I was down in Lethbridge over New Years to visit family and I knew I wanted to hit up a few coffee shops.
You may not know, but I used to live just outside of Lethbridge for a few years before moving up to Calgary four years ago. Back then, the coffee scene was still more focused on Double-Double’s and Venti whatever-you-want’s than anything else. There were a few places you could get freshly roasted beans, but for the most part, I found myself ordering everything online when it came to specialty coffee. I often said my home had the best coffee in town. Isn’t it ironic, that after I move to Calgary the specialty coffee scene begins to flourish?! Either way, Lethbridge is quickly seeing some incredible cafe’s emerge around town and I made sure to visit a number of them.
The brainchild of Paul DeMaere who began roasting coffee back in 2010, this cafe is the brick & mortar location for Paul’s coffee roasting business–Red Engine Coffee Roasters. I remember connecting up with Paul when I first arrived in Lethbridge and began tasting a few of his early samples. We hit it off pretty quick and I became a huge fan of his coffee when I lived down there. I remember getting to pull shots on Paul’s GS3 into the wee-hours of the morning! It’s amazing to see how far Red Engine has come! And I have to say I am very proud! Sonder opened up a couple of years ago and is a beautiful gathering place along 3rd Ave South. What it lacks a bit in aesthetics on the outside it more than makes up for it on the inside.
When I walked in the first thing I noticed was it was packed! It’s never a bad thing to see a cafe full of people. The decor style inside is very clean & modern. White walls with wood tables and trim makes everything bright and inviting. They’ve got a great food menu and also a number of beverage options. I went with their pour-over of their Kenya Embu. It was a very tasty coffee with nice sweetness, tropical fruit notes, and hint of caramel to round it out. I loved their hand crafted mugs and Hario beakers. They have a good amount of seating and a decent amount of free & paid parking nearby. If you believe in supporting local then Sonder certainly is a local-focused cafe.
Naturally, Sonder offers a number of beans from Red Engine available for retail. I would highly suggest picking some up next time you are in town. Local success stories like this are really inspiring to me.
A few years ago Bread, Milk & Honey took over the well-loved Round Street Cafe in Lethbridge. It was a clear change of direction and I would argue a change for the better. BMH is owned by the husband of my former family-doctor in Lethbridge (trust me, this place is actually more like a small-town!) What truly impressed me when I first heard about them is that they were Lethbridge’s first multi-roaster cafe. These guys were doing multi-roaster before anyone in Calgary was doing multi-roaster!
It was great to get back here and when I began to inquire about what they were offering for espresso. Their house-espresso is the Assembly from Timbertrain. They mentioned they would be more than happy to pull shots of any of their current espresso offerings on their retail wall. There aren’t a lot of places that are willing to do that, and I was quite impressed by this level of customer service. I ended up going with the Holiday Espresso by 49th Parallel because I had a bag at home that I had yet to to open and was curious to see how it would taste on a better machine then mine! I ordered a cappuccino and was a bit surprised that it was more of a European style instead of a more contemporary trad-capp/flat white (and I did make sure to order a trad-capp). This wasn’t a deal breaker for me, as the double shot of espresso was nice. I wish I could have had more time to sample the amazing looking macaron’s they had in their display case…but it was only 8am and I wasn’t feeling like a sweet treat at that time of the day.
The place is huge and the decor inside is great. Lots of exposed brick, rugged wood tables, and high ceilings are all very inviting. Like I mentioned they offer a number of Canadian roasters. Current roasters on their shelves are Fernwood, 49th Parallel, Transcend & Timbertrain. If you find yourself near 5th Street South, closer to the downtown core, this would be a place to visit.
If you ever visit Lethbridge don’t listen to the folks who smack-talk “the North side.” Jonny Bean is located along 13th Street & 5th Ave North and is in-my-opinion the best cafe right now in Lethbridge. Jonny (yes that’s the name of the owner), feverishly pursues quality & excellence with everything he does. I spent close to two hours drinking coffee after coffee and even having the privilege of sampling a few yet-to-be-released drinks that I have no doubt locals are going to love.
Jonny Bean currently carries Bows & Arrows and Monogram. Their house-espresso is the Hathaway from Bows & Arrows, and while I was there Jonny was fine tuning a filter coffee from Monogram that would be soon available to the public. The moment you walk into this place you are greeted with a nordic-inspired design, with lots of open space, huge windows that let the sunshine in, and a very clean & minimalistic look. They bake a number of goodies in-house, and I grabbed their breakfast sandwich made on a house-baked biscuit, Broek Farms pork, soft-poached egg, and sriracha aioli. Yum.
During my two hours there Jonny brewed me up the Las Bromelias from Monogram. This washed Guatemalan has very clear notes of orange and caramel. I wondered if it would even shine as a single-origin espresso. But who am I to question Monogram?! After that I enjoyed a cortado with the Hathaway espresso. Jonny Bean exclusively uses milk from D Dutchman farms in Sicamous! It’s honestly the best milk out there. Before I left Jonny offered me a sample of some of their new Cascara concentrate made with cascara from Bows & Arrows…its origin is Bolivian and it was MIND BLOWING. This was the first time I had ever tried Cascara, and I have to say it won’t be my last. It tasted of grape-sweetness and prune. You would swear it has honey added to it, because of how naturally sweet it was. It’s incredible to think that something this good, is actually waste-product from processing the coffee bean. (the more you know). Jonny made it into a Cascara Tea Latte and I was instantly smitten. If you have never had a cascara tea latte (perhaps you don’t like coffee) then find a cafe that offers this and try it. You won’t be disappointed.
I must say that I was glad to have saved the best for last. take note that Jonny Bean is closed on Monday’s. This place is so warm an inviting, with plenty of seats, outlets everywhere and enough wifi to get your work done! There is plenty of street parking and even more free parking across the street at the Tim Hortons 😉 So next time you make a trip to Lethbridge and check this place out!
Overall I had a great time checking out these three cafes. I love seeing a smaller city begin to thrive when it comes to specialty coffee. I can only hope that these three cafes inspire others to open up shop. Lethbridge you are so lucky to have these three places. I wish these three cafes existed when I lived there.
Did I miss a cafe that you’ve been too and love in Lethbridge? Or a place that I should visit next time I’m in town? Let me know in the comments below.