On our vacation, as short as it was, and while in Minden, Ontario at our little rented cottage, we discovered Gravity Coffee House. There was only one restaurant in town, as far as we could tell, aside from this coffee house that had veg*n options. It was a Thai restaurant located on the same street as our little cottage. Unfortunately, it was closed, the proprietors having gone back to Thailand for an extended visit.
So we were lucky to find the coffee house. It attracted us immediately for two reasons: firstly, it advertised a good selection of loose leaf teas, a matter close to Jihan's heart and a subject about which she knows a fair bit, and secondly, it listed vegetarian soups right on the board adjacent to its name.
Gravity Coffee House, utilizing the bottom floor of a good-sized house, is owned and operated by Gerald W. Wills and his daughter, Lila Sweet. It has a bright and tastefully decorated interior, seating perhaps twenty patrons comfortably, with a good-sized patio (closed during our visit because of the cool weather). The paintings on the wall are, if memory serves me, for sale by the artist.
Inside the coffee house, perhaps more aptly named a tea house, there was indeed a good selection of well-labeled loose leaf teas. These were situated on the wall, in glass jars, across from the sales counter so patrons can stop to read the labels, open the jars to take a closer look at and smell the teas, before deciding on a purchase. Unfortunately, tea was served in a tea pot or press pot, rather than a gai wan. Although these are fine for certain herbals and black teas, for more delicate greens and whites, they are not ideal. Precise timing for optimum steeping, keeping track of the proper temperature of the water, and doing multiple steepings become more difficult in regular tea pots and press pots.
But Lila, sitting down with us for a friendly chat, was happy to listen to Jihan discuss the use of the gai wan; the varieties of teas and tea plants and their origins; harvesting and preparation methods; different grades of tea; and optimum steeping times, depending upon the type of tea being prepared. We even brought in a gai wan of our own, and Lila was happy to sit through a short tea demonstration.
And while this establishment is not by any means a vegetarian or vegan eatery, they did have some good vegan salads, a vegetarian soup, and a vegetarian sandwich. Once again, after informing her that we were vegan, she was happy to make modifications. The soup, she informed us, had butter at its base. But the salads, and a wonderful grilled sandwich called the Roasty, she was happy to modify to ensure they were entirely vegan. And I did find some nice, organic, dark chocolate cookies, not unlike oreos, that were entirely vegan.
The friendliness, personal touch and willingness to learn from patrons and to adapt menu items accordingly were admirable. If you do to the Haliburton region, or are on your way to Algonquin Park, I recommend Gravity Coffee House as a stop. If more vegans stop by, there may well appear more distinctly vegan offerings.
Gracity Coffee House is located at the corner of Main and Newcastle Streets in downtown Minden, Ontario. You can call them at (705) 286-4002. Gravity Coffee House also has a seasonal, much smaller location, on Wards Island (part of the Toronto Islands).