Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

That's no ordinary joe

Local independent coffee houses give chains a challenge

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Take that, coffee chains.

A series of independent coffee shops has popped up across the city, with the newest addition set to open Friday on Sherbrook Street.

Thom Jon Hiebert, 27, and Graham Bargen, 26, are the owners of Thom Bargen Coffee and Tea, and one of a set of businesses launched in the city to practise the careful art of coffee.

The airy 10-seat space at 64 Sherbrook St. has a bike mounted on its wall, and stocks coffee beans from countries such as Rwanda on its shelves.

"To start, when we looked at spaces, we looked at a map of Winnipeg and we went around neighbourhoods and it was like, 'West Broadway rules,'" said Bargen, who said the "potential is boundless" for the area.

Bargen said he wanted a change and started the company after working five years in a corporate job.

Hiebert's passion for fresh coffee flourished after he "grew up on Starbucks," regularly drinking it two or three times a day as a construction worker.

He said the business will serve fresh coffee that has been recently roasted and ethically sourced.

"It's like going from eating stale food your whole life, you start eating fresh food, you cannot go back to stale food," he said.

"We make sure that the farmers are making a living on what we buy."

Nils Vik, 29, owner of Parlour Coffee at 468 Main St., promotes other independent coffee shops.

Vik's business opened September 2011, and he's credited by another fellow indie owner as being a "pioneer" in the local indie coffee movement.

As well as Thom Bargen, there are also Make Coffee on Corydon Avenue and Café Postal on Provencher Boulevard, both of which opened late last year.

"A lot of businesses would tend to not promote their competition, but I don't really see other coffee shops opening up in Winnipeg as competition. I kind of see it as a benefit to our city and to the culture of Winnipeg, so I'm excited to see coffee shops open because what it does is raises more awareness for specialty coffee in Winnipeg," said Vik.

Vik said there's "a big difference between coffee as an energy source," and seeing it as "something to slam back."

"The way I view specialty coffee is similar to how I would view wine or single-malt whiskey or Scotch," said Vik.

"And so essentially, specialty coffee, there's a lot more transparency between the cup and the producer, so we'll often serve single-origin coffees so it can be traced back right to the farm, or the lot of the farm."

Vik said "high quality specialty coffee typically goes hand-in-hand with more ethical coffee sourcing where a relationship is formed between roaster and producer (farmer)."

Jae-Sung Chon, owner of Make Coffee and an environmental design instructor at University of Manitoba's faculty of architecture, opened his shop on Corydon in December.

"Independent coffee shops are relationship-based, both customer to a coffee brewer, as well as us to our source, like bean sourcing," said Chon, 44.

"We deal with person-to-person (relationships). Also, our roasters, most of them fly to the farms and the micro-farms all over the world to really source their beans. So really, I think independent coffee really speaks about relationships. It's more than just paperwork," Chon said.

Adrienne Huard, 25, and her fiancé André Clement, 32, recently opened Café Postal at 202 Provencher Blvd. It's been open since October, and each espresso is hand-brewed.

"It's not just an automatic button you push. We check seconds, and time, and weight of each grind just to make sure each shot that you get has its full potential," Huard said.

Huard said she's used platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to market the business, and she enjoys working with other indie coffee shops.

"That's kind of the best part of this coffee industry, is that we're all conspiring together, it feels like we're all on the same team," she said.

gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

What are some independent coffee shops to check out?

Parlour Coffee: 468 Main St, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Sundays

Café Postal: 202 Provencher Blvd, Monday to Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Thom Bargen: 64 Sherbrook St., Monday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Make Coffee: 751 Corydon Ave., 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, weekends 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 1, 2013 A6

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