Coffee Bureau and Lock Stock Coffee have revived Edmonton’s coffee district

There’s a buzz downtown and it’s not just because of all the construction taking place. It feels like Edmonton’s coffee district is back now that two new independent coffee shops have opened! Coffee Bureau and Lock Stock Coffee are now open on opposite sides of Jasper Avenue just west of 105 Street. I checked out both locations this week.

Coffee Bureau

Coffee Bureau is located on the southwest corner of Jasper Avenue and 105 Street in the Dental Building. It’s a small cafe with minimal seating and big windows.

Coffee Bureau

They serve ACE Coffee (Twitter, Instagram), a new local roaster from the folks behind LEVA Cafe. You’ll find a small selection of pastries too, like carrot-pineapple muffins and butter tarts.

Coffee Bureau

Couple Peter and Criss are the duo behind Coffee Bureau. Peter was formerly a barista at LEVA Cafe.

Coffee Bureau’s hours are subject to change, but currently they’re planning to be open from 7 AM until 5:30 PM during the week, and 9 AM until 3:30 PM on Saturday. Follow Coffee Bureau on Instagram and on Twitter.

Lock Stock Coffee

Almost directly across the street from Coffee Bureau is where you’ll find Lock Stock, nestled in-between Bower and Red Star Pub (which it is technically a part of). There’s a separate door though; it’s the dark one under the stairs to the right.

Lock Stock Coffee

Lock Stock serves Danesi coffee, which is an Italian roast that began in Rome in 1905. They also have pastries, baked in-house by Jesse who doubles as the barista (I hear the carrot cake is delicious).

Lock Stock Coffee

Red Star’s Sal Di Maio is the man behind Lock Stock. He told me they soft-launched a couple weeks ago and wanted to build up quietly. Now they’ve decided on the name and will be making themselves more known (they just started tweeting today).

Lock Stock will be open from 8 AM until 3 PM during the week, with Red Star opening at 4 PM. Follow Lock Stock Coffee on Twitter.

Edmonton’s Coffee District

It was just last fall that Burrow opened in Central LRT Station, and Transcend opened in the Mercer Warehouse on 104 Street, so it has been a great few months for Edmontonians looking for a caffeine fix downtown. I used to call the area around 104 Street the coffee district back when we had Roast and Transcend, but when they closed I figured it was no longer an appropriate title. Fast forward to today, and I think we can safely say the coffee district is back!

Here are the cafes you’ll find in the few blocks surrounding 104 Street:

  • Credo Coffee on 104 Street – the heart of the district, in my opinion
  • Transcend Mercer at 104 Street & 104 Avenue
  • Second Cup on Jasper Avenue between 103 Street and 104 Street
  • Remedy Cafe on Jasper Avenue at 103 Street
  • Coffee Bureau on Jasper Avenue at 105 Street
  • Lock Stock Coffee on Jasper Avenue between 105 and 106 Street

Also on 104 Street you’ll find Cavern and Dauphine, a cheese shop and bakery, which both serve a great cup of coffee.

Venture just a tiny bit further and you’ll find even more cafes. I suppose you could consider all of downtown the coffee district, from 101 Street to 109 Street, as Sharon does.

On the east side you’ll find Starbucks at the Empire Building, HSBC Bank Place, and City Centre on 101 Street, and of course there’s Second Cup, Good Earth, and two Tim Horton’s at City Centre too. Underground you’ll find Burrow and another Second Cup at Telus Plaza. There’s another Good Earth in Scotia Place. On 102 Street inside Commerce Place you’ll find Tim Horton’s, Starbucks, and McDonald’s (which has a separate McCafe counter).

On the west side, you’ll find Tim Horton’s and Starbucks on 107 Street, Good Earth on 108 Street, Second Cup on Jasper Avenue just west of 108 Street, and of course District on 109 Street.

And who knows what’ll come to the Edmonton Arena District in 2016! Good Earth has already listed a location opportunity for that area.

Lock Stock Coffee

A couple of other coffee-related items worth mentioning:

And with that, I’m off to drink another coffee!

Go underground for Edmonton’s newest coffee shops

It was a little disappointing to miss the opening of three new coffee shops last month, but on the other hand, it was nice to have new places to explore after we got back! In October, Transcend returned to downtown with a new location in the Mercer Warehouse, Credo added a second location on 124 Street, and after years in the making, Burrow opened in the Central LRT Station. I checked out all three locations last week.

Transcend Mercer

Transcend Mercer

Let’s start with Transcend Mercer. After the location on Jasper Avenue closed, I wasn’t sure if or when Transcend would be back downtown. It was pretty clear that if they did return, it would be at a smaller, more manageable location. While the new cafe in the basement of the building is smaller, it’s bigger than I was expecting! I’m not sure why but I envisioned something with either limited or no seating, but there’s actually lots of room to hang out at Transcend Mercer.

Transcend Mercer

I went for my usual – a vanilla latte – and looked around the cafe. There’s only one window, but the space is surprisingly bright, and I love the wood beams and ceiling. I understand they will be adding artwork around the room, so that’ll add even more color and visual interest. Speaking of color, the green counter, black wall, and brown accents definitely give you a “coffee” feeling!

I’m sure the new cafe will be frequented by everyone in the building, and it’s great to have another coffee shop on 104 Street. I’m also happy to once again be able to buy Transcend beans throughout the week! For more on Transcend Mercer, check out Cindy’s review here!

Credo Coffee on 124 Street

Credo Coffee on 124 Street

As you may know, Credo Coffee on 104 Street is my usual spot. It’s extremely close to home, has great coffee, and has wonderful service. The only downside is that because Credo is so popular, it can sometimes be difficult to find a seat. The new location on 124 Street is quite a bit bigger though, so hopefully that won’t be such an issue there!

Credo Coffee on 124 Street

The new cafe is located at 10350 124 Street in the new Limelight building (which is just down the block from Remedy Cafe). It can be a little difficult to see, given that there are no signs on the building except for a vinyl banner where Credo is located. They are the first tenant in the building, so I hope better signage is coming.

Credo Coffee on 124 Street

Inside is open and roomy, with lots of seating and also lots of bar space. Though Credo’s space is mostly below street level, there are lots of windows which means lots of natural light. Oddly there are a lot of power outlets up high (I guess for Christmas lights?) so you might need a long cord if you’re going to plug in a laptop (maybe they can add some outlets lower to the floor).

My favorite vanilla latte was as delicious as ever, and it didn’t take long to feel right at home. I know I won’t make it to this location as often as 104 Street, but it’s great to see another fantastic addition to 124 Street.

Burrow Central Station

Burrow Central Station

A coffee shop in an LRT station? Finally Edmonton’s cafe scene has gone underground! Burrow Central Station (part of the growing Elm Cafe family) is the perfect addition to our growing and increasingly popular transit system, and I hope it’s a sign of things to come. Again my expectations were exceeded – I anticipated finding Burrow tucked away behind one of the walls, but instead found it centrally located in the concourse. You can’t miss it, and now that it is there, I simply can’t remember what it looked like before. Burrow looks like it belongs, like it should have always been there.

Burrow Central Station

Burrow uses Four Barrel Coffee from San Francisco, which I had not tried before. I decided to stick with the usual on my first visit (ok, ok, and also my second and third visits) and ordered a vanilla latte. I was pleasantly surprised to see they make it with real vanilla bean instead of syrup! I will have to go try a simple brewed coffee one of these days. They have a rotating lunch menu with a grilled cheese sandwich too, also on my list to try.

There is no seating in the LRT concourse, but for grab and go it’s hard to beat Burrow. My office is right above in the Empire Building, so I foresee many, many visits in my future! Again, check out Cindy’s review here.

Have you been to these three new cafes? What did you think? If not, raise a paper cup as Omar says, and go check them out!

My coffee consumption went up in 2013

In 2012 I started tracking how many lattes I was drinking (among other things). At the end of the year, I posted the results. As mentioned in that post, I drink at least a mug of black coffee every morning (usually more like two) so I don’t bother tracking that. I still don’t, but I have kept track of my latte consumption for 2013!

Credo Coffee Vanilla Latte

I drank 158 lattes in 2013, up from 120 in 2012. That’s an average of just over 3 lattes per week. I did my best to record diligently and while I’m sure I missed a few, that’s probably fairly accurate. For simplicity, I tracked iced lattes and frappuccino’s as lattes too.

Here are my top ten lattes by number consumed:

  1. Credo Vanilla Latte (45)
  2. Starbucks Caramel Macchiato (22)
  3. Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte (15)
  4. Roast Vanilla Latte (11)
  5. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (8)
  6. Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino (7)
  7. Second Cup Caramel Corretto (5)
  8. Starbucks Eggnog Latte (5)
  9. Credo Iced Vanilla Latte (4)
  10. Transcend Vanilla Latte (3)

I spread things about a bit more in 2013 with 36 different drinks versus 29 in 2012. Here’s a look at my consumption over the year:

lattes by month

And here’s a look at which days of the week I was most likely to indulge on:

lattes by month

I also started tracking how much tea I drank in 2013 (though not by brand). If I drink tea, it’s almost always in the evening. In 2013, I did that about 126 times. Here’s the breakdown of type:

lattes by month

Last year I wrote that many of my lattes represented “an opportunity to sit down and chat with someone”. Based on my records, about half of those lattes were likely consumed in the company of someone else. Maybe one of my 2014 lattes will be with you?

I probably drank too much coffee in 2012

I drink a lot of coffee. I start my day with a mug or two of freshly ground and brewed coffee, usually black. A couple times a week and especially in the winter, I’ll also have a Starbucks Via in the evening, though I have been trying to drink more tea instead. On top of all that, I drink a lot of lattes. I generally don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I do like to try new things each year. For 2012, I decided I would dive further into the world of self-tracking. Using the free and wonderful DAYTUM, I tracked each latte I drank throughout the year. Here’s what that data looks like.

Credo Coffee
Credo Coffee on 4th Street Promenade

In total, I drank 120 lattes in 2012. I did my best to record diligently and while I’m sure I missed a few, that’s probably fairly accurate. That’s an average of 2.3 lattes per week. If I had purchased each one myself at an average of $5 (thankfully I didn’t, others often buy me coffee) that would be $600 over the year.

Here are my top ten lattes by number consumed:

  1. Credo Vanilla Latte (46)
  2. Starbucks Caramel Macchiato (12)
  3. Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte (10)
  4. Starbucks Eggnog Latte (7)
  5. Credo Iced Vanilla Latte (5)
  6. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (5)
  7. Roast Vanilla Latte (4)
  8. Transcend Vanilla Latte (4)
  9. Latte (3)
  10. Second Cup Caramel Corretto (3)

Plot everything on a graph, and you get a long tail:

The other thing I can do with the data is look at my consumption over the year:

And I can see which days of the week I was most likely to indulge on:

I plan to keep tracking this data throughout 2013, so it’ll be interesting to compare at this time next year.

Transcend Coffee
My first latte of 2013!

Though it seems like a lot of lattes, I’m not sure I necessarily want to cut back. Many of those lattes represent an opportunity to sit down and chat with someone, and that’s something I am not ready to give up!

Passionate about coffee in Edmonton: Transcend

transcend coffee I’ll admit it – I like having my cup or two of coffee in the morning. I especially like Starbucks (the brand perhaps more so than the coffee itself), and I do my best to visit one in each new city that I travel to. I enjoy coffee, and some might say I’m passionate about it. But I’ve got nothing on the guys at Transcend Coffee! They really are passionate about all things coffee.

On Friday night, Sharon and I finally made it over to Transcend for one of their monthly coffee tastings. I say finally because we were registered to go in May, but had to reschedule. I think everyone has heard of a wine tasting before, but I had never heard of a coffee tasting until Sharon asked me to go. Turns out there’s a special name for such events – a coffee tasting is also known as a cupping. The New York Times wrote about the trend recently.

CuppingWe were the second couple to arrive, and were immediately offered wine and cheese. Turns out the founder, Poul Mark, is also fond of wine! Assisting him for the evening was Transcend’s Chief of Culture, Andrew Legg.

Once everyone arrived, Poul welcomed us with a brief introduction and then we filed into the back for the first event – a profile roast and tasting. As you can see to the left, they roasted beans six different ways – light to dark. They made sure to point out that the darkest roast is still far lighter than anything you’d get at Starbucks. After steeping the grounds, we were invited to slurp a spoonful of each cup, to compare the light to the dark. I was surprised to find that you could really taste the difference! I liked the darker ones. We learned the correct etiquette for cupping: take your slurp, but hold your comments until everyone is done.

Next we moved on to the roaster. Poul got it working, explaining everything as he went along. He told us that Transcend roasts about 13 pounds of coffee per day. While we waited for the beans to roast, Andrew explained the various coffee regions of the world on the big map. In addition to being incredibly knowledgeable, Andrew is extremely personable – it was immediately clear to me why he’s the Chief of Culture and spends his time talking with customers.

The final part of the evening was a world coffee tasting. Each cup was made in the Clover, and instead of using coffee mugs we had our samples in wine tumblers. As we drank we talked. The group kept peppering Poul and Andrew with questions, and they always had answers! After tasting three or four different coffees, we each received a half pound of our choice.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the coffee tasting, but I ended up really enjoying it! As with anything, if you’re surrounded by people who are passionate about something, their passion and enthusiasm is going to wear off on you.

I think Transcend does a great job of sharing their passion, both offline and online. They host the coffee tastings obviously, and they travel abroad too, both to industry events and to “the source” – the places where the beans are grown and picked. They are also quite active on the web, with an attractive and up-to-date website, a regularly updated blog, an email newsletter, and a Flickr account for photos. I’ll have to try and get them to join Twitter!

My photos from the evening are here. Coffee tastings at Transcend are $25 per person, or $45 per couple – you can find more information here.

Happy Earth Day!

globeDid you know there are actually two Earth Days? I didn’t (or else I forgot) but as usual, Wikipedia has the answers. Evidently the March equinox (around March 20th) is also called Earth Day, though I think today is the more popular and commonly celebrated day.

Earth Day is a name used for two different observances, both held annually during spring in the northern hemisphere, and autumn in the southern hemisphere. These are intended to inspire awareness of and appreciation for the Earth’s environment. The United Nations celebrates Earth Day, which was founded by John McConnell in 1969, each year on the March equinox, while a global observance originated by Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in, and since January 1970 also called Earth Day, is celebrated in many countries each year on April 22, including the U.S.

Like most of these events lately, companies are not shy to take advantage of them for marketing purposes. Starbucks has historically celebrated Earth Day by offering free drip coffee to customers with personal cups, but not this year:

On April 22, Earth Day, Starbucks will donate five cents to Conservation International (CI) for every purchase made that day with a Starbucks Card at any Starbucks store in the U.S. and Canada.

Why couldn’t they just abolish splash sticks, balance print-outs for Starbucks card holders, and other environment unfriendly practices? I guess that would be too easy.

The official site of the March Earth Day is here, and Canada’s Earth Day site is here.

And hey, what better way to celebrate than by venturing out into our fourth day of blizzard-like conditions!

Does Starbucks really offer 87,000 drink combinations?

starbucks I’ve written in the past about Starbucks and how it claims to offer 87,000 different drink combinations. I haven’t ever questioned that number though, and in retrospect I really should have. Fortunately, the Wall Street Journal’s Numbers Guy did question it:

Over the following weeks, I placed several phone calls and sent several emails, but didn’t get an explanation for the calculation. Nor could the company tell me who did the math. “It’s something a statistician put together, based on our menu board,” Starbucks spokeswoman Lisa Passe told me. “If you take all of our core beverages, multiply them by the modifiers and the customization options, you get more than 87,000 combinations.” She said a spreadsheet contained the relevant calculation, but added, “it’s not something we’ve ever circulated.”

Turns out he never did get a straight answer. The math isn’t simple. You’d have to know all of the various syrups, sizes, milk options, cream options, etc. You’d have to know all of the drinks and bean types, and you’d have to keep up with menu changes. I’m not surprised that no one seems to know the true answer. It would be nice if Starbucks could justify their marketing somehow, though.

I guess at the end of the day it doesn’t matter much. Even if it’s closer to 8700 than 87,000 the simple fact remains, there’s no shortage of choice at Starbucks.

Read: The Numbers Guy

Starbucks: All Your Clover Are Belong To Us

starbucks Their stock has been slumping for over a year now, and Howard Schultz has had enough. He recently took back the CEO position at Starbucks, and pledged to make changes that would bring about the return of the Starbucks experience. Yesterday at the company’s annual shareholders meeting, he delivered:

“Eleven weeks ago, I made a personal commitment to every one of our customers and partners (employees) to reaffirm our place as the world’s coffee authority,” said Schultz. “By embracing our heritage, returning to our core — all things coffee — and our relentless commitment to innovation, we will reignite the emotional connection we have with our customers and transform the Starbucks Experience.”

Here’s what they announced:

  • Starbucks has purchased The Coffee Equipment Company, who makes the Clover machine. Some stores in Seattle and Boston already use the Clover. This acquisition means the Clover is coming to a coffee shop near you!
  • A new “everyday” blend of drip coffee called Pike Place Roast. Currently, the drip coffee available rotates.
  • Another new espresso machine, called the Mastrena. The existing Verisimo machines are also getting upgraded in the U.S. and Canada.
  • An online community:
  • Rewards for Starbucks Card holders! Starting in April, card holders in the U.S. and Canada will receive complimentary customization on syrups and milk, free refills on brewed coffee during the same visit, a complimentary Tall beverage when you buy a pound of coffee, and two hours per day of free Wi-Fi.

Of course, the free Wi-Fi initiative was actually announced last month. I checked out the new community, and it seems like an attempt to offer a company-sanctioned outlet for discussion that already happens at places like the Starbucks Gossip blog. The rewards program is somewhat disappointing, but it’s only the first phase apparently.

I am looking forward to the new drip blend, and the Clover! Here’s what the co-founder of Coffee Equipment Co. had to say:

Having his company bought by Starbucks Corp. wasn’t his initial plan, but it became “a dream come true” for Zander Nosler, who co-founded Ballard’s The Coffee Equipment Co. in May 2004.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Nosler, 36. “There will be amazing opportunities, amazing resources to turn up the heat on making some new products and doing R&D.”

Apparently the acquisition announcement pleased shareholders more than anything else. I can’t say I’m surprised! I wonder how all the little independent coffee shops that used the Clover as a point of differentiation are taking the news.

Time will tell if these announcements actually do “transform the Starbucks Experience,” but I think the Clover purchase was really smart regardless.

Read: Yahoo! Finance, Seattle Times

PS. If the title of this post doesn’t make sense to you, read this article at Wikipedia.

Starbucks to offer free Wi-Fi at most U.S. locations

starbucks It’s announcements like this one that make me wish I lived south of the border. Beginning this spring, Starbucks and AT&T will offer free and paid wireless access at “many” locations around the United States:

Starbucks said Monday it will give customers that use its Starbucks purchase card two hours of free wireless access per day. After that, it will cost $3.99 for a two-hour session. Monthly memberships will cost $19.99 and include access to any of AT&T’s 70,000 hot spots worldwide.

How freaking sweet is that?! Two free hours if you use a Starbucks card. Starbucks Gossip confirmed with PR that they mean the gift card kind, not the Duetto, which is even better! And if you work at Starbucks, you get unlimited free access:

As an added benefit for the more than 100,000 Starbucks partners in the U.S., all Starbucks partners will receive free AT&T Wi-Fi accounts allowing them to use the network in Starbucks company-operated locations offering Wi-Fi access.

Today’s news ends a six-year deal that Starbucks had with AT&T rival T-Mobile. There’s more on the story at Techmeme.

Please Starbucks, bring this to Canada! I would absolutely love to drop in to Starbucks, turn on my iPod touch, and check out the headlines (or Twitter/Facebook mobile heh).

Please? Pretty please?

Read: The Associated Press


Post Image I love McDonald’s. Have ever since I was a kid. If I have to choose between McDonald’s and another fast food joint, I’ll choose McDonald’s almost every time. I don’t go there because the food is healthy, and I don’t go there because the environment is relaxing and enjoyable. I go there because the food is inexpensive, convenient, and consistent. I love the double cheeseburger, and it never lets me down. Oh and the fries, you simply can’t go wrong with McDonald’s fries!

I also love Starbucks. Not since I was a kid mind you, but I can still remember the first time my parents took me there. I had a Caramel Macchiato, and fell in love with both the drink and the place. These days I have a grande drip coffee every morning, though I still enjoy the Macchiato and other “signature” beverages from time to time (probably more often than I should). Like McDonald’s, Starbucks is convenient and consistent, but it also offers a wonderful experience.

McDonald’s is the largest restaurant chain in the world, with well over 30,000 locations scattered across the globe. In his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, New York Times columnist Thomas L. Freidman noted that “no two countries that both had a McDonald’s had fought a war against each other, since each got its McDonald’s.” (there are two exceptions to this). To me this says two things. First, the rise of McDonald’s is fairly recent. Second, it’s everywhere, and it seems impossible for another chain to become as pervasive.

Starbucks likes to tackle problems that seem impossible, such as selling $4 lattes and running two successful stores across the street from one another. As Taylor Clark notes in his book Starbucked, the only company that has a realistic shot at surpassing the presence of McDonald’s is Starbucks. Currently there are over 15,000 locations worldwide, more than half of which are owned entirely by the company (McDonald’s outlets on the other hand are franchised). That’s not bad considering that McDonald’s had a 30-year head start!

Why am I writing about these two companies? Well each is fascinating on its own, but put them together in a global battle for food and beverage supremacy, and you’ve got something that’s especially interesting! And that is what appears to be happening:

McDonald’s Corp’s plan to expand the beverage lineup at its U.S. restaurants with cappuccinos, lattes and other drinks is expected to add $1 billion to annual sales…

McDonald’s has even added a “barista” position in its restaurants and dedicated a section of counter space to the automated espresso machines so customers can see the drinks being made, spokeswoman Danya Proud said.

It was last year that Starbucks decided they would start offering food in addition to coffee. None of the outlets I regularly visit offer breakfast, despite the company making a big push back in July (perhaps that was mostly in the US).

So are the two on a collision course? I don’t think so. I pretty much agree with this Time piece. Even though the clientele at Starbucks is diversifying, it’s hard to envision one company stealing customers from the other, at least not in great numbers. Besides, you’d think the two would cancel out – McDonald’s gains a few new coffee customers, Starbucks gains a few new food customers. Check out this Economist article for more.

For me at least, there is very little overlap between the two (as I tried to point out in the first two paragraphs above). I don’t visit McDonald’s at the expense of Starbucks, nor do I visit Starbucks at the expense of McDonald’s. And even if their respective menus started looking more alike, I can’t imagine that it would change anything for me.

That said, it’s an interesting battle that will be fun to watch over the next few years!