There's no denying the growing appetite for cold brew coffee around the world, with many noted roasters and cafes making and creating their very own bottled concoctions. But in Toronto, there's been one company dedicated to providing an authentic, well-made, all-season cold brew for some time now. Station Cold Brew Coffee Company launched in 2014 as Canada’s “first coffee brewery”. Using the ideals and practices of the exploding craft beer scene, Station batch brews and bottles their cold coffee product infused with nitrogen, and distributes it in the wholesale market throughout Ontario at Whole Foods Market and Loblaws grocery stores and local Toronto coffee shops like Jimmy’s Coffee, The Tampered Press, and Cafe Novo.
After a trip to Brooklyn in 2013, Steve Ballantyne (founder) and Mitchell Stern (marketing director and partner) were inspired by the great coffee culture and more specifically the cold brew that New York was producing, and wanted to bring a bit of that back to Toronto. Since inception, they have been dedicated to making the most flavourful cold brew drinkable year round. Along their journey, they were introduced to brewmaster and partner Mike Roy (formerly of Northwood and Lit Espresso Bar) who has since worked extensively on the Station Cold Brew recipe.
The Station bottle shop, perfectly situated next door to their coffee roaster, Hale Coffee Company, is located in Toronto's Junction Triangle area. Stern has referred to the neighbourhood as the “first neighbourhood solely dedicated to coffee-making” with Propeller Coffee also around the corner. Roy explains, “We work very closely with Hale Coffee Roasters to source the highest-quality, responsibly grown beans.” While all the importing and purchasing are handled directly by Hale, the Station Cold Brew team provides input—like in their recent purchase of a micro-lot from the Nicaraguan Ojo De Agua farm. Or in their choice of beautiful coffees in the Station Cold Brew blend: Ethiopia Konga and Brazil Adrano. Roy shares, “we started blending different regions at various quantities while working with our roaster and this blend seemed to shine above the rest.”
Roy explains that he has adapted much of the same processes from the beer brewing world to produce cold brew on a mass scale. From prep to final brew, the process can take at least 18 hours, including steeping, tank transfer, and a two-stage filtration to ensure a clean drink without pasteurization or preservatives. Their draught, found in the bottle shop, is infused with nitrogen gas at high pressure creating a cascading effect similar to a pint of Guinness. For their wholesale bottles, a semi-automated counter-pressure bottling line flushes the bottle of oxygen and infuses the product with nitrogen to give it maximum freshness when consumed. Roy tells me that the flavour in the bottle is the same as their draught, just without the creamy texture or mouthfeel.
Station's bottle shop has connected the product to the very people who have been drinking and following their brand since day one. Inside the shop, patrons can purchase cold brew in refillable growlers, kegs, or stand-alone bottles. At the bar, you have the option of grabbing a single Nitro Cold Brew (draught), the Red Eye (draught nitro cold brew with a shot of concentrate) or Latte (double-shot of concentrate with a milk of choice). Roy shares, “Coffee drinkers are very loyal to their local shop and their go-to style of cup, and we're noticing the same pattern with Station.”
Ballantyne, Stern, and Roy have been spending considerable time on trying to change consumers minds on viewing nitro cold brew as not just a beverage but rather a daily routine, by focusing on the beverage's versatility. Their cold brew concentrate can be purchased by the bottle at their shop or wholesale (across Canada) at Whole Foods. Since launching, they have partnered with many local chefs and mixologists to showcase their coffee's potential through collaborations. Stern tells me, “Station is an amazing thing on its own but when you utilize the concentrated form [as an ingredient] the possibilities are endless.” Some of their partnerships to date have included Toronto craft brewer Great Lakes Brewing Company who created the Imperial Bout, an imperial cold brew coffee vanilla stout, and a longstanding partnership with Jameson Irish Whiskey, which serves a drink called the Modern Irish made with Jameson and Station Cold Brew at cultural events like TIFF.
As people’s fascination with nitro cold brew continues to grow, Station Cold Brew has taken one more step towards convincing Toronto that even cold coffee can be a year-round pleasure.
Photos courtesy of Britney Townsend.