, and think twice before brewing a hot cup of Joe.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Yum or Yikes: Café Chat L’Heureux

Last week, I paid a visit to Café Chat L’Heureux.

Located in the heart of the Plateau, it’s one of two cat cafes in Montreal, where guests can enjoy their cup of coffee in the company of some feline friends. Café Chat L’Heureux opened in 2014, and has since become a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

The first cat cafe can be traced back to Taiwan in the late ‘90s. The concept was picked up by Japan shortly after, and spread across the rest of the world throughout the following decade. Now, many major North American cities have opened these cafes, their popularity supported by the growing influence of social media and a growing support for the adopt don’t shop movement.

Café Chat L’Heureux is currently home to roughly 10 cats, some of which were adopted from local shelters, and others which the shop foster. Upon entering the cafe, I was confused: where were all the cats? It took me a few moments to realize that the cats were, well, everywhere. Nestled in between cushions, curled up in corners, and perched on the beams overhead, the cats were camouflaged with their environment. Eventually, a few came out of their nests to say hello and—not to be dramatic—it was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen and the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

The cafe’s ambiance was homey and mellow, with soft music playing overhead and guests chatting quietly, some of them relaxing on the couches, often with a cat resting beside them. I had the pleasure of enjoying my food while a tiny kitten rested on my lap, so it’s safe to say that I was pretty happy with the atmosphere.

Ambience: 7/5

The menu is entirely vegetarian, with a few vegan options as well, offering a selection of sandwich melts, salads, soups and smoothies. I tried their popular menu item dubbed “Cat Lady,” a grilled sandwich with goat cheese, cheddar, caramelized onions, fig jam and honey. The sandwich was delicious and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys rich comfort foods.

The cafe also offers a variety of lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, so I enjoyed my sandwich with a super tasty hazelnut latte. This was followed by a piece of cheesecake and a brownie that I shared with a friend. Unfortunately, the desserts didn’t live up to the main course, as I found the cheesecake a bit bland, and the brownie to have a texture closer to cake.

Food: 3.5/5

Price wise, the menu was a tad expensive—on average, sandwich melts cost around $14 each, coffees around $5 and desserts about $6.50. However, considering the fact that keeping cats alive is a costly affair, I could understand the need for higher prices and didn’t mind paying a little more than I normally would.

Price: 4/5

The employees at Café Chat L’Heureux were really nice, and you could tell that they really loved working with the cats. My only teeny-tiny complaint is that the service was slightly slow, but considering the relaxed atmosphere, I didn’t really think it was a big deal. I was in no rush to leave, that’s for sure!

Service: 4.5/5


Photo by Laurence B.D.

Student Life

An Arab’s Ode to Coffee

“Mama, did you stop drinking coffee when you were pregnant with me or my sister?”

“No, but I should have, look how you two turned out.” 

Hi, my name is Youmna El Halabi, and I’m addicted to coffee. Cue the unanimous chants one gets when at a self-help group.

In pop-culture terms, if Spencer Hastings from Pretty Little Liars and Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls were to have a love child, it would be me.

However, these shows always emphasized on the amount of coffee consumed, whereas yours truly focuses more on the quality of this bitter, yet indispensable beverage.

Growing up in a Lebanese household, the smell of Arabic coffee was ever-present. And let me tell you one thing: one rakwa (coffee pot for Arabs) is worth 10 of your Americanos, and might just teach you a thing or two about good coffee.

As per my introduction, I genuinely believe my love for coffee is hereditary. Although she might deny it if you ask, my mother is just as bad as I am, if not worse. You know how lent is supposed to be a time where you fast on one thing that brings you joy? You can bet my mother never fasted on her morning coffee. Why? “I just can’t handle the headaches.” But god forbid I go over my three-cup-a-day limit. Mothers are weirdly paradoxical.

But I can’t say I don’t understand where she is coming from. Whenever someone claims to have stopped drinking coffee, boasting about how much it improved their quality of life, I applaud them for taking these steps — because I could never do it.

Sure, the possibility of waking up in the morning without a headache, or any other obvious signs of caffeine dependency, sounds delightful. It might even sound like heaven to some.

But what about the old saying about not knowing what ‘good’ is until you’ve seen the ‘bad’? What could possibly be better than the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, or afternoon caffeine fixes when you’ve struck out during an assignment? The warmth you’re filled with as you sip that hot liquid full of ephemeral productivity and energy?

Coffee might come in all shapes and forms, and I am not about to call out anyone who enjoys sipping on caramel frappuccinos throughout the year, but fellow coffee connoisseurs will attest to the fact that those unicorn drinks never satiate us. To put it plainly: coarse and black, or don’t even bother.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Simply Scientific: Caffeine

Do you really think a bunch of journalism students wouldn’t talk about caffeine in a scientific column?

Living off our daily consumption of bitter brew, most of us university students cannot survive a whole day without chugging at least one mug of coffee. In fact, it is so popular that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, after oil. But how exactly does caffeine works on your body?

When breaking down ATP, the energy molecule that fuels our bodies, a chemical called adenosine is released. The chemical attaches to receptors in the brain that triggers a set of biochemical reactions, slowing down metabolism and making you sleepy. The more adenosine the body produces, the more fatigued it becomes. This makes sense considering the longer someone is awake, the more they feel tired.

Caffeine, however, is what is called an adenosine receptor antagonist. This means that it has a similar molecular structure to its counterpart and fits almost-perfectly to those receptors, blocking access to adenosine. But since it’s not adenosine, the sleepiness effect does not occur.

In fact, caffeine has similar effects to cocaine, but less intense. It promotes the production of adrenaline and extends the effects of dopamine on the brain.

Quite a clever way to challenge your midterm fatigue. But be careful. The brain responds to the long-term use of caffeine by creating new adenosine receptors to accommodate those pesky sleeping agents, meaning the body needs more coffee to enjoy the same effects. Miss your daily brew and you’re in for a nasty withdrawal – trust me, I’ve been there.

In addition, while coffee can make you feel better and more alert, the increase of adrenaline can raise your heart rate, lead to high blood pressure, create anxiety and, of course, cause insomnia.

Some might think that it is impossible to stop drinking coffee because your brain is now used to responding more efficiently to adenosine. This is partly true. While quitting will result in short-term headaches and nausea, the brain adapts by discarding extra adenosine receptors. In only a few days a coffee addict, like myself, can get back on both feet without that daily dose.

I’m not saying everyone should stop consuming coffee. Au contraire! Never could I completely discard my daily pleasure of sipping on a hot americano, but it is important to stay moderate in our consumption. If not now, maybe after your last midterm!


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

East Coast Coffee Madness comes to Montreal

1. On Oct. 19 and 20, East Coast Coffee Madness (ECCM) held its fifth Coffee Festival at the Centre des Sciences de Montréal. The ECCM’s Facebook page states the event is for the coffee community, built around the vision “Meet + Learn + Grow.”

2. A number of coffee shops opened stands for festival goers, making coffee in all shapes and sizes.

3. “My heart rate’s speeding up, I should stop. Oh look! Another coffee stand!” Eight Ounce Coffee/Café 8 oz. is one of the 21 other coffee shops to have a stand at the fifth Annual ECCM Festival.

4. Caf, non-fat, decaf, filter, espresso — you name it! If it’s bitter, warm, and caffeinated, the Coffee Festival had it.

5. The Coffee Festival started at 9 a.m. and went on past mid-day. A number of independent and branch coffee shops were serving coffee, namely Kittel Atelier de café, ZAB café Le Brûloir, Café Pista, Pilot Coffee Roasters, Structure Roasters, Detour Coffee Roasters, Traffic Coffee Crew and Quietly Coffee.


Photos by Cecilia Piga

Student Life

Coopérative Rond-Point adds to Hochelaga’s eclectic community

Coopérative Rond-Point adds to Hochelaga’s eclectic community

The Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district of Montreal may not be the first place that comes to mind when searching for a beautiful place to share a coffee with a friend or relax while studying. However, amidst the bustle of Ontario St., a welcoming spot has recently opened. On the outside, the small entrance of what looks like an old residential building may go unnoticed, but inside, there is an unusual coffee shop that’s quickly becoming one of Hochelaga’s hidden gems.

Coopérative Rond-Point is a self-run, non-hierarchical coffee shop that opened during summer 2017, where every decision is taken democratically by all staff members. For Héloïse Lanouette, one of the three founders of Rond-Point, the idea of creating a cooperative of workers came naturally.

“We did not want to recreate a hierarchical system of employee and bosses,’’ said Lanouette. “We thought this is the model we wanted to develop.”

The first thing that attracts attention when entering the place is the vibrant atmosphere—regular customers talking to the staff by the counter, university students preparing for their finals, a group of friends catching up during brunch. Most walls are covered by the work of local artists and posters of future shows, and there is even a piano at the entrance, which was a gift from the previous owner.

Coopérative Rond-Point is a self-run, non-hierarchical coffee shop and community space. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

The shop stands out for its inclusivity and its accessibility for people of different ages and economic backgrounds.

“I come here for the human warmth,’’ says Francine Masson, a 68-year-old retiree from Montreal who is a regular customer. “That’s what I find here. The human warmth, different people of many ages and people from all nations. You can find this here.”

The same energy not only comes from the clients, but from the staff as well. The new members of the team have the same power and responsibilities as the founders do.

“I think we have a space where people feel good. We offer unlimited coffee for two dollars. People feel good to just come here to use the internet, drink something, and stay for the afternoon,” said Lanouette. “We have also a lot of people that are retired and come pass some time at the shop. It’s something we appreciate a lot.”

“What is fun in a cooperative is that we are all in the same boat,” says Jean-Luc Barrière, a new member of the communications team. “We are all equal. We have a good amount of tasks that we share in a perspective that we take care of each other. We make sure that everyone feels well in the workplace.”

One of the missions of the shop is to work with the community. It offers visibility for small artists and organizes weekly free events including poetry readings, comedy shows and movie screenings, that contribute to creating a social presence. Just recently, Rond-Point became the home of the Ligue d’Improvisation des Pas Sages (LIPS), an improvisation group that now puts on a show at the coop every other Thursday.

“The atmosphere is fun,” says Martin Dumais, a member of the LIPS for the past five years. “We are close to the young families which are the public that we are targeting. We also have here a room that is perfect for shows.”

“It’s a beautiful place,” says Marie Calmé, also a member of the LIPS. “I think it’s excellent to be working with a place that promotes local artists and culture.”

“It’s a beautiful discovery,” said Dumais. “We really fell in love with the place.”

Feature photo by Mackenzie Lad

Student Life

The Broken Pencil: Anticafé

My new favourite café-workspace

When it comes to being productive, whether that’s pumping out an assignment for a class or an article for The Concordian, it can’t be done at home — I have to go to a café. Some will hermit in their room (re: cell) for the weekend, but I can’t resist the alluring smell of freshly ground coffee. Paired with the buzz of vitality and obscure music that fills some of my favourite go-to spots around Montreal, cozy cafés are next to irresistible for me.

As I struggle to pull open the front door to Anticafé (turns out I had to push), the barista greets me and asks, “Est-ce que c’est votre première fois ici?” (Translation: Is this your first time here?). Anticafé is located by Champs-de-Mars metro station, in the bustling European-esque Old Port, at 406 Notre-Dame St. E — a very francophone part of Montreal.

Yes it is my first time, and I’m already in love. The exposed brick wall, the succulents and floor plants that litter the lounge space, the mismatching upholstered armchairs, the lofts with massive writing desks — all of the decor fits together so perfectly. Imagine an elderly individual who danced shoeless at Woodstock, collects jazz vinyls, and owns a parakeet named Clancy, yet manages to keep up with the millennial hipster trends. This person is the assumed interior decorator of Anticafé.

It’s taken me awhile to find my favourite hideouts, which are typically in N.D.G, within walking distance of my apartment. However, Anticafé is one quaint hub I will always trek across the city for, and not simply for its eclectic decor. Arguably, the best feature of Anticafé is that you pay a grand total of three dollars per hour.

During this hour, you have access to everything at the café, with the only catch being that you serve yourself. Everything from specialty coffee, tea, biscuits, toast, and other light snacks, which can vary slightly depending on the day, are there for your taking. The barista will even help you prepare any specialty coffee you want, so no worries if you don’t know how to properly steam milk to get that perfect microfoam for a latte!

I enter my name and email address on the touch-screen computer near the front entrance to start my timestamp, and slowly make my way through the café. Toward the back, there is a decent size kitchen, filled with driftwood shelves stocked with unique mugs, jars, tea cups and saucers, opposite a full espresso bar. As the barista begins making my Americano, I assemble a small plate of saltines and carrots, find a quiet table-for-two near the window and begin writing what you just finished reading.

Graphic by @spooky_soda

Student Life

A cup of coffee and a spoonful of psychological effects

The impact caffeine has on Canadians and how it became a cultural dependence

It’s 8 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, and the first thing you do after getting out of bed is probably make coffee. Whether you are having a shot of espresso, an Americano or a latte, there is nothing like that coffee aroma filling up your kitchen. As you pour it into your mug, add a splash of milk or teaspoon of sugar, you can already feel the warmth rising from the cup. Finals are right around the corner and, for many students, coffee is the go-to beverage for all-nighters and staying alert.

This is no surprise given that caffeine, the stimulant in the coffee, is a psychoactive substance that has physiological and psychological effects. Coffee is also ingrained in our society. According to the Coffee Association of Canada, Canadians drink an average of 3.2 cups of coffee per day. Here is a deeper look at how caffeine actually affects your body and how it has become a vital part of our daily lives.

What does coffee do to your brain and body?

According to Uri Shalev, a Concordia psychology professor whose research focuses on drug abuse and behavioural neurobiology, caffeine typically doesn’t have many negative effects when consumed in reasonable quantities. However, when a person drinks coffee, Shalev explained, the caffeine interferes with signals in the brain being sent from neurotransmitters to their receptors. Caffeine acts as an antagonist, essentially blocking the adenosine receptors, which are inhibitory sensors in the brain that calm the body and mind.

Since caffeine interferes with this calming effect, the body becomes more alert and awake, Shalev explained. That is why drinking coffee increases heart rate and blood pressure, and keeps you awake longer. The physiological effects caused by this over-stimulation can negatively affect a person’s mental state. Sylvia Kairouz, a Concordia sociology professor and the chair of research on gambling addiction, emphasized the risks of sleep deprivation caused by excessive coffee consumption. Since coffee keeps you alert, it also risks disrupting your sleep cycle, which isn’t something you want to happen during a stressful period like finals, Kairouz said.

According to Shalev, the physical reaction coffee causes can result in increased anxiety among people who are already prone to anxiety. This happens when the body interprets a faster heart rate and increased alertness as a sign of danger and raises stress levels. “I become stressed when I have more coffee than I’m used to,” said Sara Betinjaneh, a second-year political science student at Concordia.

Yet many students, including first-year sociology major Yasmin Mehri, rely on coffee to stay awake to study or finish assignments. Drinking coffee to stay up late can work to a certain extent, but too much can cause an imbalance in sleeping patterns, Kairouz explained. “It’s a loss more than a gain when you are not adopting a healthy lifestyle during finals,” she said. “Students should focus on an equilibrium.” Shalev reiterated that, as long as coffee consumption is moderate, it is not considered an addiction—not until it negatively affects the functioning of your daily life.

Why is coffee part of your day?

“My day is organized around my coffee,” said student Betinjaneh. “That’s when I take breaks.” According to Kairouz, “the ritual, the habit and the routine of having coffee daily limits the capacity to remove coffee from our daily life.” This dependence on the drink is also sociological because there is a whole experience that comes with drinking coffee, she explained. Drinking coffee has become a very popular social activity—when people meet up, it often happens over a cup of coffee.

“There is a connection that exists in people’s lives between working or studying and drinking coffee,” Kairouz said. The accessibility of coffee also plays a huge role in society’s growing dependence on coffee. Kairouz offered the example of Montreal’s Mackay Street, where there are at least six coffee shops. “I love the idea and the feeling of sitting in a coffee shop and having my coffee,” Betinjaneh said. The stimulation from an environment filled with coffee shops has impacted our caffeine consumption, Kairouz said.

Easy access to caffeine has impacted the amount we consume since a single press of a button can make our coffee right at home. According to the Coffee Association of Canada, coffee makers are increasingly popular in Canadian homes with 47 per cent of households owning a drip coffee makers and 38 per cent using single-cup machines. Kairouz added that the consumerist environment we live in plays a role in people’s coffee dependence as well. Since coffee has become ingrained in our culture, this leaves a looming question: are we having coffee because we need it or because we just walked by a cute coffee shop that serves the best latte art?

Photo by Kirubel Mehari.

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