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Photos by Alejandro Bustos

Indie Coffee Passport: Book passage to a caffeine buzz

By Alejandro Bustos on August 10, 2012

Coffee drinkers listen up: If you want to avoid a Starbucks rut while discovering independent java hot spots, then this article is for you.

This past spring, a dozen coffee shops in Ottawa launched the indie coffee passport with the express purpose of supporting independent stores.

For $14, you can purchase a passport online or at participating locations and in return have a free coffee, tea or espresso-based beverage (up to $4.50 menu price) at each of the 12 locales.

The promotion runs until November 30.

Apartment 613 was curious about how the program was going so far so we made some phone calls. The response was very positive.

“It has been a pretty successful program,” said Rob Johnson, an employee at i Deal Coffee at 176 Dalhousie.

Thanks to the passport, new faces have appeared at the Byward market location, where coffee beans are roasted onsite and customers can drink a cup of joe in 1950-style booths.

While not able to provide precise figures, Johnson estimated that business was up roughly 10% thanks to the passport.

The Daily Grind Art Café at 601 Somerset Street West was also very happy with the passport’s results.

“It’s a great program for us,” said Mike White, co-owner of the hip Centretown café. “People have come who otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Encouraged by this success, White said he’s leaning towards participating in another passport program, should the promotion be offered again in 2013.

In the interim, he encouraged customers to visit his locale where, besides coffee, you can drink beer, order breakfast, lunch and dinner, and on select nights listen to DJs and bands.

At Stella Luna Gelato Café at 1103 Bank, meanwhile, owner-operator Tammy Giuliani said that the passport is a perfect way for Ottawa residents to discover their own city.

“(The passport) is an incentive to try something new,” said Giuliani, while noting that most people tend to fall into a routine when at home.

When we are on vacation, in contrast, we are in discovery mode. By offering a list of new stores to visit, the passport can provide a series of little getaways.

“It’s like a mini-vacation in your own city,” said Giuliani

Continuing with the staycation metaphor, one does not have to criss-cross the city to sample different stores. For instance, one can take a “mini-vacation” to Wellington Street West.

Your voyage can begin at the Collected Works at 1242 Wellington where you can browse well-stocked bookshelves (I highly enjoy the science fiction section), before strolling to Cyclelogik at 1111A Wellington to deal with your bicycle needs, and then end your sojourn at Alpha Soul Café at 1015 Wellington with a glass of wine.

For those who enjoy Latin flavours, there is Café Morala at 734 Bank, where one can have an alfajor, a traditional pastry made with dulce de leche that is eaten in parts of Spain and in such South American countries as Argentina and Chile.

Miriam Rangel, owner of Café Morala, said the passport is an excellent idea, and that she is open to participating again next year in a similar program.

“It’s a great way to support small business,” she said.

Then there is the Grounded Kitchen & Coffeehouse at 100 Gloucester, where you can order online, as well as hire catering services for gourmet dinners.

As for the coffee passports, you should grab one when you can.

“They have sold like hotcakes,” said Andrea Astle, spokesperson for the Centretown-based coffee shop.


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  • Meaghan

    I had the Indie Coffee Passport when I lived in Toronto and loooooooooved it, so I was obviously thrilled when I heard it was coming to Ottawa! As someone who’s only lived here for about 9 months now, it’s been a perfect way for me to find some favourite new haunts (Cafe Morala is one of those!). I hope they’ll launch another one after this one runs out in November!!

  • HansG

    thanks for pointing this out! I had not realized it existed!

  • François Levesque

    I’d love for other spots that roast their own beans to be on this as well like Happy Goat, Bytowne Beanery…