September 30, 2019
If you’ve never heard of Phil & Sebastian, chances are you’ve never sipped coffee in Calgary.
“They’re real people who met in a first year engineering course at University of Calgary, and bonded over a shared love of great food, wine, and coffee,” laughs Rob Oppenheim, one of the partners making up Phil & Sebastian Coffee. “We sometimes hear strange rumours that they’re some mysterious couple from New York or some other exotic place, but they’re two Calgary guys.”
Phil & Sebastian have been operating cafes and selling artisanal coffee in Calgary for over ten years. Their eponymous bags of beans are now available at Calgary Co-op stores.
“We have three styles of coffee that are great for drip coffee makers, plus we have three styles of espresso and a decaf available at Co-op,” explains Oppenheim.
All the coffee beans are roasted fresh in Calgary at the company’s roasterie, and for many years they were only available by visiting one of the cafes in the inner city. Oppenheim says Phil & Sebastian made the choice to work with Co-op so that regular customers would have easier access to their wares, and so that folks new to their product would have an easier way to sample it.
“Our coffees cost more, yes, but that’s because we’re paying much more to the farmers that grow the beans, and in return we are getting much higher quality coffee than what is available in the commodity market.” explains Oppenheim, “We pay two to three times what the farmers get paid in the commodity market, which is a huge benefit to the producers we work with.
Phil and Sebastian, the people, not the company, travel each year to visit the farmers they buy beans from, working with them directly.
“We were pioneers of this purchasing model; it’s known as direct trade and we visit every producer we work with every year. We work on projects at the farm level to collaborate with producers in improving quality. This model creates incredible traceability, and we print the name of each farmer right on our coffee bags. There are very few roasters in the world that purchase 100% of their coffee directly. That’s what sets us apart.”
The names of those farms are indeed printed on the bags, but customers may find it helpful to use Phil & Sebastian’s own guide when it comes to choosing a coffee.
“We use a very simple flavour guide to help our customers choose a coffee that they will love. All our coffees are labeled R1, R2, or R3. R1 is the most comfortable coffee – It has chocolatey notes and is very crowd pleasing. It is the best option for those customers new to specialty coffee. R2 is approachable and nuanced with subtle fruit notes, and R3 is the most exotic, for those who want to try very unique floral and fruit flavours.
Recent travels have taken Phil and Sebastian to Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras, where the company has purchased a coffee farm it hopes to use somewhat experimentally, testing organic and new coffee varietals.
“We have a partnership with a local producer to assist us in developing our farm. It takes about five years from planting a new coffee tree until the first beans are ready to harvest, so we’re still a few years away from having coffee from our own farm. Once we do, we are excited to share it with Co-op customers as well,” enthuses Oppenheim.
While Phil & Sebastian may have a reputation as a fancy coffee shop, Oppenheim says there doesn’t need to be anything fancy about how customers brew their coffee at home.
“It’s very easy to make good coffee at home. The key is to purchase beans that are freshly roasted, with a roast date right on the bag. Another tip is to invest in a quality burr grinder, as it will help you make consistent coffee, day after day. Making our coffee at home can be as easy or involved as you want it to be. Some people simply want to put coffee in the drip machine and press the button without fuss, other people like to weigh and measure perfectly. Either way, using fresh-roasted, Phil & Sebastian coffee beans is going to ensure you are enjoying world-class coffee at home.”
Find Phil & Sebastian Coffees at your local Calgary Co-op.
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