West Broadway’s coffee connoisseurs

Thom Bargen Coffee & Tea aims to educate the public about quality java

“I don’t need more alcohol in my life, but I could use more good coffee in my life,” TJ Hiebert (right) told Graham Bargen (left) when the duo started talking about opening either a pub or coffee shop. Josh Dookhie

Graham Bargen recalls what his friend and business partner, TJ Hiebert, told him a year-and-a-half ago when the pair started throwing around the idea of starting either their own pub or coffee shop.

“I don’t need more alcohol in my life, but I could use more good coffee in my life.”

Earlier this month, the duo officially opened Thom Bargen Coffee & Tea at 64 Sherbrook St.

“I’ve always been passionate about coffee,” says Bargen, 26, who left a corporate job in sales and marketing to start the shop. “I’ve traveled and I always seek out the good spots in awesome cities. When Parlour Coffee opened (in Winnipeg), that was the only place we wanted to go. And it was just sad that there was one good coffee shop in a city that has so much potential.”

Hiebert, who has spent the past eight years working construction and studying, agrees.

“Everybody should be in walking distance of a good cup of coffee,” the 27-year-old says.

Serving quality coffee in a well-designed building, located in a community they believe in, is important to Bargen and Hiebert.

“We’re very proud of serving ethical coffee that farmers make a living off of,” Hiebert says. “That’s really ingrained in what we do.”

He adds that the shop approaches coffee as though it were food - it needs to be harvested in season, and after it’s roasted, it doesn’t have a long shelf life.

“People are so accustomed to drinking old stale coffee - it’s pretty crazy,” Hiebert says. “Everything (at Thom Bargen) is made to order, everything’s ground seconds before it’s consumed.”

Everybody should be in walking distance of a good cup of coffee.

TJ Hiebert

Bargen adds that he was inspired by the pour-over coffee bars he encountered while visiting Los Angeles. It’s a slow brew process that takes longer than the batch brew process used at chain coffee shops.

“The culture there is at a point where people have the mentality, ‘I’m gonna go, I’m going to wait in line for two-and-a-half minutes or four minutes longer for my cup, ‘cause that’s how I want it.’ They’re educated, they know the process, they like how clean it is. It was really inspiring to see huge sections of counters just be pour-over bars. In Winnipeg that’s not happening, and in a lot of places, it’s about speed. We want to really help educate the community, and that’s a big thing we were inspired by.”

When asked about the aesthetics of the building, Bargen points to the Friso Kramer chairs in the shop.

“This chair kind of represents us,” he says of the furniture, which is from Amsterdam. “It’s designer, it’s modern, it’s beautiful, but it’s from 1964 and it’s rusting a little bit. That’s kind of what we wanted to encompass with our design.”

“We wanted something very linear, with good angles and good lines - a really modern kind of gallery,” he adds. “But then we wanted to mix in this industrial modern side of it to kind of get that grunge factor that suits this neighbourhood. So, we added things like the exposed brick wall.”

It’s all coming together for Bargen and Hiebert, who are excited to join the likes of Parlour Coffee and Café Postal in Winnipeg’s burgeoning independent coffee scene.

“We love the coffee community,” Hiebert says. “I think it’s an interesting business in that it’s not cutthroat competition where anybody else serving a coffee, especially a good cup of coffee where they have the same passion as you do, is your enemy.

“It’s about growing the scene. We love Parlour and the other shops coming up. And we just think it’s good for the farmer for the population to have a high standard for coffee.”

Published in Volume 67, Number 20 of The Uniter (February 21, 2013)

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