By Yasmin Nissim and Chris Cline
Are you looking for one last trip before summer runs out? How about taking your taste buds on a global, flavour adventure? Whether you’d like to savour a bit of the Dominican, explore what Peru has to offer, or get exotic with a little something from Burundi, Happy Goat Coffee has your one-way ticket to flavour paradise. This modest, out of the way coffee haven is, hands down, one of the best places in the city to grab a cuppa joe. Don’t let the unassuming exterior dissuade you, this one-time garage is now an exciting hub for even the most stringent of coffee connoisseurs.
When we arrived on a warm day earlier this summer, we were greeted by wide-open garage doors, out of which the heady aroma of fine coffee slowly drifted. Inside were books, comfy chairs, guitars, drums of all kinds, a happy little dog and a bustle of people who had arrived to purchase fairly-traded artisan coffees. Sitting at the heart of this collection of comfort was a grandiose, red coffee roaster. It’s a new addition to the neighbourhood business, one that has replaced an old, homemade roaster that served Happy Goat well until higher demand resulted in a much-needed upgrade.
Pierre Richard is the passionate and knowledgeable force behind Happy Goat. He talks about coffee with an interest and dedication that goes far beyond your average coffee junkie. Coffee is Richard’s art, and he’s determined to bring his distinct style to Ottawa one neighbourhood at a time. After spending some time with him, it’s quite clear he’s more than just a simple barista. The man is an alchemist who can turn simple beans into coffee gold.
There are a plethora of different roasts offered at Happy Goat, as well as a generous selection of blends made on-site. Anyone who claims to be serious about coffee needs to try these delectable creations! Blends seem to be a particular talent that Richard has nurtured to near-perfection. Creating the perfect blend is like discovering treasure for this coffee aficionado – a fact we picked up on quickly after Richard regaled us with the tale behind his Babae’s Espresso Blend.
A close friend of Richard’s had travelled to Italy and experienced an espresso that, from the sound of it, transcended every other espresso he had ever tried. When he returned to Canada, this friend was at a complete loss, unable to find an espresso that had even the slightest resemblance to the exquisite flavours he’d experienced in Italy. He approached Richard with news of this glaring absence of good espresso, and Richard instantly took up the challenge.
After 10 months of experimentation and a staggering combination of seven different beans (the maximum an espresso blend can have), Richard was able to recreate this Holy Grail of espresso for his friend. Named “Babae” (the West African word for “father”) as a nod to his friend who hails from that part of the world, this espresso is truly superb. Capped with a thick, rich crema, Babae’s blend offers an exciting zip for the palate. It has a sharp front end but is quite smooth on the way down. The aroma is heady and has a slightly woody fragrance. The colour of the espresso is a lush crimson at the edges, fading into a deep chocolate. This is the level of quality and attention to detail one can expect from Happy Goat.
Along with this fabulous espresso, Richard sent us on our way with lots of homework to research for this article. He provided us with six different flavours from his collection and an interesting contraption called a coffee syphon. We weren’t joking when we called Richard an alchemist – one look at this coffee syphon and images of ancient conjurors labouring away in primeval laboratories instantly come to mind. We were able to try each of the six flavours using both a French Press and a coffee syphon. Here are our observations:
This blend is made especially for The Piggy Market, located in trendy Westboro. You can purchase it on location.
Yaz: This coffee carries a smooth, very subtle flavour, a great choice to relax with when you’re looking to wind down from a busy day. I’m not an everyday coffee drinker, so the mild elements of this particular blend were quite enjoyable.
Chris: Of all the coffees we tried, we went back to the Piggy Blend the most. This bean possesses a nice balance between bitter and bold, and it has nutty, aromatic flavours. According to Richard, this coffee has the distinction of getting better with age, an attribute that is virtually unheard of in the coffee world!
Bali (Paradise Valley)
A fabulous medium roast from beans that hail all the way from Indonesia! This bean has a strong, sharp aroma. It’s the type of coffee you might want to brew on a cold, winter morning as it’s sure to coax any sleepyhead out of bed and into the kitchen.
Yaz: This bold flavour was sharper than the Piggy Blend’s, but a touch of sugar softened the bite and really helped to bring out the earthy undertones. I found the aroma to be quite intoxicating!
Chris: This coffee featured a flavour that fell somewhere between boldness and tartness. It came equipped with a slight spiciness, which I really liked.
This tart, dark roast is perfect for an everyday coffee drinker looking for something to surprise their taste buds out of their chain-coffee slumber.
Yaz: This coffee carried an intense zest, packing a lot of punch for a sensitive palate. It was a bit strong for my particular flavour spectrum, as I prefer the sweeter side of things. However, I did enjoy attempting to pick out the fruity undertones in each sip.
Chris: I absolutely adored this coffee. It was spicy and flavourful, in sharp contradiction to some of the overblown and over-roasted coffees you might find at a coffee chain.
The aroma of this shade-grown bean is deceptively mild in comparison to the flavour explosion it presents once brewed. This medium-style roast packs the punch of a dark roast in terms of taste, but still retains the subtleties we found in the milder roasts.
Yaz: The first sip introduced me to quite a commanding presence. The heaviest flavour I’ve yet encountered from Happy Goat, even compared to the dark roast Ugandan and Burundi. I needed a lot of sugar for this heavy hitter.
Chris: This coffee packed a real flavour punch. According to Richard, shade-grown medium roasts of this type develop their sugars slowly and fully, creating intense flavours. This was another favourite for me.
This dark roast has a lovely, zesty aroma and maintains a rich flavour spectrum. If you’ve never tried a dark roast before, this is definitely a good choice as it won’t knock you over with the characteristic acidity that many dark roasts can have.
Yaz: Despite being a dark roast, this coffee was a surprise to my taste buds. I found the flavour was full and not overly bitter on the back end. This was my first experience with a dark that I didn’t find overwhelming.
Chris: This dark roast was much milder than some of the medium roasts we’ve tried from Happy Goat. I was a big fan of the slightly fruity tang in the nose. I would definitely go back to this coffee.
Chocolate lovers take notice! One whiff of this lovely, medium roast and you’ll be introduced to a symphony of chocolaty notes that only gets better once brewed. This is a perfect selection to be enjoyed after dinner.
Yaz: I found this bean to have much more of an earthy aroma than the other beans we tried. The flavour was nice and tart, very much like a dark chocolate. I would love to make a tiramisu using this fantastic brew!
Chris: I really loved the light mouth- feel of this coffee. It was earthy with chocolaty undertones and a slight spiciness. Coffees like this make it difficult to go back to other local establishments where the flavours tend to be more predictable.
The Coffee Syphon
If you’re looking for a way to turn a simple cup of coffee into an entertaining performance, the coffee syphon is the way to go! Our friends were quite impressed by both the interesting process (which Richard details here) and the smooth flavour the syphon was able to produce. According to Richard, syphons and other alternatives to the standard auto-drip method make a superior cup of coffee. We did notice a distinct reduction in bitterness and an increase in smoothness between our samplings of the syphon-made coffee versus our French Press-made coffee. Happy Goat produces top-notch, locally roasted beans, so you’ll want to brew these coffees in a device that will do them justice.
Though you can pick up most of Happy Goat’s products at the roaster itself, you are encouraged to purchase the beans at select retailers across the city. Most of these locations carry a special blend of coffee that (like the aforementioned Piggy Blend) can only be found there. Currently, Happy Goat coffees can be purchased at the Piggy Market, the Red Apron, Herb and Spice (both locations) and Life of Pie. It can also be bought by the cup at Stone Food Soupworks and the Hot Potato Co. booth at the Ottawa Farmers Market at Lansdowne Park.