Every now and then a café comes along that has a story so unique that it causes you to take notice. A few years ago just after I moved to Calgary I got word of a coffee shop that was operating out of an old storage closet! No joke, it was 25 square-feet! Just enough space for the espresso machine, a grinder, and a few baked goods!
But it wasn’t just the space (or lack thereof) that peeked my curiosity but also the passionate barista who ran the whole show! Kaffeeklatsch has since moved from its humble beginnings to a larger spot, but Jessica McCarrel has been the face of Kaffeeklatsch since day one and recently I had the chance to sit down with her to learn a little more her story to share with you!
Q: So tell me a little bit about yourself. Has Calgary always been home?
I was born in Toronto, Ontario. I grew up in Mississauga and moved to Calgary in March of 1996. I’ve been in Calgary for 22 years. My educational background is in visual art and I managed a variety of non-profit art spaces before starting Kaffeeklatsch.
Q: What’s the story behind the name “KaffeeKlatsch”?
A Kaffeeklatsch is a meeting between friends to exchange gossip over coffee. It is made up of the words Kaffee (coffee) + Klatsch (gossip/noise). The word allegedly originated around the 1900’s when German women would gather to drink coffee, eat cake and chat. I took inspiration from this German word and created a company with the idea that with each coffee came an invitation to chat.
Q: What made you decide to venture into opening up a café? Tell us the story behind that. What are some of the challenges? What are some of the best parts?
The intent was to serve notable coffee in unique and unexpected places to facilitate social connections. To me the project was a kind of food based art project although I never talked about it as one.
I registered the business in April of 2014. I took a 25 square-foot storage closet within a non-profit, social service building managed by the Community Wise Resource Centre. I transformed it into a bespoke coffee nook and operated out of this space for two years.
Inside was a fully equipped mobile espresso bar and later I build a custom cold brew coffee trike. With this Kaffeeklatsch has been a cafe on wheels that has traveled to multiple locations and has had pop-ups in a variety of different spaces ranging from local independent bookstores, like Shelf Life Books, to restaurants, like Plowshare, to art galleries, such as Contemporary Calgary.
In the fall of 2017, Kaffeeklatsch moved to its new home and began operating out of the Cambrian Wellness Centre located at 1000-2000 Veterans Place NW. Servicing the employees of Canada’s News and Radio Broadcast Service CBC/Radio-Canada and workers and patients of EFW Radiology, and other health services.
The previous spaces, for me were a conceptual success but a monetary failure, the kiosk is the first space that has turned a profit. Sales increased by 500% which only serves to highlight how much of a struggle the prior years have been.
Q: I notice that you’ve got some custom-branded retail beans on your shelf, who’s your roaster?
Our beans are roasted here in Calgary through Coffee Concept. Our green beans are sourced as well here in Calgary through Apex Coffee. We currently offer a Costa Rican Tarrazu & we just launched a Kenyan that we’re really excited about. You can grab out Costa Rican here at the cafe & online in a 1lb bag.
Q: You mention your online store, is there more than just coffee available?
Yes, we have a number of items on our web-store including cold brew, coffee brewing gear, enamel pins, books, and even some amazing hand-thrown ceramic cups. We also offer FREE shipping within Calgary!
Q: What is it that you love about the specialty coffee community? What’s inspiring you in the specialty coffee scene at the moment?
It was a quick embrace by the Calgary community back when I started every one introduced themselves to me and was very welcoming. When I travelled to Seattle in April of 2005 and witnessed Ben Put of Monogram Place third in the world barista championship I realized that the global scene is strong, that Canada has a strong coffee community, and that we are lucky in Calgary to have some of the best, and most passionate, coffee professionals.
I met and stayed connected to a lot of people through that coffee convention and have had the honour of working with a wide variety of coffee roasters. I’ve also enjoyed being the occasional sensory judge for coffee competitions.
Q: What are some things you would love to see change about the specialty coffee community?
I don’t know. I’m less connected with the Industry now, my focus this year was on the kiosk. I hope to be more engaged in 2019.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with thebloom.coffee’s readers?
Just that you’ve been one of my earliest and strongest supporter of Kaffeeklatsch and I’m thankful to you for that.
A couple of things I wanted to add following our chat.
Cafe Hours: Monday to Friday (7am-4pm)
Parking: Free street parking available
Seating: Some seating in the building foyer
Food: Lots of baked goods & light-lunch options available
I want to sincerely thank Jess for taking the time the answer some of my questions. Just as a note to my readers, KaffeeKlatsch is closed over the holidays and re-opens in January.