When my carpooling partner warned of an earlier departure time, I grimaced. Joint trips often commence early, but terminate far later than desired. To peel myself away from an area of respite even sooner than 6 AM did not align with personal productivity-promoting protocols. I resolved to undertake the grueling drive downtown by myself.
On the bright side, many of the construction fences had been removed with the completion of cycle track paving and interlock work. This enabled smoother flow of foot traffic, in spite of snow piled about the curb.
Obtained in addition to the scone were a small Houjicha Latte and Mont Blanc. While the drink was being prepared, I treaded down a flight of narrow, rickety wooden stairs to the basement. Amidst the dim ambiance were a handful of tables, two incredibly focused ladies seated at those tables, working away on their laptops, and an old movie - complete with subtitles - being projected on an empty wall. Left of the stairwell was a door that read "Employees only", but beyond the limited seating was a second door - the washroom!
The single stall was fairly clean, equipped with a swing top garbage bin, one backup toilet paper roll under the sink, and a toilet with competent flushing capabilities.
The cashier-barista added the finishing touches on my Houjicha Latte and handed the cup to me with grace. The beverage was toasty and positively nutty: warm enough to unleash distinctly houjicha aromas, but not scalding to the point of tongue-incinerating (Looking at you, Starbucks).