Winnipeg is the capital city in the Canadian province of Manitoba, home to around 750,000 residents. Known as “The Gateway to the West,” the city finds itself at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, and also at the confluence of its rich heritage and vibrant future.
Winnipeg is home to such great cultural accomplishments like the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, located in what is known as The Forks—a bustling historic hub filled with markets, galleries, parks and plazas. The Exchange District is another iconic area in the city full of historic architecture, boutique shops, and trendy eateries. Each of these neighborhoods are favorites among locals for their food and drink culture.
While true that Winnipeg holds the title for being the Slurpee drinking capital of the world, this city can also boast in its culture when it comes to another iconic beverage… yes, coffee. Perhaps due to Winnipeg’s long, cold, winters giving it the nickname Winterpeg, it’s easy to understand why locals are so passionate about their coffee.
In the past decade, Winnipeggers have begun to ditch their double-doubles (Canadian slang for two creams, two sugars) and embrace the local specialty coffee movement. Here are six incredible cafes and roasters you are definitely going to want to visit. Each bringing their own unique approach to Winnipeg’s coffee scene.
Thom Bargen Coffee Roasters
Thom Bargen Coffee Roasters is the brainchild of owners and best friends, Thom Hiebert and Graham Bargen. They have been a fixture in the Winnipeg’s Coffee Community since 2012 when they opened their Sherbrook Street cafe. They currently operate three locations across the city, with each being unique in their design, and each focused on helping to share their love of coffee with their customers.
In their early years Thom Bargen featured a number of beloved Canadian coffee roasters, however in the Fall of 2020 they made the decision to begin roasting their own coffee much to the delight of locals. Roasting happens on a Deidrich IR-12 with some custom modifications. Thom Bargen says their approach to roasting is most in line with Nordic-style coffee.
On the brew bar at their Sherwood cafe you’ll find a three-group La Marzocco Linea PB espresso machine, Nuova Simonelli Mythos ClimaPro grinders along with dual Mazzers and FETCO XTS for batch brew with a Mahlkönig EK43 handling the grinding.
Thom Bargen loves their city and customers. Their friendship and camaraderie extend into every aspect of their company and creates a feeling of welcome and community. You’ll feel like a friend too next time you stop in for a coffee.
Parlour Coffee has been a fixture in the specialty coffee community in Winnipeg since September 2011, garnering this story on Sprudge back in 2012. The specialty coffee movement in Winnipeg really owes much of its initial success and momentum to Parlour Coffee.
Located a few blocks north of the historic intersection of Portage and Main, they are one of the original specialty coffee shops in the city and show no sign of going anywhere. They have developed a loyal following from locals and visitors alike and offer an incredible selection of coffee from Canadian roasters such as Dogwood, Bows & Arrows, and Quietly.
Step into their 400-square-foot shop located in a heritage status building built in 1901, and you are instantly greeted by a flood of natural light highlighting the clean aesthetic with touches of warm wood. Watch the city go by from the enormous windows as you enjoy your hand-crafted beverage.
Behind the bar you’ll see a three-group La Marzocco Linea AV espresso machine flanked by Mahlkönig K30 Twin and Mazzer Robur grinders, and batch brew on a FETCO XTS with coffee ground on their Mahlkönig EK43. Parlour carries locally made fresh baked goods and also serves a small breakfast menu featuring organic ingredients.
Little Sister Coffee Maker
Little Sister Coffee Maker (LSCM) began in September 2013 by Vanessa Stachiw and Nils Vik (owner of Parlour). Vik happens to be married to Stachiw’s older sister. Good coffee clearly runs in the family.
LSCM prides itself as a community who believes that exceptional coffee; sourced thoughtfully, roasted expertly, and brewed meticulously is what brings people together. This is evident when you visit both of their cafe locations.
Step inside this cafe with a minimalistic and contemporary vibe lined with white subway tiles and a subtle on-brand green backsplash, you can see that even being situated in the lower level of its building in the Osborne neighborhood, this cafe is inviting and charming. Readers might recall Little Sister’s inclusion in the 2013 edition of Sprudge’s Build Outs of Summer.
LSCM uses a three-group La Marzocco GB5 espresso machine with two Mahlkönig K30’s on the bar. Grinding happens on a Mahlkönig EK43 for batch brew on a FETCO XTS and Mahlkönig PEAK grinders for espresso.
Forth has their current cafe located in the heart of the Exchange district, at 171 McDermot Avenue. Forth Projects features a basement bar and cafe, which also serves as a community event space. Forth got its start in 2016, with the idea to create a space for the community, to support local talent, and create a fun space for people to gather.
On the Forth brew-bar you’ll find a Synesso Hydra MVP espresso machine helping to keep their customers caffeinated. Grab a pour-over done on Hario V60 or some in-house made cold brew. Grinding is handled by their two Mahlkönig K30’s—one for espresso and one for decaf. A Mahlkönig EK43 handles pour-over’s and retail beans for customers.
Forth is fortunate to share its space with Dogwood Coffee Roasters. Dogwood originated in Minneapolis and ventured into Winnipeg a number of years ago. Today Forth offers an ever-changing assortment of beans for retail by Dogwood along with select guest roasters (Canadian and International) on a rotating basis like David Kim Coffee, The Library and Five Elephant. It’s a gorgeous, inviting space, a perfect place to hide out with great coffee.
Fools + Horses
Fools + Horses was founded in 2014 by five friends. Life is full of change, so it comes as no surprise that five years in, the company transitioned ownership from five down to two. With four locations and 20+ employees, the remaining pair are passionate about specialty coffee in the city of Winnipeg. Their mission is to create an accessible space, a welcoming culture, and a home to share great coffee with their fellow Winnipeggers. Their cafes are available for public talks and events/programming that supports and celebrates the community.
Their cafe locations boast a floorplan strategically designed with baristas fully able to engage with customers as a result of their Modbar setup. On the bar as well are Nuova Simonelli Mythos ClimaPro grinders, along with a Mazzer Robur grinder handling the cold brew using BREWT systems.
Coffee on the bar is from Toronto-based coffee roaster, Pilot Coffee along with a variety of other rotating feature roasters each month. Their location in The Forks is a great space to grab a coffee while strolling through the market filled with some of the city’s best local food vendors, artisans and merchants.
Café Postal is a quaint coffee shop nestled in the heart of Winnipeg’s St. Boniface neighborhood. It may be tiny in its footprint, but what it lacks in square footage, it makes up for with a huge heart for the community. St. Boniface is known as the center of Manitoba’s French community and stepping foot into Café Postal brings back all the sights and smells one would expect walking through the iconic streets of Montreal.
Café Postal has been proudly serving its neighbors since October 2012 and provides a variety of Canadian coffee roasters to its customers like Rosso and Hatch along with local favorite Flatland Coffee Roasters from Gimli, Manitoba.
On the brew bar you’ll find a La Marzocco FB80 espresso machine complimented by a Mahlkönig K30 and a Mazzer Robur grinder for decaf. They also brew and bottle their very own cold-brew line called Boulevard, which is a smooth blend of Colombian and Ethiopian coffees. Not only do the excel is brewing great coffee, but they also offer an excellent array of baked goods all made in-house in keeping with classic French tradition.
Café Postal cares about two things; making good coffee and making good friends. This focus has created a loyal customer base who recognizes the connection between coffee and community.
Tyler Hagan is the creator of Calgary-based coffee blog Commonly Coffee. Read More Tyler Hagan for Sprudge.