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Ottawa Coffee Fest: Support local while staying caffeinated

By Philippe Ha on March 8, 2019

On March 23, the Ottawa Coffee Fest will bring coffee lovers and local roasters to the historic Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park to experience and celebrate one of the world’s most popular beverages together. Many Ottawa staples like Bridgehead, Equator and Happy Goat will be on site but the complete list of vendors includes variety of must-try independent spots like Cloud Forest, Engine House, and Strawberry Blonde Bakery.

At the time of writing, this first edition of the festival has already sold over 500 tickets. In addition to all that java, the festival will feature music by DJ Sweet Cheeks while showcasing food, merchandise, two espresso stations with rotating roasters and baristas (schedule here), a mix of free and paid workshops, and a speaker series called Behind the Bean. The series will look to explore coffee’s global impact and will also include a panel discussion, with three local shop owners, on coffee culture in Ottawa. Here’s a look at this year’s speakers:

Julie Francoeur
Executive Director, Fair Trade Canada

Julie’s passion sits at the crossroad of development and trade. She is currently leading Fairtrade Canada as Executive Director. She has an MBA in Emerging Markets, a BA in International Development and a Diploma in African Rural Development. From working in Montreal with Équiterre in responsible cotton imports to closed loop municipal waste management in Bolivia, managing slum urbanization projects in Buenos Aires and running field operations for Fairtrade International in the Caribbean, she has touched sustainability from multiple angles. She worked from the ground up with farmer coops, brands, traders, millers, factories, unions, governments and everyone in between in 13 different countries.

She knows hands-on that sustainable supply chains and empowering farmers and workers is messy hard work that often fails. But she has also seen success and is adamant to help others scale up that impact.


Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow
Founder, Birch Bark Coffee Company

Mark is Ojibwe and a band member of Whitefish River First Nation located on Birch Island, Ontario in the District of Manitoulin Island. He is the founder of a First Nations owned innovative social enterprise called Birch Bark Coffee Company and he is on a mission to change Indigenous lives on a national level.

Through the sales of its coffee, the Birch Bark Coffee Company plans to take immediate action to elevate the on-going “Boiled Water Advisories” in Ontario and help the other provinces across Canada. Indigenous people in Canada continue to live in Third World conditions and Mark has sought to educate the world that BBCC can and will make a difference through innovation and self-determination.


Craig Hall
President and Co-Founder, Equator

Craig, alongside his wife, began their fairtrade coffee company in 1998. They started their own small coffee roasting business with the mission of being a fairtrade and organic and to changing the way people thought about doing business. Their hope is that Equator’s persistence to have a successful business that is clearly trying to be socially responsible will inspire others to do their best. Their goal? They want their customers to feel the difference that fair business can bring to the world!


Ramon Lara
Honduran Coffee Importer and Environmentalist, Poppa Bean

Ramon Lara is a third generation coffee farmer from Las Vegas Honduras. Nestled in the district of Santa Barbara, the little mining town has a long history of growing coffee and a variety of other tropical cash crops. Ramon recently graduated with a degree in Environmental Science from Carleton University and is active in the Latin American community here in Ottawa, working with the Honduran Embassy to promote not only coffee but all that Honduras has to offer. Ramon started working with coffee roaster Poppa Bean in Vars, ON about two years ago with the goal of bringing in shipments of raw Honduran coffee from his hometown to Canada. Since working together, Ramon was able introduce to tens of thousands of pounds of his coffee to Ottawa and towns all across Canada. Ramon Lara is now currently organizing the Santa Barbara Coffee Festival in his hometown.


Monika Firl
Director of Sustainability, CoopCoffees

Monika Firl has worked in the CoopCoffees Montreal office since 2002, initially as Green Buyer and Producer Relations Manager, and now since 2017, as Director of Sustainability. Monika got her start in coffee while living and working in Central America and Mexico from 1991 to 2000, with experiences that range from: founding a community-focused information center in San Salvador focused on alternative technologies; coordinating a Campesino-a-Campesino learning and exchange program focused on sustainable production practices and market alternatives with farmer groups across the region; and, facilitating technical trainings and marketing development with coffee producers’ cooperatives in Chiapas— including Maya Vinic with whom CoopCoffees maintains a relationship to date. Monika holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism as well as a BA in International Relations and German.


Christina Nguyen
Owner, Café des sentiers

Christina is the founder and owner of the Café des Sentiers, an independent coffee shop serving fair trade locally roasted coffee right in the Gatineau Park. The Café just opened in January 2019 and prides itself in the quality of the products it serves and the enriching interactions with its clientele.

Christina grew up in an entrepreneurial home, her mom having owned and operated a number of businesses, including a coffee shop, in Montreal where she grew up. Christina studied business administration and international affairs at HEC Montreal and the University of Ottawa respectively. She has lived and worked in Mexico, Israel, Guinea and France and travels extensively for work and pleasure. She took a short break from her career in international affairs to embark on this entrepreneurial adventure. She is also involved with the Gatineau Skateboard Association, of which she is a founding member. She lives in Hull, 5 minutes away from her coffee shop, with her husband, three kids and dog.


Janet Nicol
Founder, Jamari Espresso House

A life-long global coffee explorer, Janet has sipped coffee for over 3 decades from roadside bicycle vendors from Turkey to Kyoto and sat at the bars of the coffee hot spots from Rome to Bangkok. Finally landing back in her hometown of Ottawa in 2017 she decided to open her own cafe and share her love of superb espresso, international drinks and nurturing interior design.


France Desfossés
Owner, Planet Coffee

France has owned and operated Planet Coffee in Ottawa for almost 25 years. She has experienced success, met loads of wonderful people, led many employees, made every mistake, lost lots of sleep… and she keeps learning and growing every step of the way!


The Ottawa Coffee Festival takes place at the Horticulture Building, 1525 Princess Patricia Way, 10am—7pm on March 23, 2019. Follow them on Instagram for more updates and announcements. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. For a 15% discount, enter this promotional code: APT613COFFEE (valid through March 15, 2019.)