13 July 2014

The Saskatoon Caffeine Chronicles

When I travel to a new place – especially one that isn't especially known for having great coffee — I like to do a little online research before I go, i.e. searching Google for "independent coffee bar in X". This has two benefits: first, of course, it means I don't have to settle for a Starbucks for my morning brew; and second, good coffee bars are often located in areas that have other cafés, shops and things to do that I like. Just follow the Aeropress!

Although I wasn't worried about finding places for my morning hand-dripped coffee in Vancouver, I was less certain about whether I would find anything decent in Saskatoon. And by decent, I don't mean Tim Hortons. It turned out that my fears were misplaced and I found a couple of really nice coffee bars, both of which served good pourovers and macchiatos.

First on my list was The Local in downtown Saskatoon, which turned out to be only a few blocks from the wedding hotel, which was handy for post-run coffee on the jam-packed wedding day. The signs were good — quite literally, in fact: I liked the design of their logo. And inside, the décor is independent coffee shop 101: dark wood tables, metal stools and pendant light bulbs. Local art on the walls adds a more personal, and colourful, touch. As well as the usual bags of coffee beans and branded mugs for sale, you can also buy The Local sunglasses, which I thought was pretty cool.

Now, onto the coffee. You can tell that the pourover concept is still finding its feet in Saskatoon because both here and at Museo, it took a little longer than usual to get my coffee. This is probably at least partly due to the fact that there was only one barista, who had to prepare multiple types of drink at once. My pourover was very good, though, and worth the wait. Later in the day (about an hour later, in fact), I went back for a macchiato — produced by The Local's La Marzocco, which was slightly milkier than I prefer but the coffee was delicious: rich and smooth.

The morning after the wedding, although there was a lot of coffee on offer at the hotel brunch, it wasn't particularly good, so after exploring Pets in the Park, we crossed the river and walked down Broadway, which hosts some of Saskatoon's more interesting independent shops, cafés and arts venues. There we found Museo, which also has a branch on the other side of the river in the Mendel Art Gallery. The Broadway branch was bustling on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and the aforementioned slow speed of pourover production wasn't helped by the fact that there were seven of us just in our group.

The exposed-brick walls, colourful flower arrangements and shiny La Marzocco Strada are textbook independent espresso bar, but the staff have created a really lovely space to hang out and escape the killer mosquitoes. As this is Canada, the staff are also super friendly.

I ordered a pourover, although later wished I'd had it on ice because it was such a hot, humid day. When it arrived, however, I was happy and everything was right with the world again. I didn't have a macchiato too, but the latte art on the espresso-based drinks was pretty impressive.

Google turned up a few other coffee bar candidates in Saskatoon, but consultation with local caffeine fiends indicated that The Local and Museo are definitely the best. So there you have it! It is indeed possible to find a pourover in the Prairies!

The Local. 167 Third Avenue South, Saskatoon. Website. Twitter.

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