Transcend Coffee's ambassadors make several international trips each year in their search for green coffee farms. They meet with small-scale, eco-friendly growers to tour their crops and microbrewing mills, focusing on building long-term relationships with those who are passionate about coffee. They then buy directly from the farmers, shipping beans back across oceans to Transcend Coffee's central roastery and three cafés scattered across Edmonton. Here, they roast and brew specialty artisan coffees, educate their visitors on the background of each batch, and illustrate the brewing process through interpretive dance.
Using ever-evolving methods, the brewers adopt a trial-and-error approach to defining each coffee's definitive flavour profile. Two licensed Q coffee graders often smell and taste each batch of coffee, and they sort coffees based on rigid quality standards, looking for underdeveloped roasted beans known as “quakers” or “the stupid lighter ones.”
The cafes boast shelves of roasted coffees such as bwayi from Burundi, michioy from Guatemala, and certified organic beans from Santa Lucia. In the store, staffers also point out the highlights of automatic drip brewers, manual brewers, and bean grinders from manufacturers such as Baratza, Bonavita, and Technivorm.
Serving the Edmonton area for over thirty years, Caffè Sorrentino crafts elegant espresso extractions paired with a menu of signature pastas, panini, soups, salads, and gelato. Sate surly morning stomachs with a grilled multigrain panino with egg, spinach, and feta ($5.50), or punt along on a gourmet gondola with their veneto panini ($8.75) with turkey breast, brie, and cranberry mayo. Sorrentino also frames up daily soups and salads, like the chickpea and spinach ($5.95), as well as homemade cannelloni ($6.95 for one, $11.95 for two) and dense, earthquake-resistant plates of lasagna ($9.95). The java jousters at Sorrentino also serve up piping delicate distillations of espresso ($1.85), macchiatos ($2.65) or caramello lattes ($3.75 single, $4.45 double), ideal bait for catching postgraduate, Proust-scholar mice.
A bakery outlet for Canada Bread Company Limited, McGavin's offers rows of loaves at wholesale prices. Fill bare cupboards or secret floorboard compartments with discount bread facing a dwindling shelf life, surplus bread from overzealous production lines, and fresh bread from local bakeries. McGavin's white or 100 per cent whole-wheat loaves (five loaves for $10.49) prove eminently slatherable. Other yeasty feasts include Dempster's Bagel six packs (three packs for $8.99), english muffin six packs (three packages for $6.99), and tortillas (three packages for $8.25). The popular discount special section, meanwhile, invites gluten gourmands to mix and match an ever-changing cast of short-dated dough bookends: every product, regardless of size, grain, or resemblance to Winston Churchill costs $1.39, and shoppers can mix and match an assortment of ten loaves for $12. Discount selections change daily and vary by location.
At Cha Island Tea Co., it's not unusual to see short-sleeved musicians strumming acoustic guitars amid bongos and palm trees. Though this scene might seem out of place in the middle of an Edmonton winter, it's all part of the shop's year-round tropical atmosphere. Baristas keep shelves stocked with more than 100 loose-leaf and herbal teas, which they serve in bulk or by the press pot alongside french press coffee. They also pour local and international craft beers, which pair with a range of freshly assembled panini, soups, and sweet waffles topped with chocolate, bananas, or ginger. The small corner stage welcomes local and out-of-town acts ranging from hip-hop DJs to folk and Caribbean musicians.
Early Bird Cafe's chefs rouse appetites with an expansive menu of classic eats that spans breakfast, lunch, dinner, and forgotten sleepwalking stop-ins. They quickly whip up hearty omelettes, meaty gourmet burgers, and sweet waffles to sate breakfast and lunch cravings every day, and burn the post-noon oil to satisfy the dinner crowd with juicy steaks and baked Italian classics.
Steeps the Urban Tea House warms and refreshes its visitors with more than 100 loose-leaf tea brews hailing from a range of countries and crop altitudes. With a five-pot punch card, patrons garner any small-size pot bearing the pre-steeped tea of their choice. Guests can also hand-pick an eclectic teacup to protect sippables such as Estate Bukhial or organic English breakfast black teas from roving philosophers and double-agent biscuits. Green genmaicha, organic ceremonial matcha, and white leopard snow buds teas fan their leaves in a synchronized swim; cinnamon-fire and lemongrass-zinger herb blends playfully prod taste buds. While ensconced in the teahouse's modern interior, customers may also sip a sweeter array of fruit teas such as kiwi-strawberry and banana smoothie and take advantage of the teahouse's free WiFi. Though not included in this deal, Steeps also boasts loose tea accessories such as cups, strainers, and bait for hunting wild rooibos leaves.