Friend to all, loyal to none: Launched in fall 2010 by two college students, the YYC Coffee Disloyalty Program is challenging Calgarians to break free from the clutches of large coffee chains and support local, independent cafés. The concept follows the lead of similar disloyalty programs, such as the Toronto Coffee Conspiracy, and is rooted in simple-but-inspired logic: one of the few ways for independently owned shops to face the giants of the joe-industry is to form a united front. Initiatives like this are part of the reason Calgary seems to be enjoying a café-enlightenment: In the last four years, the number of independent, high-quality cafés has spiked from barely a handful to well over 20. Calgary “Coffee Disloyalty” cards are available at any of the 10 participating locations; here are four of the finest places to get a notch.
Fearlessly devoted to the art of the latte, Caffé Rosso opened in late 2007 and had Ramsay residents hooked within months, presumably thanks to the fresh Illy blends. Soon, coffee snobs from all over Calgary were coming to the industrial area to see if the hype was indeed warranted, and a second spot opened recently on Stephen Ave. — a central location that will no doubt make this gem much less hidden. 803 24 Ave. S.E, 140 8 Ave. S.E. 403-971-1800.
This 17th Ave. hotspot gets its beans from Fratello Coffee Roasters, a Calgary-based company that establishes direct fair-trade relationships with international farmers and roasts small batches of beans for ethics-minded clients. Add to this a devotion to independent art, theatre and music, and the place is packed with hip clientele from open till’ close. Beano’s espresso roast includes five beans and carries a dark, Italian profile. The café’s mochas are probably the best in the city. 1613 9 St. S.W. 403-229-1232.
The approach to making Intelligentsia fresh roasted coffee & Black Cat espresso at deVille is wholly 21st century. Custom-built Synesso Cyncras espresso machines — one in each of the cafés culturally rich locations, in Fashion and Art Central — offer the ability to precisely engineer each dispensed shot within a half-degree in temperature, as well as adjust pressure on the fly. The Cyncras is a true thing of beauty; simply watching it at work is the perfect complement to enjoying its product. #214 100 7 Ave. S.W., 807 1 St. S.W. 403-452-7777.
Phil & Sebastian
Currently a thriving independent business, Phil & Sebastian has the potential to become one of Canada’s next great franchises. Inspired by love for coffee and mid-career boredom, two successful engineers opened one café in 2007 and now own three. The duo’s Inglewood headquarters is also a busy roasterie, where fair-trade micro-lot and natural beans from across the globe are treated with obsessive care. 2043 33 Ave. S.W., Chinook Centre, Calgary Farmer’s Market 403-686-1221.
Image courtesy of Michael Simmons.