Did you know that Winnipeg holds the title for being the Slurpee drinking capitol of the world?
While it is true that this city can boast in its love for this iconic beverage, the truth is that this Prairie City is also passionate about another iconic beverage….yes, coffee. And while Canada, and in particular Winnipeger’s, begin to thaw out from their long winter, there is no question what is bringing the warmth isn’t just the weather, but also the coffee!
And one of the most recognized and respected names in specialty coffee in Winnipeg is none other than Thom Bargen. And I am thrilled to get the chance to share their story with you as our Coffee Roaster of the Month!
Q: So who is the team behind Thom Bargen?
Thom Bargen Coffee Roasters is owned by Graham Bargen and Thom Hiebert. Two old friends who consider themselves unpretentious coffee nerds. After schooling and traveling each of us came home and wanted to work for ourselves. More importantly, we wanted better coffee in our city and within walking distance. Neither of us had cafe experience, but we both worked out of cafes and spent all our free time and money traveling to visit Graham’s sister in LA or flying to Portland to explore specialty cafes.
In Canada a major influence on us was Phil & Sebastian. We admired their dedication at the farm level and dreamed to one day be able to build relationships and drink coffee with more knowledge about how it came to be.
Tell us a bit about the history of Thom Bargen!
When we were deciding to do something in Winnipeg, we wanted to either open up a beer hall or a coffee shop. After realizing we needed more coffee and less beer in our lives, we went the coffee route. At first everything we did was just for us. The coffee we carried, our hours, how we brewed, it was all personal and what we wanted. This hobby quickly became more than that and we began to pivot and try to make it more sustainable. Every two years we opened a new cafe (3 total) and last year we opened our roastery!
We are equipment nerds and could go on about this.. choosing three different espresso machines and grinders may not be the smartest move logistically.. but we love playing on everything (Kees Van Der Westen SPIRIT 3-Group, La Marzocco Linea PB, Victoria Arduino Black Eagle). When choosing a roaster we looked at everything. We knew a lot of our favourite coffees were roasted on Diedrich’s (shout out to Lüna, Be Still Cody, Drop Coffee…it’s a long list) and we made the purchase of our Diedrich IR-12.
Q: In your opinion, what’s the specialty coffee community like in Winnipeg? What do you love?
Winnipeg’s cafe culture has had it’s growing pains. We are still young and at the start I think there was a lot of comparing and competitiveness. It was kind of a bummer, but as we’ve all aged I feel there is more of a unity amongst us.
For us all to thrive we need each other and we need to do a great job to build up the reputation and respect we want as specialty coffee cafes. We’ve had a lot of collaborations in the beer scene as it’s blown up along side coffee, so thats been very fun. We actually roast out of our neighbourhood Brewery, Barn Hammer.
Q: So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
Currently I’m enjoying our “Always Sunny” coffee from Colombia. We’ve made a long term purchase with Martha Riena and committed to buying her future coffee. It’s so clean and has a deep flavour arch. There is a beautiful origin tree tomato note, but still has the intensity and body we love. Clean coffees are always the goal for us. I would also give Jeff at Apex Coffee Imports in Calgary a shoutout for this years Ethiopian harvest. The Benti Nenka has been a pleasure to roast. so much Bergamot and apricot. It’s a dream.
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?
Post Pandemic I think coffee shops will thrive. People long for some normalcy in their day to day. The small interactions and touching points in their day will be treasured. I think cafe’s may move outside city cores and into suburbs more…being closer to homes and having weekend traffic has become very important through this pandemic.
Q: Is there anything that you would love to see change as it pertains to specialty coffee?
I think Specialty Coffee is headed in a good direction. I’m happy to see the continued focus to be more and more on the farmers. I’d like to see a continued effort on quality. It’s important to us to be different and for the quality of the coffee to shape who we are alongside what we are about.
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!
If you find yourself in Winnipeg you’ll definitely want to check out any (or all) of their locations!
I just want to say a huge thank you to Thom & Graham for sharing about Thom Bargen and for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in Winnipeg and across Canada. Keep up the great work!