Downtown Expansion: Transcend Jasper Avenue

This guest post was written by Mack, an Edmonton-based geek who fancies himself a part-time foodie. You can find him online at his blog, and on Twitter.

Tonight Transcend Coffee held a friends and family soft launch at its new downtown location at 10349 Jasper Avenue. I stopped by to check out the new space, formerly occupied by Axis Café. The space is largely the same, though it did receive a new paint job and some Transcend-specific touches such as the lovely artwork. The new fireplace on the second level is a welcome addition too.

Transcend Jasper Avenue
Entering the café.

Transcend Jasper Avenue
Looking down from the second level.

The new location offers a similar drinks menu to other Transcend locations, but will also feature “a small selection of remarkable beer and wine” beginning this spring. Transcend Jasper will also introduce an expanded hot food menu at that time, featuring made-in-house South American street food created by Chad Moss, who is a Red Seal chef.

Transcend Jasper Avenue
The boardroom upstairs.

Transcend Jasper Avenue
The basement space.

The boardroom that was available at Axis remains open for rental at Transcend after receiving some upgrades. It contains a large board table, a high-resolution projector and screen, and flip chart paper and other resources. Rates start at $20 per hour or $100 for the day. Transcend Jasper also has a great space in the basement – they are exploring various concepts for it, including a live-music program. Stay tuned for details on that.

Transcend Jasper Avenue
Yum, Transcend-roasted coffee beans!

Transcend Jasper Avenue
Putting up the sign outside!

The crew pictured above was putting up the sign as a I left the space tonight around 6pm, so like all good openings Transcend Jasper was down to the wire! It’ll be open for regular business starting tomorrow morning at 7:30am. You can follow the new location on Twitter at @TranscendJasper. You can see a few more photos of the space here.

Join me in welcoming Transcend to Edmonton’s new coffee district!

The Cooking Chronicles: Cold-Brewed Coffee

I made a mental note to try the cold-brewing method to make iced coffee as mentioned on Julie van Rosendaal’s blog this summer. Leave it to me to put it off until mid-September.

I loved Julie’s suggestion of using a French press to do the grunt work, eliminating the need to strain and filter the coffee separately. So after grinding some Transcend coffee we had in the house, I combined 2/3 of a cup of ground beans with 3 cups of water, and let the mixture sit in the press on the counter overnight. In the morning, I refrigerated the mixture after pressing the silt down – nothing to it.

Julie recommends a 1:1 diluting of the concentrated mixture with water or milk, or to simply pour it over ice. We went with the latter suggestion. However, having enjoyed more than our share of heavily-sweetened Starbucks iced coffees, both Mack and I have ended up with a need for sugar to override the bitterness. So I quickly made up a batch of simple syrup, and used a spoonful or two to help balance the iced joe.

Iced coffees in our drinking jars

The result was a great patio drink – not too strong, but not watered down. And best of all – so easy to make!

Edmonton’s Coffee Scene is Perking Up: Credo Coffee

Cafes that offer specialty coffees are rapidly gaining ground and market share in Edmonton. Just to name a few – Three Bananas, Leva, daCapo, and of course, Transcend, are elevating what coffee lovers should expect from a cup of joe. More exciting than a consistent, high quality product, however, these cafes employ well-trained baristas, where coffee is not just a job, but a passion.

I’m happy to report that the specialty coffee scene has just gained another member in the city – Credo Coffee opened its doors at the end of June on the ground floor of the Icon Tower, located in the trendy and boutique-lined 104th Street. It is definitely a welcome downtown addition – I’m surprised it took so long for a cafe of this nature to materialize in the core.

Credo Coffee

Geoff Linden, formerly of Three Bananas, and who has also pulled shots at Transcend (he said himself that the specialty coffee scene in Edmonton is a small one), is behind this venture. Credo’s tagline, “coffee to believe in” draws attention to their commitment to fine coffee. While they are not in the business of roasting, they do serve only Intelligensia Direct Trade Coffee: “For a coffee to be considered Intelligensia Direct Trade there is a specific list of criteria that must be met by both Intelligentsia and our grower-partners.  In the broadest terms these coffees should be understood as a true collaboration, with both sides investing a great deal of time, energy and ideas to produce something great.”

Kenya Thunguri – one of the two brewed coffees Credo was serving

Not satisfied with simply serving great coffee (menu here), Credo also offers specialty teas, and further distinguishes itself from other cafes with fresh sandwiches and baked goods all made in-house.

The cafe is bright, benefits from a lofty openness afforded by a high ceiling and had a vibe similar to Calgary’s Caffe Artigiano. I think Credo could rearrange their seating area to further maximize their space, but I did appreciate that their table placement did allow for easy movement. In addition, like some other food establishments in the city such as Culina Highlands, Credo exhibits art work created by local artists.

Interior

Mack chose to try their macchiato ($3.25), nicely finished with latte art. I opted for a brewed dark-roast coffee ($2.50, though price could vary depending on origin), which was full-bodied and rich. It was a touch acidic, but as I am used to drinking my coffee with milk, that was expected.

Macchiato

Brewed Coffee

I hope Credo is able to secure external signage soon – with the ongoing construction in the area, it is easy to miss! I encourage you to stop by, and revel in downtown’s first specialty coffee cafe!

Credo Coffee
10134 104 Street
(780) 761-3744
Monday-Friday 7pm-9pm, Saturday 8am-9pm, Sunday 10am-5pm

Transcend Coffee

I’m a little torn on whether or not I should even write a review on our visit to Transcend Coffee (9869 62 Avenue), consistently lauded in the media and by local foodies for their approach to coffee. Granted, we had huge expectations, particularly after our sojourn to Calgary’s Phil & Sebastian’s, for an equally fantastic experience. But I’m sad to say that Transcend didn’t live up to the hype.

Surrounded by industrial buildings and warehouses, we weren’t sure what the inside of Transcend would look like. Turns out, they probably ended up choosing the off-the-beaten-path location more for cheap rent than anything else, as they had two whole floors to themselves, with the main floor divided into a retail front space with limited seating and a coffee “laboratory” and roasting area in a separate room in the back.

Count me as surprised when I spotted a Clover on the counter…I guess we didn’t have to head south after all to test out fresh French-pressed coffee. Anyway, I approached the barista with this open question, which in hindsight, probably wasn’t the right way to start off a conversation: “We’re new. Can you provide us with an introduction?” She probed us for our usual coffee preferences, and after telling her that we wanted a lighter brew, she recommended the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe. We ordered two regular Clover-brewed cups, which came to $5.

Though I understand that not every independent cafe employee is as outgoing and passionate as the one we encountered at Phil & Sebastian’s, it is difficult not to directly compare the two. Transcend’s barista really wasn’t chatty, and as we surveyed the room, it seemed to us that the Transcend crowd was made up entirely of regulars. That morning anyway, we felt like the odd patrons out.

After an abbreviated wait, we were given two filled coffee-press vessels and two Bodum double-walled glasses. We headed to the second floor to access their additional seating area, and found that we had the room to ourselves. While quiet, the furnishings had us thinking we had infiltrated someone’s home office and living room – between the desk and open files on one side, a mishmash of furniture, and a television in the corner, we didn’t feel as “at home” as we were supposed to.

Our coffee had a light brown hue to it, almost the color it takes on after the addition of milk. It was thin, and to me, had acidic notes to it, though Mack disagreed with that assertion. He remarked about its lack of an aftertaste, but we both noted that it probably wasn’t the type meant to provide that morning jolt – we were ready for more after finishing our cups. After my second brush with Clover-brewed coffee, I’m starting to question whether or not it does make a difference, at least to me. I hope the coffee tasting Mack and I are planning to attend later this spring will shed some light on specialty beans and brewing processes.

Perhaps Phil & Sebastian’s spoiled me, or perhaps I shouldn’t be looking for an “experience” at a cafe, but there has to be something (like the people and the passion behind the coffee) that sets the independents apart from the Starbucks and Second Cups of the world.

Exterior

At the bar

Second floor seating area

Our coffees