My 5 Favourite Coffee Shops For… #YEGCoffee

Coffee is like an definition – it’s something different for everyone. There are many reasons to grab (a) coffee, even if it isn’t for the coffee itself.

  • First date – perfect place for a simple, non-committal meeting to get to know someone from 30 minutes to 3 hours.
  • Temporary workspace – need a break from the office? Don’t want to trek across town to get back to your office? Find a close coffee shop and you’re good to go.
  • Meeting someone – for business or for pleasure, the energy most coffee shops have can be a great setting to catch up with a friend.
  • Clear your head – even sans-coffee, I find it exceptionally therapeutic to sit and watch people flow past as I reflect on my good/bad life choices. This is my preferred method of meditation.
  • Health benefits – with a growing body of science, coffee has become more than just a hipster pastime. These days there is little argument around the benefits it presents.

As a noob coffee drinker, I have grown an affinity for the convenience a coffee shop can offer, whether it be for a date or a place to work for an hour or two. So, what is #YEGCoffee to you?

This post is about the best of #YEGCoffee, in my humble, mostly uneducated opinion. First though, a caveat: I have never been a coffee drinker, so asking me about a good cup of coffee is like asking an infant about their thoughts on Trump – I know enough to avoid Tim Horton’s, but I probably can’t tell you why. What I do know is people who love coffee, so I’m pretty sure I know which spots are notable for the cup they brew. Also, I live/work in the core of the city, so most of my suggestions are around Downtown/Whyte Ave. Did I miss something? Feel free to comment below with your favorite spot that I might have missed.

From what I can tell, most people love a coffee shop for one of the following reasons:

  • Because, they brew great coffee, duh
  • Great for studying/reading
  • Cozy spot for a low-key first date
  • Perfect for friends to catch up or informal business meetings
  • Best place for a snack

In that light, I will list my favorite spots with those in mind. I’ll also avoid franchises or chains, unless they are hyper-local, unique, or offer something in a location that makes it stand out.

To start, this is my list in Google Maps. It has all the coffee shops I’m aware of and like. It’s handy, because when I want to find a coffee shop fast, I can just look in the Google Maps app and BOOM.

Have a spot that you think should be added? Hit me up! I’m always keen to visit new spots. You’ll also find my top 5 picks for each of the categories listed above. Honestly though, any of these options are great spots.

white ceramic mug filled with coffee
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Best cup of coffee

Criteria: Taste, consistency, level of condescendence displayed by baristas (I jest).

  • Transcend – No list is complete without Transcend. From what little I know, it appears they brought really good coffee to Edmonton. They have 2 locations, one on the south end of the High Level Bridge, and a new location in Ritchie Market.
  • District/Little Brick – A little newer to the scene, these two (both run by the same people) deserve a place on the list not just for the cup they brew, but for what they put into the community, often without any expectation of recognition.
  • Lock Stock – Who says size matters (Venti anyone?!?)? Located between Red Star and The Bower in the heart of downtown, this little shop is only open during he day, but has a vibe that’s almost as great as their coffee.
  • Credo – Another long time shop, they have been defining great coffee for the downtown core since forever. They have one, two, three locations now in the downtown area.
  • Ace Coffee Roasters – In a quiet corner of Old Strathcona (actually West Ritchie, I believe), this is a new, beautiful shop just a block off Whyte Avenue.
white ceramic mug beside book
Photo by dimas anggara on Unsplash

Best spot for reading and working

Criteria: Amount of seating, spots for solo working, type of seating (arm chairs, etc), ambient noise.

  • Block 1912 – This place is a classic. To be frank, I became a fan when a friend and his family owned it, but when it changed hands, nothing substantially changed, keeping every bit of it’s charm,
  • Remedy – With 4 quirky locations, their original spot on 109th Street is still my favourite. Their other locations include 124th Street, Whyte Avenue, and Jasper Avenue and all have a great feel with lots of seating to get some work done. Whyte Ave and their 109th Street location have the best seating if you’re looking for a cozy corner to curl up in.
  • Little Brick – This old brick house is one of first buildings built in Riverdale. The coffee shop spreads through all the rooms in the old farmhouse, and includes a vast patio and lawn if you’re wanting to sit outside during one of our gorgeous but sparse summer days. You can’t really find anything else like this in the city.
  • The Woodrack – Generally a bit quieter than most Whyte Ave coffee shops, this is a great place to go to hunker down with a book or your laptop.
  • Good Earth Coffeehouse – Another spot with varied seating, you can curl up on a couch or sit at a hightop table. Situated next to the hospital and the U of A, it can get quite busy at lunch, but still offers a great place to focus on some reading or work.

Best spot for a first date

Criteria: Generally a bit quieter so your conversion doesn’t have to compete, but enough noise that the whole place isn’t eavesdropping on your awkwardness, good seating options for one-on-one conversations.

  • Transcend – The Garneau location is ideal – small and generally more quiet. The Ritchie Market location is alright as well, but is often louder and the hightop tables and hustle and bustle can be a bit distracting if you want something a little more intimate.
  • Remedy – All locations have a great energy, but if you want some space to sit one on one to chat and get to know each other, The Whyte Ave and 109th Street locations have a better chance at offering that.
  • The Woodrack – This cozy location is almost always more quiet and intimate than the average coffee shop.
  • The Nook – While not necessarily the quietest spot, there is a lot of room here to sit and chat. The open windows make it an unassuming space to relax and meet someone new.
  • Little Brick – With more space to spread out, this is a great place to bring a date. Level up your experience in the summer by bringing a blanket and sitting out on the grass.

Best spot for a meeting

Criteria: tables to accommodate groups, good energy and volume of ambiance, busy or big enough that your group doesn’t stick out of the crowd.

  • The Nook – On the east edge of downtown, this coffee shop is blazing the trail, making east downtown cooler by the day. There are lots of tables around to join up, making space for your group.
  • Remedy – All of their locations can support a large group, but the 109th Street, 124th Street, and Whyte Avenue locations are the biggest and have large working tables available for reservation. Their Jasper Avenue location is a little smaller, but easy enough for a small group to commandeer a table or two for a group project.
  • Little Brick – With a few separate rooms, they can accommodate a group easily and allow large tables to be reserved in advance. If it’s summertime, their large deck and picnic tables are also a great option.
  • The Moth – A great little cafe, they are also making the east side of downtown a great place to hang out. With large tables, they can accommodate groups, especially with some advanced notice.
  • Iconoclast – With ample communal tables, finding room here for your group is a cinch.
dessert with strawberry
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Best place for a snack

Criteria: variety of menu, quality of food, gluten free options.

  • Ohana Donuterie – While this is less of a coffee shop than it is a purveyor of fine donuts, what donut shop worth it’s salt doesn’t have a crazy good cup of coffee to go with them? You can’t go wrong with the combo of an artesian donut and coffee. They also have stellar gluten free options and to an great job of managing the chances of cross contamination.
  • District/Little Brick – Both of these spots have great little menus with ample options from a light snack to something more filling. Come back often to see what’s new on the menu. Some options are gluten free, but it seems that they are a bit more limited than other options.
  • The Moth (vegan) – For those who prefer the greener side of the farmyard, The Moth has a diverse menu that includes many gluten free options. It’s as tasty as any of the others on this list, so for something light or more of an entrĂ©e, this spot is perfect for those looking to eat more plants.
  • Block 1912 – From a meal to dessert, Block 1912 has been a pillar on Whyte Ave for years. Their dessert bar is one of the best in the city and includes a vast gellato bar. They do have gluten free options, but I can’t speak to their cross contamination protocol, so be sure to ask if that is important to you.
  • Duchess Bake Shop – While Duchess makes a solid selection of coffee, it takes a back seat as their baked goods are second to none. With a few gluten free items, everything is baked in house by someone who clearly knows what they are doing. Whether you love him or hate him, Duchess is rumored to be on Justin Trudeau’s list of favourite places to snack in Canada.
  • Remedy – There is a reason this name is on almost every list. Their extensive menu spans far beyond coffee. With a smattering of menu items from across asia, they also have many gluten free options including cakes and desserts (made and packaged individually out of house to ensure no cross contamination). Menu items made in house may not be free from cross contamination. All options are available at all 4 locations – 109th Street, 124th Street, Jasper Avenue, and Whyte Avenue.

Best place that roasts their own coffee

Criteria: they roast coffee, they roast good coffee, they have a selection of bags of coffee ready for purchase.

  • Transcend – These guys have been at it for a while. It’s a great place to start if you are just venturing into the local coffee roasting scene.
  • Ace Coffee Roasters – In a quiet corner of Old Strathcona (actually West Ritchie, I believe), this is a new, beautiful shop just a block off Whyte Avenue.
  • The Columbian – Just west of Downtown, this Glenora staple can be found right next door to Vi’s for Pies. It’s noteworthy to add that they don’t do dark roasts (at the time of this writing), light and medium are their specialty.
  • Rogue Wave – Just north of Downtown, you can watch them work as you sip and relax.
  • Roasti Coffee – So this is one that I broke the rules on. Technically they are in Sherwood Park, but their coffee is superb, and deserves to be mentioned in this list. They also offer delivery, so if convenience is your jam, then you should give their beans a shot.

A few side notes…

Working in coffee shops is certainly a great solution, but remember that these places have rent to pay and employees to support. When taking up a seat in a coffee shop, make sure to support them by purchasing something. Even if you don’t order a coffee, there are many options you have to support their existence. Think of it as paying rent, only the rent is tiny and your landlord spoils you with something delicious.

Don’t drink coffee? Pretty much every shop has an alternative. Hot Chocolate, herbal teas, juice, etc, they have something for everyone. Don’t think that coffee shops are just for coffee.

Concerned about sugar consumption? There are always good options aside from sugar substitutes. Try one of many teas, or order a latte or flat white. Cream and milk can tame the harsh taste of coffee if it’s something you’re not super jazzed about…yet. I’m still on my path to learning to enjoy black coffee. Baby steps.

What did I miss?

This is an ever changing city, so I have tons yet to explore. If you know of a spot that is not on my list, show them some love and let me know!

Featured Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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