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Foodie Friday: Ministry of Coffee are doing things differently – and it’s working

By Amanda Armstrong on September 5, 2014

Gray and raining, it was the perfect cafe day when I met with Alex and Fadi, co-owners of The Ministry of Coffee. The coffee shop was chalked full of coffee lovers – on laptops, with notebooks, in discussion with friends – as we sat with sky blue mugs filled with coffee. “Is this an AeroPress?” Fadi asks Alex after taking a sip. “And she is drinking?” Yirgacheffe Konga Alex replies. You can tell they both live coffee and that the shop is, really, a product of this passion.

Both Alex and Fadi have been coffee lovers for quite some time. An Ottawa native going to school in Toronto, Alex saw how coffee was being done differently, and wanted to bring some of that to Ottawa upon his return. Fadi had been working in the industry for 15 years with dreams of opening a cafe. He left Ottawa for Whistler, Montreal and then Australia, and learned about better coffee from these places. When both Fadi and Alex found themselves back in the city, both wanting to open a coffee shop, they were connected through a friend who works for 49th Parallel. They met up, chatted for several hours and realised they shared the same vision for the style of coffee shop they wanted to open and so decided to partner up.

Interior view of The Ministry of Coffee. Photo from their Facebook page.

Interior view of The Ministry of Coffee. Photo from their Facebook page.

On June 8th, 2013, the pair opened The Ministry of Coffee, a tiny space on Elgin Street with a warm, inviting and relaxed aesthetic – the guys built everything themselves. The results are both rustic and charming. On their walls is the work of predominantly local artists whose rotation provides an ever-changing appeasement for the eyes.

Sourcing from different Canadian and American roasters the coffee shop features beans from a different roaster every week. Often bringing in roasters that, were you to buy a bag on your own, could cost nearly 40$, the Ministry of Coffee gives the coffee enthusiast the opportunity to try roasts that they may have heard of, but may not be able to get on their own.

Unique in their frequent roast rotation, they are also unique in their objection to serving dark roast coffees. Dark roasts mask the myriad of subtleties discovered in a cup of high quality roast – and what is most important to the guys at Ministry of Coffee is quality.

Quality and service are what those at MoC value most and are most proud of. And the quality has been consistent since they opened. Hiring based on personality and passion, they allow their staff the freedom to try different things, be it a new sandwich or a new coffee roast. This keeps everyone interested and engaged. A staff that is more engaged lends to a staff that is more dedicated to the quality of their work, which means better service – at Ministry of Coffee, the staff’s dedication certainly shows.

Their food is prepared in-house by Cordon Bleu chef, Claudia. It is inventive and delicious. I can attest that they have the best goat cheese and pear sandwiches ever. Allowed full creative direction with the selection of food offerings, Claudia frequently changes up the selection, keeping the menu fresh for those who visit often.

Cold brew concentrate. Photo from Ministry of Coffee's Facebook page.

Cold brew concentrate. Photo from Ministry of Coffee’s Facebook page.

In addition to filter coffee from a consistent rotation of the best coffee roasters in North America, there are many other delicious drink options. They typically serve single blend espresso, focusing on the unique flavours of a particular region, as opposed to a blend. One can also enjoy an americano, cortado, cappuccino, tea, or hot chocolate. There are also a variety of lattes available, including the popular Nutella Latte, all made with syrups prepared in house. For the summer, their magical nitrogen cold brew is an absolute must.

Alex and Fadi also believe in giving back. Their focus on direct trade as opposed to fair trade, means that the farmers tend to receive more money for their product. The Ministry of Coffee also often provides gift cards, or caters events that line up with causes that they feel are important.

It can be a challenge for an independent coffee shop to succeed in what may be considered a more conservative city, but Alex and Fadi are unwilling to compromise on their product. They are trying things a different way, with the belief that there is no reason why it cannot work.

Just last month, they opened an espresso bar at Holland’s Cake n’ Shake ( 229 Armstrong Street in Hintonburg) with the desire to open a couple more locations in the future. Their success is a sure sign that Ottawa likes what they are doing and that they are right, there is no reason why it cannot work.

The Ministry of Coffee is located at 279 Elgin Street. They are open Mon – Sat from 7am – 7pm and Sunday from 8am to 6pm. Like them of Facebook for news and updates.

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