Calgary: When I try to tell people that Canada is having a coffee moment, people often don’t take me seriously. While the third wave coffee scene doesn’t seem to have the sophistication of the modern brew industry or the growing power of the craft-beer boom, if people take a moment to really get to know the coffee industry, they’ll understand just how complicated it really is.
Canadians are well-known for their coffee consumption, with Canada ranked #1 out of 80 countries according to the CBC. And while Canada’s coffee-shop scene isn’t as big as it is in the United States, the display of the commitment, talent, and passion of those who have dedicated themselves to brewing and making great coffee from bean to cup is a beautiful act to watch. One city, in particular, has captured the crown as the semi-official birthplace of the modern Canadian coffee industry: Calgary, Alberta. Here are my picks for cafes and roasters when you’re in Calgary:
There are five different locations in this shop, each quite different from the other. Of all the places I visited during my travels, the best one had to be the Marda Loop (2043 33rd Ave SW). Offering a full beer and wine program and delicious food, the cafe itself was super bright and spacious with a casual vibe. The roaster began in 2004 with a partnership between Phil Robertson and Sebastian Zatabzeeb, two traveling engineers who fell in love with the specialty coffee they tried while abroad. They decided to bring it back to Calgary, and their cafes have since become some of the best in Canada. When you visit, you have the option of getting a cup of drip from their Fetco or simply perusing their rotating menu of cup options.
Monogram began as a quirky pop-up in 2014, now co-owned by Ben Putt, Justin Eyford, and Jeremy Ho. The trio – who, incidentally, met while working together at Phil & Sebastian – decided to strike out on their own, and now claim a roasting partnership with Three Café and Transcend Coffee. Their three cafe spaces are unique and different from each other, but their brand new Britannia location (800 49th Ave SW) is the crown jewel.
The space serves as a “concept” store for guest roasters on a short-term residency basis. Each of their roasters will tell you all about their beans and help you decide what’s on the menu with ease. They also have an exceptional seasonal menu – which was sold out on more than one visit of mine, so get there early!
The day we went to see Rosso Coffee, Cole Torode was competing in the World Barista Championships. The roastery and cafe have seven locations throughout Calgary, but for this visit, we decided to visit the original location (803 24 Ave SE). It’s a small venue, but it has a massive 12-kilogram probate roster, as well as a retail space to shop.
The cafe space is super relaxed, with baked goods and sandwiches that are made fresh at the company’s commissary. All batches are made in-house with a Fetco and baristas can pull off a consistent espresso shot. If it’s still available, try Torode’s Lactic Geisha Coffee, which he used for the World Barista Championships.
With over 40 years of roasting experience, Fratello Coffee is by and for the oldest of Calgary’s established roasters. The reason why Analog was launched was so that Fratello could take their coffee into the hands of consumers and have a direct place to educate and work with their customers on a day-to-day basis. Located in the heart of 17th Avenue, Analog’s staff pulls off a pretty average shot. The lattes are totally Instagrammable and the place has lots of windows, so you best believe you can grab that shot for the ‘gram.