Coffee has its beginnings in Yemen. It was the first country where coffee was prepared.
And the beginning of my familiarity with Ethica Coffee Roasters also began over a coffee from Yemen.
One sip of the Haraaz Red from Ethica and I knew I was dealing with a special coffee. And so a few days later I reached out to them to learn more. A few days after that I had no choice but to include them in my Top 3 Coffees of 2020 (go have a read) as an honourable mention since prior to receiving this coffee I thought I had tasted the best coffees that 2020 had to offer! I was mistaken…this Yemeni coffee was so good.
So I reached out to Sasha, Greg and the team to get to know them more, to hear their story and to invite them to be my feature for this month! And I am excited that they say yes and that I have the chance to share the story of Ethica with you, as they really have impressed me with the coffee they are sourcing and roasting.
Q: So who is the team behind Ethica Roasters?
I would say that we have a small but strong team, everyone is very much connected. Gregory is our founder and head roaster, his right hand at the moment is Joseph Strokes, who is also learning how to roast on his own. Ali is the manager of the whole Ethica Coffee Roasters project and our wholesale accounts. Our e-commerce team is Adel, who is developing the online orders and shipment system. On the bar, we have our head barista Anskar with his crazy latte art skills, Eric, who is also a store manager and a great coffee expert, and me, Sasha who besides the bar works with our social media content and public communication.
Q: Where is everyone on your team from?
Our team is very international, we have people coming from all around the world: Canada, Israel, Russia, Iran and Australia. The combination of different backgrounds and unique coffee experiences makes us a great team.
Q: How did everyone end up in Toronto?
Greg was born in Moscow, Russia, and grew up in Israel. He worked in the food industry for a long period. The idea of creating Ethica came to his mind in one of his visits to West Palm Beach, to the place called Subculture. It is a simple place, nothing fancy. Type of place that brings together the community, creativity, and the craftsmanship of bustling cafes. The perfect place that will always bring the satisfaction of the visit, as well as make you come back. He had an idea and inspiration of creating a space where people can experience the same
Q: Tell us a bit about the history of Ethica Roasters?
Our name “Ethica” comes from the mid-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza and his masterpiece, Ethics. Spinoza seeks to explain how a human can be free in spite of the external factors of the environment and psychology. It talks a lot about happiness and how a human soul can find one. Not to be absolutely satisfied with anything except with what is true.
We had a different team before October 2020. Jacub, Paul and Eri were the ones who worked on the opening as well as developing the project for the first year. We are very grateful for the massive work that they have done in establishing the algorithms of our work. We expanded after the summer and put a massive amount of effort into staying open safely for our community and evolving online.
We made our production very transparent and you can see that the roastery is a part of the coffee shop. We roast on Giesen W6A, it is a beautiful machine that catches the eye. Commonly, people who visit us and see the roasting process ask some questions about it, and we are always happy to explain. I would say for sure that we are always happy to chat about coffee in general.
Q: In your opinion, what’s the specialty coffee community like in Toronto? What do you love?
We would describe the Toronto coffee community as very diverse and unique, there so many great coffee shops and roasters out there. This year we received amazing support from people who felt connected to our brand; without our customers, friends, and suppliers it would be very hard to continue doing what we love. Talking about the collaborations, we do not limit ourselves to Toronto, a lot of our projects were made with the help of colleagues and partners in Russian and Europe. For example one of the main on-going projects that we have is Partisan Press, we share the same passion for typography and printmaking so you can find some of their play of words in our store.
Besides that, we do a lot of collaboration with the local art community. We believe that coffee and art are connected: you can’t find an industry with more creative people than coffee. We want to share our space with artists who create resonance in our hearts with their work, that’s why you see so many different art pieces in our space at 213 Sterling Rd.
Q: I really like the look of your coffee bags. Can you tell me the inspiration behind their design?
Our brand image is heavily influenced by the Bauhaus movement and De Stijl Dutch Movement colours. Just like Bauhaus, we try to combine different art forms and craftsmanship to get high-quality coffee beans as the result. Each label represents the taste notes of the coffee origin and we also paid a lot of attention to how it will feel in hands. The paper we use has a rough, natural texture to it, the same paper usually can be found as a wine label. Illarion Gordon designed the labels for coffee bags, he is a very talented European artist. Our bags are fully recyclable & carbon-neutral as well.
Q: So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
We have so many different filter options at the moment. One of our favourites is Ethiopia Benti Nenka, a very sweet coffee from the Gugi region. It has an interesting combination of grapes and grapefruit in taste notes. Colombia La Esperanza is a very bright and juicy coffee (a bit unusual for this variety).
Q: Looking forward beyond COVID-19 what do you see as some of the emerging trends or new initiatives that will shape the future of specialty coffee?
There is a lot of uncertainty in these times and we are worried that smaller coffee shops and projects wouldn’t be able to survive through the lockdown after lockdown. From our side, we are doing what we can to support our partners and friends.
Q: Tell the readers of Commonly Coffee about some of your recent accomplishments. Or any upcoming announcements?
We have some very exciting collaborations going on: Our new release Mexico 9 Amigos was made in collaboration with Desiree Martinez (@art.on.budget), the label colours are inspired by her artwork. With every bag of Mexican coffee, you will get a piece of her artwork in a form of a postcard as well as amazing coffee. It is very sweet beans with the taste notes of marshmallow, chocolate, and stone fruits.
“Reborn Freedom” another big collaboration made with @nestor.calligraphy. It is a big custom piece that reflects on one’s freedom from moral and physical chains. We were missing the museum’s experience very much and wanted to bring to people the enjoyment of seeing art safely. It ended up being a great installation that explains more about the art piece, and it requires just a couple of minutes to see everything while we make your coffee.
Find their beans:
If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting!
Visit their cafe & roastery:
Toronto, ON – 213 Sterling Rd, Toronto, ON
I just want to say a huge thank you to Sasha, Greg and the entire team for sharing about Ethica Roasters and for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in Toronto and across Canada. Keep up the great work!
And as a thank you for reading the entire article, you’re the first to know that I’ll be doing a great giveaway with Ethica in collaboration with this article. So keep a lookout for the announcement tomorrow!