Until recently, Edmonton’s coffee scene was best described as slumbering. But suddenly, it’s jolted to double-shot life, to the point where it’s surprisingly surpassed Calgary.
Consider that four (that’s right, four) new, independent coffee shops have opened in the first half of this year. Indeed, two— Coffee Bureau and the basement Lock Stock Coffee, attached to Red Star Pub—are across the street from each other on formerly moribund Jasper Avenue.
A third, Barking Buffalo Cafe, has joined the action on fashionable 124 Street, where Credo added a second outlet a year earlier. The last of the new arrivals, Little Brick Cafe and General Store, is part of Nate Box’s growing empire, which includes two newish downtown locations, Burrow (in an underground light-rail transit station) and District Coffee.
If there’s a theme to this caffeinated surge, it’s this: Hole-in-the-wall spaces with limited seating and a firm focus on crafting fine espresso-based drinks and offering just a few baked treats. It’s also interesting that the roasts in these places lean to the dark side, a pushback, perhaps, against the lighter beans long fashionable in aficionado coffee circles.
Coffee Bureau is symbolic of the new-look Edmonton cafe. It’s elegantly spare, containing maybe a dozen seats at pine tables and benches along the front window and a side wall decorated with good, local art. Yet it doesn’t feel cramped. The nice, darker espresso beans are from Edmonton’s new Ace Coffee Roasters and the muffins and croissants from Garneau’s Leva Cafe.
Featuring beans from Toronto micro roaster Pilot, Barking Buffalo Cafe is a unique combination of coffee shop and clothing designer/retailer Salgado Fenwick. It’s another caffeinated 124 Street option to those who don’t want to line up for the uber popular, excellent bakery Duchess.
Not to be left out, Edmonton’s south side will soon be joining the fun. The Woodrack Cafe is set to open on 109 Street later this year, and long-time local roaster Transcend Coffee will move into the new Ritchie market in 2016.
Will all these new coffee shops survive? Who knows. This much choice doesn’t seem to have hurt Seattle or Portland.
One thing’s for sure. Edmonton is embracing micro coffee shops with a religious fervour. Perhaps that explains why, of the new entries, only Little Brick is open on Sunday.