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Feb 16, 2010 11:05 PM

Coffee Beans - Calgary

I need help!! I have a friend from Japan that is visiting Calgary. He really enjoys coffee and wants to take some whole coffee beans back to Japan. I'm not a huge coffee drinker so I have NO idea where to take him!! Does anyone have any ideas?! I don't think price is an option, I think he just wants really good coffee.

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  1. You have HUGE choice of artisanal coffee beans here. All of the following are quality micro-roasters (ie, they're not Folgers) that sell very dependable beans at city or full-city roasts (not too dark) and that put the roast dates (NOT the "best by" date, which tells you nothing) on their bags. Buy as fresh as possible (not more than a week after roast) in sealed bags- they have to be fresh when he gets back to Japan.

    Since he's in Canada, I'd suggest a Canadian roaster (though we have some gorgeous American beans from some of the best US roasters here too). You cannot go wrong with 49th Parallel (sold at Kawa Espresso Bar, Java Jamboree, and Bumpy's), from Vancouver, or you can try beans from Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters (sold at their shop in Marda Loop and at CFM) or Fratello (you can get roast-dated bags of their proprietary Good Earth coffees; you can also get single-origin beans in sealed bags at Kawa- I mention "sealed bags" because you can also get open-bag, bagged in-store Fratello Competition Espresso beans from Insomnia, an outstanding bean but don't get it in the open crimped bag for travel to Japan; it'll be stale too soon).

    Okay, if you want to try a variety, you can get 8-oz bags of Chicago's famed Intelligentsia coffees from any of the DeVille locations or at Cookbook Co. 8 oz is a nice size for trying a variety.

    An espresso blend (which is fine for everyday coffee too) should not set you back more than around $20/lb; that's the same price, or cheaper, than burnt, roasted-who-knows-how-many-months-ago crap at Starbucks. Single origin beans can cost more if course; I'd get the blend unless your friend says he specifically likes certain varietals.

    8 Replies
    1. re: John Manzo

      All good choices! My preference is Phil and Sebastian-- but really any of the above would be great.

      1. re: John Manzo

        I know from being a regular reader of this site that you're a real coffee expert/lover John - so I have a few questions for you on the espresso bean topic:
        1. What do you think of the espresso beans from Artigiano (for example, in comparison to those from Kawa)?
        2. How do you store your espresso beans once you open the bag? I bought a 5 lb bag from Kawa (we drink alot of espresso ...) but don't know what to do with the bag now that it's open.


        1. re: Jigga

          I'm not John, but I am a bit of a coffee geek and don't mind giving my 2 cents : )

          1. Artigiano and Kawa's 49th Parallel are both very good IMO, as is Intelligentsia. That is all I buy when I get pre-roasted beans, and always check the date on the package. Usually I roast my own to get the freshest of fresh.

          2. 5lbs is too much to buy at one time IMO. You will never drink that much coffee before it starts getting stale. If you must, keep it in a sealed container in a cool dark cupboard (not the freezer).

          1. re: Sneaky

            I kneel before you, home roaster! :)

            I find Artigiano's house espresso a little dark, to be honest. It's good but I prefer 49th Epic (same roaster but a different blend and roast profile); I'd say that what I've had at Artigiano is similar to the new (and very much improved) house espresso at Good Earth. It's nice but not my fave. BUT any of those I listed are fine since you can determine roast dates; if you like a darker roast, try Artigiano or GE or, really, Black Cat (DeVille); if you like it lighter, try 49th Epic (Kawa), P&S or Fratello's comp blend (Insomnia).

            I agree 100% with Sneaky- we burn through a pound or so a week here and that's all I buy at a time. If I have a lot extra I vac seal it. 5 lbs is just too much for most home users.

            1. re: John Manzo

              Thanks for the advice Sneaky and John. And I suspected that the 5 lb bag was a bit much ... I'll control myself better next time!

        2. re: John Manzo

          Thanks! That was extremely helpful! We took him to Phil & Sebastian, which I think he enjoyed. Even I enjoyed the place! =)

          1. re: Bex_03

            For those that might come across this thread at a later date, you can also order Transcend espresso with free shipping to Calgary. They arrive in about 2 days time.
            Other good places to get beans are Caffe Rosso, and good earth cafe has good beans too.

            1. re: Kaffe Ton

              Transcend is pure class- I had a sample of a couple of their coffees at the Phil and Sebastian barista jam a couple of weeks back and mm mmm, delicious, and I did indeed confirm that shipping is free to YYC.

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            1. Some of the other local coffee roasters in the area are Crickle Creek, Cochrane Coffee Traders, Kienna Coffee, Mr. Cappuccino, Canterbury Coffee, Van Houtte and maybe more smaller ones.

              8 Replies
              1. re: smyth39

                Canterbury and Van Houtte are massive, industrial office-coffee operations. You might as well have listed Tim Hortons.

                1. re: John Manzo

                  So sorry mate I forgot about our beloved Timmies LOL

                  1. re: John Manzo

                    Canterbury is in fact based out of the Greater Vancouver area and Van Houtte is Montreal based.

                    For people who are in fact serious about coffee, I can really only recommend P&S, the 49th Parallel and Intelligentsia (which are Vancouver and Chicago/LA based respectively) coffee available in a few shops John mentioned and Fratello. I refuse to point fingers but a lot of the other coffee companies in existence just doesn't measure up or are much more industrial than artisanal - selling flavored coffee and having really vague references to growing regions is a bit of a red flag.

                    1. re: peter.v

                      COFFEE is like WINE and every person has his or her own taste, so what one person finds not to his or her liking many others think its the cats a** .

                      1. re: smyth39

                        Sure, I'll give you that, but to further your analogy, recommending Van Houtte and Canterbury for a visitor to Calgary would be on par to recommending Yellow Tail to a visitor to Australia. Sure, it's drinkable, but is it really something you want as a representative selection for someone who loves wine?

                        To each their own though.

                        1. re: smyth39

                          yes, but when you say that you don't like a wine, the vintner and his business associate don't create profiles on every web site you frequent (chowhound, coffeegeek, yelp, chomp, urbanspoon) to harass you for daring to say that you don't like his wine.

                          1. re: John Manzo

                            Why don't you tell Dr. Ruth how you really feel? Anyway I found a few more local roasters: Big Mountain, Mountain View Roaster, Doi Chang ,The Planet Coffee Roasters and Kicking Horse.(out of Province)

                  2. Topping this thread as I'm looking to start buying locally. Are there any new players on the scene I should know about? Has anyone gone out of business or let quality slide since this was last updated?

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: darelleats

                      Darell, P&S and Fratello are still the class of the city and getting better all the time. I had a pound of Guatemalan from Roast at the Kingsland Farmers' Market and it was great- but tiny selection there; they're very new.

                      You can get Intelligentsia, along with 49th Parallel, at Kawa now, and their prices are very, very good for that bean (which is generally pricey).

                      Another roaster I really like is Vancouver's Origins, which (under the label Hines) was P&S's original source back in 2007 before the started roasting for themselves. Origins is back in Calgary as they're the roaster that Chiasso sources.

                      1. re: John Manzo

                        I noticed 49th Parallel is now being sold at Sunterra last time I was there.

                        1. re: Sneaky

                          Just writing to confirm that Sunterra downtown has an excellent selection of fresh 49th Parallel. This is huge for me - sometimes stopping at Kawa on my way home can be ... frustrating* ... when I'm just looking to restock w/ beans.

                          * unless you don't mind standing around with a bag of coffee hanging limply from your grasp for five or ten minutes

                          1. re: bthc

                            Follow up - Sunterra 49th P stock must not be moving fast enough, unfortunately all their beans as of Sunday are a month old.

                            I noticed that Cafe Rosso is selling P&S beans. Is this a new development?

                      2. re: darelleats

                        Phil & Sebastian is no longer in the Calgary Farmer's Market but they are still in Marda Loop and in Chinook Mall.

                        In downtown Calgary, two newer coffee shops have opened: Chiasso and Waves. I haven't bought either of their beans so maybe someone else can comment.

                        1. re: darelleats

                          A couple more to consider:

                          - Big Mountain. You can find this at most Co-Op and Safeway stores in the city and it absolutely blows away anything else you'll find in the grocery store (Kicking Horse, Saltspring Island, etc.). We usually buy the Mountain Magic or the Costa Rica as our full-pot/brewed/breakfast coffee (I'll save the P&S for the Aeropress). Organic, fair-trade, but I don't know much about the company otherwise.
                          - Mountain View Roasterie. I used to buy this at The House coffee shop in Kensington, specifically the Mexican Cafe Femenino (organic, fair-trade & benefiting women coffee growers) . The House has since switched to Fratello ("direct trade" vs. "fair-trade") so I'm not sure where else you can find it. Have spoken with people involved in the business and they seem like very progressive/conscious globally minded folks.
                          - Mad Hatter Coffee Roastery in Medicine Hat. This one is a bit of a long-shot, I'm not sure if you can even find it in Calgary, but one of the very best cups of coffee I had this year was a French press - French roast from Mad Hatter. I know you can also find this in Brooks AB at a little place called the Steaming Cup. (If anyone has seen it in Cgy, let me know).

                          Plus one more vote for P&S, it really is some of the best coffee I've ever had (espresso, aeropress, drip, you-name-it), and everyone that I've talked to from Phil and Sebastian down to the folks who work the counter, are super friendly, super knowledgeable, and super helpful.

                          Hope that helps

                          1. re: KcM

                            If you're going to try Big Mountain, try getting it bagged from Purple Perk- it's going to be much fresher than what you get at the supermarket. It's a good bean (it was Bumpy's original supplier) but they don't roast date bags so you don't know how long they've been on the shelf. At PP you can count on it being fresh.

                            Mountain View isn't direct trade- Fratello has a lot of direct trade coffees. However MV is indeed a very good small roaster who DOES roast date. You can find his beans at Community Natural Foods and at Giuseppe's as well as various cafes in the Sundre area (he roasts in Didsbury).

                            cellophane- Chiasso is one of my favourite coffeehouses. I would describe them as what Artigiano used to be quality-wise before they grew too big. It's also the only place in town, so far, that does siphon brewed coffees by the cup (hence their cheeky "clover is over" t-shirts). Waves is a decent chain that's more comparable to Good Earth than the top artisanal places in town but their coffee is far from offensive.

                            1. re: John Manzo

                              Re: Big Mountain. Roast date would be great, but I always figured if I had to buy at a grocery store the local roaster would likely be fresher than something from BC (though that may depend on turnover...)

                              Re: Chiasso. I'm not down on 17th ave very often, but I'll have to make a trip to try out the siphon brewed coffee.

                              What about Abiamo?
                              I've never brewed it at home, but when I lived near Vendome I drank a lot of their medium roast. It was tasty, but when I have a cup now even the medium roast strikes me as being more roast than bean. Looking at their website though, it appears Abiamo has a bunch more beans/roasts than what they serve at Vendome.

                              Vendome Cafe
                              940 2 Ave NW, Calgary, AB T2N 0E6, CA

                              1. re: KcM

                                KcM, not sure if it makes a difference for you, but there is also Chiasso location on 4th Ave SW at 2nd St (same block as the Westin hotel).

                                1. re: aktivistin

                                  There will soon be 4 Chiasso locations: Jamieson as just noted, Centennial tower, 17th and 8th, and in the former Starbucks location on Stephen Ave and 4th St SW.

                                2. re: KcM

                                  You should really never buy coffee from a grocery store if you can avoid it because there is usually (with some obvious exceptions) no way of knowing how long stock has been on the shelves. Both the Big Mountain and the BC roaster (say, Kicking Horse) will deliver their coffees within a few days of roasting. Every good roaster gets its product on whatever shelf in days- and that goes for the quality US roasters, like Intelligentsia and Josuma, you see at some Calgary outlets. The problem is that they all sit and stale on those shelves. With KH you can at least suss out the roast date by deciphering the Julian date that's printed on the bags. With BM, there is zero indication of roast date. For me, that's a non-starter and I refuse to buy BM anymore. The roaster has resolutely refused to provide roast date info.

                                  Abiamo is a rebrand of Planet. They, like BM and Canterbury (the supplier for Higher Ground) also refuse to provide roast dates, so....

                                  1. re: John Manzo

                                    Can you provide more info about the Kicking Horse roast date? I've seen a "best before" on there, and I guess you could work backwards to find the roast date, but no other info on the bag.
                                    Of course, I don't have one in front of me right now, so maybe I'm missing something.

                                    1. re: 23skidoo

                                      Somewhere on the bag- I don't recall where- is a number buried in some other numbers that is the julian date, like today is 11 034. I think it's probably by the barcode.