A surprising side to Calgary

In my adventures as a barista in Calgary I have come across many things that differentiate this market from my more familiar territory in Vancouver. It’s an interesting area to look into, due to the many similarities and differences between these two major western Canadian cities.

1. The traditional cappuccino is a very popular drink.
Well, at my shop it is. Some days we sell more of these than any other espresso based beverage combined! Vancouver shops tend not to see drink statistics like that.
2. Vancouverites seem to know their espresso based drinks better.
Though they may not drink those traditional cappuccinos so often, the average Vancouverite will know the basic terminology and drink culture. In Calgary I will get customers with little or no knowledge of espresso drink culture daily. This is indicative I think of an untapped market for espresso.
3. Calgarians and Vancouverites tip the same.
Interesting isn’t it?
4. There is a shocking lack of good beans in Calgary.
Well, you can have Big Mountain, or you can have Big Mountain. (The word on the street is there may be a new way to get Vancouver beans in Calgary.)
5. Where are all the machines in Calgary?
I have yet to see a La Marzocco machine in my city. Comment or email me if you know where one is. All there seems to be are Elektras, Nuova Simonellis, Rancilios and the odd Spaziale. Oh, and the superautos. I know there’s a Synesso in Cochrane (Java Jamboree!)

There are more I’m sure. But it’s interesting to look at, especially with the similarities in income and the economy. You would think Calgary would support a more serious drink culture.

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5 Responses to “A surprising side to Calgary”


  1. 1 Jason Haeger July 21, 2006 at 11:52 am

    There’s more to it than mere income, although that’s part of it.

    Quality-driven people will tend to be more aware of the terminology and culture in general.

    In Dallas/Ft. Worth, I had more customers with a desire to know more about what they were drinking, about the process. They were generally just curious overall as to what makes coffee tick. This made consumer education exceedingly easy, as they were always open to a conversation about it.

    Here in Lubbock, people are less driven toward quality. The culture is more “as-is” rather than driving forward. Higher income customers enjoy their income.. but they’re not working to advance farther. It’s an entirely different mind-frame, though I’ve found that tips here are actually the same, if not better.

    Interestingly enough, most people here don’t even realize that there is a difference in flavor between coffee origins. To them, it’s “uppity” (is that a word?).

    It’s a long slow climb to make specialty coffee in its naked form more approachable to the general public. Slowly but surely, they’re coming around.

  2. 2 Shaun Taylor July 26, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    Peter, I just got back from Willow Park and grabbed… Detonator Doppelbock, Alley Kat’s Old Deuteronomy, Amber’s Australian Mountain Pepper Berry, More of Tree’s Spy Porter, Hefeweizen, Honeycomb and Hophead, Cannery Brewing Blackberry Porter and finally Steam Whistle pilsner. Those guys sure are bringing it in.

    How’s work?

  3. 3 Nick B.http://www.dwelltime.net July 31, 2006 at 12:36 am

    Just thought I’d point out that fairly recently I’ve had two different Calgarians hit me up for advice on opening up a “Caffe Artigiano-esque” coffee shop in your town. I gave them some pointers (as well as a dutiful plug for carrying 49th Parallel) and we’ll see if anything pans out. At the very least, it seems like some clever people are awakening to the possibilities of specialty coffee in Calgary. Godspeed!

  4. 4 Prairie Dusthttp://www.benjaminscoffeehouse.ca August 18, 2006 at 8:22 am

    Hi,
    We have used a La Marzocco in Vancouver and loved it. It was a locally owned coffeehouse using JJBean. We now live and own our own coffeehouse in Airdrie. Our machine is a Rancillio. We have had a lot of interesting experiences out here in Calgary and Airdrie in the ways of Espresso.
    945.3735

  5. 5 Anonymous August 24, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    The Main Dish in Bridgeland uses a La Marzocco (single phase) and an interesting Italian bean. It’s smooth, nothing spectacular, but enjoyable change.


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On tap

49th Parallel El Salvador La Montaña
Excellent coffee for everyday drinking. Well expressed acidity and classic El Salvador profile.

Bulleit Bourbon
By far the best bourbon available in BC for the price. $35 for a bottle gets you the highest rye content bourbon on the market. Lots of spice and typical bourbon corn sweetness. Excellent on its own, but also makes a mean Old Fashioned. Better than Knob Creek in my books and pretty close to Woodford Reserve.

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