Collective Coffee is a new cafe in the Riversdale area, where old buildings are being turned into innovative new businesses. With no flashy signs (I think there was a cardboard one in the window) it was a little hard to point out; but this can be attributed to the fact that it opened recently in February.
Once inside, I couldn’t stop staring at the sweet layout of this place. The light bulbs hanging from wires, the old school wood paneled benches, teal-grey walls with red accents and paintings by local artists make me feel like I’m in a coffee shop in Victoria. (Is it ironic that I am brought back to Saskatoon by a painting of the Victoria Bridge?)
The bar is small and the seating is limited. Maybe 10 people could sit in the front part, which I’m not used to. This is perhaps the only downfall of the space, and I can see it becoming a problem once the Riversdale area is fully restored and gets busier. Either this is the issue, or maybe I am so used to sitting in Tim Horton’s with 50 people that a small-scale coffee shop seems bizarre. Read: this place is not Tim Horton’s. It’s not even Starbucks. The shop is not selling CDs of bands that were popular in the ’70s or pre-packaged biscotti.
In fact, it’s as far from corporate as you can get for coffee shops in Saskatoon. Customers can buy coffee beans that are roasted right in Saskatoon by Museo Coffee Roasters and baking from another popular local shop, Caffe Sola. This communal idea of local artisans and entrepreneurs merging for the purpose of quality products is reflected in a simple mantra: When I ask how Collective will answer to the franchise competition, the barista explained that, “It’s quality over quantity.” Perhaps it’s an overused phrase, but it’s ironically refreshing to hear, especially at this time of year when every 10 seconds I am somehow reminded about “Roll up the rim.” Collective Coffee is fairly comparable in price and business model to Caffe Sola, both serving flavourful Americanos and handcrafted lattes.
I had sworn off coffee until recently, and thus am no connoisseur, but I can appreciate the idea of paying a little extra for quality. My friend who tagged along (and used to work in a local coffee shop) was a little more smitten, ordering a second latte before the shop closed at 5 p.m. Others in the shop looked like they also had seconds and thirds and fourths. I think it’s safe to say that the coffee served there would appeal to any palette.
In the future, the space will include a back room where clientele can plug in their laptops and work in a quiet environment. The menu will also expand, to include made-fresh sandwiches from Caffe Sola and bread from Christie’s Bakery.
This is head barista Jackson Wiebe’s second coffee endeavour — he also opened Evergreen Coffee and Food in Waskesiu in 2008. According to the barista who served my friend and me, Jackson is a little famous in Montreal for making the perfect cup — and wants to “educate” people about coffee. Personally, I’m looking forward to this caffeinated education and have high hopes for this business and its owner.
Collective Coffee is located at 220 20th Street. They are open every day until 5 p.m. and are closed on Sundays. Check out their website for updated hours and menu.
image: Pete Yee/The Sheaf