Calgary’s growing café culture isn’t just about great coffee, although we do boast an impressive concentration of excellent local roasters. It’s about fostering warmth and community, sparking creativity, and contributing to the cultural climate of the city. Whether you’re looking for a bohemian buzz or a sophisticated sip, here are our picks for a superior YYC café experience.
Inspired by the long-standing tradition of the café as a gathering place for artists, revolutionaries, and of course, philosophers, owner Tahir Khan launched Philosáfy Coffee in 2016. Located on Calgary’s 17th Avenue strip, the space is a thinker’s dream, with an honour-system library tucked into the corner, an ever-changing gallery of local art adorning the walls, and a stylized, gold-wrought illustration of Socrates himself peering up at you from every cup. Order the Socrates Espresso, Philosáfy’s signature multi-origin blend with notes of toasted almond, caramelized pear, and milk chocolate. 632 17 Avenue Southwest.
Societé Coffee Lounge
Societé founders Huy Kha and Scott Neate didn’t always pull espresso for a living. They met while working in the oil industry, and when the 2016 recession hit, they jumped at the opportunity to share their mutual passion for good coffee with the whole city. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” says Kha. “My love of coffee was born years ago, when I visited Paris. I loved the coffee culture there, the joy of just sitting in a café and sipping a cappuccino.” The space is cozy, dark, and intimate, and you can certainly feel the Parisian influence in the air. Societé carries Canadian-roasted Pilot coffee, and features a different roaster every month. 1223 11 Avenue Southwest.
Community is the driving force behind Kensington’s Vintage Caffeine. They’ve got everything from frequent open mic nights to a series of classes called Behind the Bar, where visitors can learn to properly extract espresso and pour their own latte art. Although the space is small, it feels airy, bright, and alive. The long communal table encourages conversation between neighbours, but if you’re feeling shy, there are still a few individual tables to tuck yourself into. True to their neighbourly reputation, Vintage Caffeine brews locally roasted Phil & Sebastian coffee. Go for the Americano, or for the extra comfort of the Vintage latte. 101 19 Street Northwest.
Founded by a team of national award-winning baristas, Monogram began as a pop-up in 2014, and now has two modern, stylish cafés (Altadore and Fifth Avenue Place), and a third recently opened in Britannia. Jeremy Ho, one of Monogram’s founders, shares how Monogram keeps it fresh. “Our menu is meant to celebrate the incredible complexities of flavour found in coffee, but also to showcase them in creative ways. We have filter coffees brewed by the cup, or kegged and on-tap, that are fresh-harvest and always rotating. We also have a seasonal drinks menu with ingredients made in-house that changes every few months.” Monogram began sourcing and roasting their own beans in 2017. Various locations, see here.
Caffe Beano is one of those Calgary staples that’s been around for as long as most locals remember. Since 1990, it’s been the go-to hub for creatives and hipsters, and you’re sure to come away inspired after an afternoon spent among the cool kids. While Beano is often crowded (despite the extensive seating indoors and out), the atmosphere is unique, exciting, and eclectic, and has the feel of a casual community centre. Everyone knows everyone else, and if you don’t, you will soon. It’s also eco-friendly: Beano is LEAF certified and a member of REAP Calgary. The coffee, roasted specifically for Caffe Beano, is great, but you’ve got to try the legendary espresso milkshake, too. 1613 9th Street Southwest.
For more great coffee shops across Canada, click here.
To discover more Canadian coffee roasters, click here.
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