Winnipeg’s ‘third wave’ coffee clatch sparks java resurgence

Thom Bargen
Thom Bargen (photo robin summerfield)

Little Sister Coffee opened for business in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village on September 11. The new coffee house is the second location for Nils Vik, owner of Main Street’s Parlour Coffee and marks the latest coffee/design house mash-up in the city.

With that in mind, here’s a story I wrote for CBC’s Scene about Winnipeg’s new wave of coffee. Here’s the link to the original story.


Thom Jon Hiebert pours scorching water from a stainless steel kettle into a sort of glass science beaker. Inside, sits a coffee filter, but no coffee.This is not the brewing process. This is prep.

Hiebert uses the hot water to wash away any paper fibers that might otherwise land in the cup he is about to make. Only then does he add the freshly ground beans.

“These beans were roasted just 20 days ago,” he tells his customer. “You might taste a bit of berry in here and it’s also very buttery.”

Forget double-doubles or even Starbucks lattes. There’s a new breed of coffee house that does for the bean what wine bars do for the grape. Each drink has its own  pedigree, carefully concocted and expertly explained.

This ‘Third Wave’ of coffee culture has hit Winnipeg in the form of several new, locally-owned grindhouses staffed by a skilled collection of “baristacrats.” Hiebert and Graham Bargen, opened Thom Bargen late last month. The Sherbrook Street boutique joins Corydon Avenue’s MAKE/ Coffee + Stuff, Café Postal in St. Boniface and Main Street’s Parlour Coffee. Finer grinds, higher water pressure, precise temperatures and a fresher bean all add up to a better brew.

“Fresh coffee just tastes different,” says Hiebert. “There’s none of that bitterness or burnt flavour of overly roasted beans.”

“It’s not just your dad’s coffee anymore,” says Adrienne Huard, co-owner of Café Postal. “It’s about rediscovering all the aspects of espresso.”These new merchants even know the varying harvest times in order to serve in-season beans. “It’s like wine,” explains MAKE/ Coffee + Stuff barista Hailey Darling.

These coffeehouses buy fair-trade beans from roasters like Pilot and Phil & Sebastian, Canadian roasters who actually visit the farms and meet the growers.

“Once you’ve tasted actual fresh coffee you’ll never go back,” promises Bargen.

MAKE Coffee & Stuff
MAKE Coffee & Stuff (photo robin summerfield)

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