Coffee Culture in Ottawa

It's been a long time coming, but the coffee culture in our beloved - albeit conservative - city has hit the streets...and is getting some play in the media! In an article published by the Ottawa Citizen, esteemed food critic Laura Robin writes about the city's blooming appreciation for high quality coffee and the establishments that serve it. Clearly, the scene is changing - and for those of us who have long enjoyed a better cup of coffee (not to mention the story behind it!), it is a welcome and anticipated change in our home town.

Since 1998 when Equator Coffee Roasters first started offering freshly roasted, fairly traded, organic certified coffee, we've watched - and nudged! - the market change and grow in Ottawa. At the time, the concept of enjoying coffee for more than just a caffeine fix - a concept that until then, was foreign to the North American market - was making its way into and across cities all over the continent.

The good people of Arnprior and wider Ottawa Valley area were fertile testing grounds for Equator's venture into the specialty coffee world. Eighteen years later, we're still standing on the same pillars of freshness, quality, and social justice that launched us onto the scene - granted, at a different scale and with a few more notches on our belt!

Ottawa has come a long way in its love for coffee. New, independent cafes are popping up in and around town, customers are asking about single origins and lighter roast styles, new boutique hotels and restaurants are investing in high performing espresso machines, and everyone wants to order a "flat white". It's a fun time to work in coffee. And though there's still a long way to go, we're finally feeling the low-price, low-quality market that dominated cities like Ottawa for decades, relent and accept the benefits of better coffee.

Our goal from the start was to provide a better cup of coffee: better trade for the producer, better quality for the consumer, better experience for everyone involved. It hasn't been without its challenges over the course of the years! The market is always evolving and requiring adaptation...or forcing extinction. Understanding where that market is and what people's appetite is for a product - and a price! - that is different from what they know, has been a continual learning curve. We've realized that our role is not only to provide a consistent and reliable product but to help to educate about and invite customers in to a deeper appreciation for that product and what it's gone through to get to their cup.

To see the enthusiasm swell among customers at our cafes, across partners who are selling our coffee, and throughout the city in general is gratifying and exciting. Where will it go? We can only hope to see some of the innovation and creativity that so many cities to the west and south of us are experiencing. But if the Latte Art Throwdown at Art Is In Bakery in March was any indication, the popularity and love for coffee culture in Ottawa is far from waning.