Situated in Alberta at the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, Calgary is not lacking for surrounding natural beauty. The city itself, however, has long suffered under a bit of a reputation as a bland white-collar town, dominated by big oil industry dollars, and the occasional rodeo. Recently, this reputation has been changing as a groundswell of cultural and social investment, supported by the local governments, has aided a transformative process.
On my recent visit to the city, I received a guided tours from some locals, and the strength of the cafe scene was impressive. Calgary has many seriously established coffee roasters, each with multiple locations–I've profiled three of them below to give you a glimpse into Calgary's sprawling coffee landscape. This is just a start to scratch the surface of what the intrepid coffee traveler might find in Calgary, but hopefully it can serve as a beginning guide for you to track down your caffeine fix, whether you're in Calgary for the stunning surrounds, the exciting food and coffee scene, or simply the stampede.
With 40 years roasting experience, Fratello Coffee is far and away the oldest of Calgary's established roasters. Analog Cafe is their retail face, first appearing inside the Calgary Farmers Market on Blackfoot Trail in March 2011, followed by the opening of their flagship cafe in an old corner store downtown on 17th Ave in late 2012.
As the name suggests, the core of Analog’s service revolves around the idea of hand-crafted coffee. At both locations their offerings are split between espresso drinks from a custom Slayer and slow brew from a long rack of Hario v60s. The design of the store has an intentionally communal feel to it: the tables are full of laptops and notebooks and the walls are heavy with an eclectic mix of art, vinyl records and salvaged vintage lettering. I recommend taking your v60 out on the sidewalk and soaking in the fleeting sunlight.
Analog Cafe (740 17 Ave SW, Calgary) is open every day from 6:30am to midnight.
Caffe Rosso started life with a single location in Ramsay, a sunlit space focused on being a “third place” cafe—where you spend the most time apart from work and home. Since this first store opened in 2007, Rosso has opened up locations downtown and most recently in Victoria Park as well as revamping their original Ramsay location in 2012 to house a 12-kilogram Probat roaster.
Sitting at the long vintage tables, contrasted with the industrial surroundings at Victoria Park, my favourite drinks at Rosso were their creamy cappuccinos, laden with texture and flavour–they were a constant success, the perfect antidote to the freezing weather.
Caffe Rosso Victoria Park (425, 11 Ave S.E, Calgary) is open 7am to 6pm during the week, 8am to 5pm Saturdays, and 9am to 5pm Sundays.
Phil & Sebastian
In 2004 Phil Robertson & Sebastian Sztabzyb were just two travelling engineers who fell in love with the specialty coffee experiences they'd had around the world. Returning home, they honed their ideas before starting Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters at the Calgary Farmers Markets in 2007. Their roasting operation began in 2009 and they have been opening new spaces across the city since then. They're churning out serious coffee in addition to stunning cafes–Jeremy Ho from Phil & Sebastian won the 2013 Canadian Barista Championships, and 2014 CBC winner Ben Put from Phil & Sebastian advanced to the semi-finals of the 2014 World Barista Championship.
I had many great coffee’s across the P&S locations during my time in Calgary, whether you’re stuck in the Chinook mall in need of a shopping break or cruising the Mission hollering at Canucks fans, P&S is right where you need it to be. Each location has a distinct layout, vibe and service model, but the quality of experience is consistently high at every shop. Wherever you find yourself, I’d recommend the filter option; per-cup brewing is through a different method at each location, you won’t regret it.Phil & Sebastian Mission (2207 4th Street SW Calgary) is open 6:30AM to 10PM during the week, 7am to 10pm Saturday, and 7am to 6pm Sunday.
Restaurants, With Coffee, Everywhere.
This was the greatest discovery of my trip. Calgary is brimfull of fantastic restaurants–and true to their culture of quality, many of them serve great coffee. In this setting I’d opt for the filter—normally batch-brewed—as my most reliable option. I had great success at restaurants like Model Milk whose ludicrously good white cheddar apple pie was complemented by Phil & Sebastian’s coffee, and Notable where Fratello rounded out a deliciously artery-clogging family brunch.
Did we miss out on your favorite place in Calgary? Sound off in the comments below!