Category Archives: coffee

This Fresh-Roasted Calgary Coffee is a Real Pick Me Up

IMG_3727

Calgary’s Mount Pleasant Roastery sells its fresh coffee beans via a picket-fence box

Many of you have no doubt encountered those little wooden boxes, on country roads, where you can purchase local fruits and vegetables, on the honour system.

Well, this concept has migrated to the big city, with fresh-roasted coffee sold out of little red boxes on a white-picket fence in a northwest Calgary neighbourhood. Hallelujah!

IMG_3728

There’s usually a couple of bean types available, on the honour system

Rick Eden and Larissa Riemann, through their Mount Pleasant Roastery, are roasting high-quality beans in small batches in their garage and selling them to neighbours and passersby through a couple of fence-line boxes, as well as online. Here’s a nice story about their little business.

As someone who often roasts his own beans in a wee Behmor roaster, I’m delighted to find a local roaster producing small quantities of Guatemalan, Honduran and Brazilian beans, with the roasting date hand printed on the bag. True freshness is hard to find in coffee beans and makes a huge difference in taste.

IMG_3729

The hand-printed roasting data is a sign of freshness

To date, I’ve only sampled the Guatemalan Carrizal, advertised as a medium-dark roast, though closer to a dark roast, which I like in a world misguidedly devoted to the lighter end.

Because the fence-box beans are sold on the honour system, you can pay whatever you want. Online sales mention a bargain $10-per-pound price, but given the quality, I’d suggest a healthy tip.

Mount Pleasant Roastery
515 18 Avenue NW and 601 19 Avenue NW (5 Street fence), Calgary, Alberta
Around the clock, as long as coffee’s available
403-470-5812

Advertisements

Will That be Paper, Plastic or Compostable?

Atco Cafe 7

At Calgary’s ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Cafe, the soup is served in a compostable bowl

A recent little trend I’ve noticed in Calgary eateries is the use of compostable dishes and utensils, in place of the usual ceramic and metal.

It’s most noticeable at the gorgeous ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Cafe, where my soup is served in a container made of renewable plant materials—post-consumer paper fibre from sugarcane and a polyethylene, corn-based lining known as Ingeo.

At Grumans Deli (Britannia location), there’s a prominent sign explaining why all its food and drinks is served on compostable “packaging”. “Grumans cares about the environment,” the sign says. Though when I ask why they’ve gone this route, servers at both places just mention the lack of space for electric dishwashers; there’s obviously also labour, equipment and hot-water cost savings from not having to wash dishes.

compostable containers 8

I’m not sure how I feel about this trend. On the one hand, it’s good that such establishments are promoting environmental responsibility and not simply throwing dishes in the trash, destined for landfills. And it’s much better to be packing leftovers or takeout in paper boxes than in Styrofoam containers, which might take hundreds of years to break down.

Mind you, it’s best to dispose of these compostable dishes in the restaurants’ compost bins, because for some reason the City of Calgary’s composting pick-up program doesn’t allow compostable cups and dishes in its green bins.

compostable containers 2

I don’t know about you, but I can never figure out what waste goes where. Hint: the soup bowl (above) goes in the left bin

On the other hand, compostable dishes are still single use, even if they end up as soil. I haven’t seen a good study arguing the environmental footprint merits of one-use compostable dishes versus washing regular dishes innumerable times, though me thinks the latter would win that debate.

Sought and Found 13

Compostable utensils et al at Calgary coffee shop Sought & Found

And there’s simply the aesthetics. Eating soup with a plastic spoon out of a “paper” bowl is just not as pleasing as porcelain. And while you can, and should, use your own travel mug at coffee shops that just offer plastic-lined paper cups, I don’t think we’ve reached the point of bringing our own washable dishes and utensils to our favourite eateries. By the way, Berkeley, California has just passed a regulation charging consumers 25 cents for every disposable cup they get at a coffee shop.

compostable containers 7

Soup lid at ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Cafe

Even the restaurants that have embraced compostable dishes might agree with my aesthetic sentiments. After all, on the websites of the above-mentioned joints, the photos show food and drink served in regular, washable plates, bowls and cups.

Your thoughts?

Luke What’s in Calgary’s Spectacular New Downtown Library

Southeast Arizona 19

Calgary’s new Central Public Library is a stunning, $245-million building

You can’t beat owning a coffee shop smack in the middle of world-class architecture—especially if you don’t have to (directly) pay for it. That’s the envious position of Lukes, which won the bid to operate a café and restaurant in downtown Calgary’s stunning new Central Public Library.

I’m sure café owners Gareth Lukes and Eric Hendry don’t mind playing second fiddle to the $245-million library as an attraction. After all, when half a million people have visited the library in its first few months of operation, plenty are going to sit down for a coffee or bite.

Southeast Arizona 14

The library and the cafe (lower left) are attracting lots of visitors

I won’t dwell on the splendours of the library, other than to offer a few pictures and urge anyone in or visiting Calgary to make the pilgrimage downtown. Suffice to say, it’s as much a public gathering space—complete with theatre, meeting rooms, children’s play area and recording studios—as a place to check out some of the library’s 450,000 books.

Southeast Arizona 32

The library is a linchpin of Calgary’s emerging downtown East Village

The Lukes café is a little coffee bar at the far end of the library’s second level, flanked by tables, big windows and gorgeous, soaring wood. It’s a perfect place to pause for a coffee (primarily Bow X Arrows beans) and baked treats from Manuel Latruwe and Pretty Sweet while looking out at downtown’s rapidly developing East Village. It would be nice if they offered real, reusable cups, but I guess they’re at least compostable.

Calgary Library 3

The cafe is little more than a kiosk at the north end of the second floor

The Lukes restaurant is only accessible from the outside, west flank of the library. The 50-seat space is designed by Franks Architecture, with a scattering of tables and vines growing up one wall. Highlights of the eclectic, innovative menu include bone broth, roasted-beet salad, roasted chicken sandwiches, organic oatmeal and savory porridges such as pumpkin risotto.

Calgary Library 10

The cozy restaurant is on the outside, street level of the library

Calgary Library 9

The living wall is a nice touch

 

Lukes Central Library
800 3 Street SE, Calgary, Alberta
Library opens 9 am Monday to Saturday, noon Sunday

Edmonton’s Coffee Mecca

Edmonton coffee 7

The Columbian Coffee & Roastery is a nice new neighbourhood cafe in Edmonton

There’s a good case for making Edmonton the number two coffee hot spot in western Canada, behind Vancouver. Of course, Edmontonians aren’t as precious about how they roast and prepare their coffee as the wet coasters.

Still, there are always new coffee shops popping up in Alberta’s capital. After profiling half a dozen places a couple of years ago, I figured it was time for a fresh visit up north.

The first stop was The Colombian Coffee & Roastery, next door to the venerable Vi’s for Pies in the city’s leafy Glenora neighbourhood; the roasting happens at the back of the long, narrow space. It seemed like an odd, generic name, until I learned co-owner Santiago Lopez was from Colombia and that some of the roastery’s beans come from a family farm there. Talk about farm to cup.

Edmonton coffee 9

Nice ceramic mugs for the Americanos

The place was hopping on a dreary Saturday morning, with lots of folks ordering avocado toast to go with steaming mugs of java. Good stuff, evidence that if you build a good coffee shop in a nice district, the neighbours will come.

Somewhat harder to find is ACE Coffee Roasters, on a little side street south of Whyte Avenue in Edmonton’s Strathcona district. It’s a lovely, spacious place with high ceilings, exposed ductwork and a gleaming marble coffee bar.

Edmonton coffee 13

ACE Coffee Roasters is a spacious spot near Whyte Avenue

My Americano was one of the better ones I’ve had in Edmonton. The coffee is nicely chased with donuts baked at partner Café Leva in Garneau.

Edmonton coffee 16

Fine espressos pulled at the gleaming coffee bar

In the attached space, separated by a glass wall, is the company’s Caffe Tech, where you can drop a few grand on high-end home and commercial espresso machines. Think I’ll just let the expert barrista pull the shots for me.

The Columbian Coffee & Roastery
1, 10340 134 Street NW, Edmonton, Alberta
Weekdays 7 am-6 pm, Saturday 8 am-6 pm, Sunday 9 am-3 pm
780-757-9195

ACE Coffee Roasters
10055 80 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Wednesday to Sunday 8 am-4 pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday

The Boule Melts My Soul at 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters in Powell River, B.C.

Sunshine Coast 25

Bright, colourful cafe at 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters in Powell River, B.C.

My formula for a great coffee shop is, like me, pretty simple.

First, surprisingly, is superb coffee, preferably roasted in house, super fresh and expertly pulled or poured.

Second is one or two warm-from-the-oven baked goods. These can be dense fruit muffins, flaky croissants or no-icing cinnamon buns (“rolls” if you’re American). Just don’t wrap them in plastic… unless they’re a day old, in which case why are you selling them?

Third, that’s it. No sense complicating things. All you want is a steaming mug and a tender bite to savour, while not glancing at your screen.

The wonderfully named 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters—opened in 2013 by Margot and Nathan Jantz in Powell River on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast—has these simple, but rarely achieved, details nailed.

The coffee is small-batch roasted and available for purchase as bagged beans. My Americano is full flavoured and strong, the way I like it.

But what catches my eye is a rather unique baked good to go with the java. Yes, they have fresh sourdough croissants and local macarons on offer, plus wild-yeast sourdough waffles on Sundays.

Sunshine Coast 27

The coffee is excellent, but the sourdough boule steals the show

I’m instead immediately drawn to a basket of organic sourdough boule (a round, crusty bread), produced in house by talented 21-year-old baker Alexis. The boule is available as a full loaf ($6.50) and also as a bun, which I order for $1.50 (okay, it’s another 50 cents for melted butter, but still a steal). The bun is at once soft, chewy and tangy—one of the better baked goodies I’ve had with a coffee in quite some time.

32 Lakes’ café, on a downtown Powell River street, is full of light, with colourful art on the walls. I grab a window seat and gaze out the window as the coffee and boule slowly melt my soul.

Sunshine Coast 32

32 Lakes Coffee Roasters
4707 Marine Avenue, Powell River, B.C.
Daily 7:30 am-3 pm, except 8:30 am opening Sunday
604-414-8363

Calgary’s Best Coffee House?

Sought and Found 2

Caleb Leung and his wonderful new Sought and Found Coffee Roasters in Calgary

Despite living in Calgary a long time, I’ve never had a favourite local coffeehouse. A lot of good spots but, for various reasons, not places I frequent. Until now.

Ironically, all I needed was to look for the right name: Sought and Found Coffee Roasters, which officially opened, just north of downtown Calgary, in January. It’s lovingly owned and operated by Caleb and Kitty Leung; he got his coffee roasting/tasting training in Tulsa, Oklahoma, of all places.

First, Sought X Found’s space is gorgeous, with lots of repurposed wood along the coffee bar and a micro roaster (only six pounds at a time) towards the back. While the room is long and fairly narrow, there’s no sense you’re sitting on top of each other. The place is full of nice touches—a row of children’s books for reading, old window frames on the side wall, hand-written descriptions on the packages of fresh-roasted beans for sale.

Sought and Found 11

The coffee bar features gorgeous repurposed old wood

Sought and Found 13

Nice little touches throughout the space

Everything is carefully thought out and beautifully executed. That certainly applies to the coffee.

Sought and Found 3

Slowly and patiently producing the “hand brew” coffee

My Sumatra pour over (or “hand brew”, as they call it) is patiently filtered into a glass carafe. Unlike a lot of “third-wave” coffee shops, with lightly roasted beans, this cup is full of complex flavours the tasting notes describe as oak, whisky and cacao. Whatever. It’s still worth savouring even when allowed to cool.

Sought and Found 10

Kitty Leung delivers my hand-brew coffee

The coffee is not cheap. A hand brew or a large espresso and organic milk (the latter from Vital Green Farms in southern Alberta’s Picture Butte) is $5.50. But hey, if speed and volume is paramount to you, there’s a Starbucks across the street. Here, you’re paying a little more for superb quality and a leisurely experience.

Sought and Found 9

The little coffee roaster only produces six pounds at a time

The food menu is simple, featuring croissants from Calgary’s Butter Block (a croissant sandwich with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella and jelly is $7) and chocolate. The non-coffee drink options are similarly few but well chosen: loose-leaf teas and Japanese green matcha and houjicha teas.

Sought and Found 8

Roasted beans for sale, children’s books to read while sipping

My only complaint is Sought X Found is not close to where I live. Otherwise, I’d be here every week.

Thanks to Mike Haden for alerting me about this place.

Sought X Found Coffee Roasters
916 Centre Street North, Calgary, Alberta
Monday to Friday 7:30 am-5:30 pm, Saturday 8:30 am-6 pm. Closed Sunday
403-830-7278