Cuppa Joe and a new place to go: hip café comes to Iqaluit
Chef sees need for niche java shop in Nunavut capital
Coffee beans are really seeds, found in the centre of a small red fruit that looks kind of like a cranberry.
It’s that centre—and the dark colour of the caffeine-bearing liquid fuel the beans brew up—that inspired the name of Iqaluit’s hip new coffee joint: Black Heart Café.
“Iqaluit needed something different. Something that wasn’t just seats and a menu,” said owner Joseph Szakacs, who has been working in Iqaluit’s culinary scene for seven years.
The city, he said, was due for a “user-friendly” gathering space able to host everything from business meetings to birthday parties.
Not to mention a place that can serve up a stellar cup of joe.
“I’m a big fan of coffee, chefs drink a lot of it,” he said.
It’s only been open for a couple of weeks, and already Black Heart Café is a hive of local activity. The sunny shop on Federal Road has all the fixings of a trendy southern café—chalkboard signage, industrial lighting and a glass display case full of mouth-watering and made-on-site baked goods.
They don’t have free WiFi, but so far it’s only out-of-towners who put in that tall order, Szakacs said.
As for food, Iqaluit’s lunch crowd will have to stay tuned for a coming light menu of healthy items like soups and salads.
“Food made from real food, that’s what we want to bring,” Szakacs said, adding that he would like to include country food on the menu, using char, berries and even seaweed from Frobisher Bay—with a “modern twist.”
But those plans are a little ways off yet.
“Right now we’re focused on the coffee experience and baked items,” he said.
That coffee experience is brought to you by Szakacs, a few part-time staff and four full-time employees. This includes Coleman Hills, who, new to town, brings his knowledge of specialty coffees to Iqaluit from past jobs worked in high-end Calgary cafés.
He makes a mean cappuccino.
“We want to grow the business,” and grow it right, Szakacs said—with fair trade coffee he buys from a company called Equator in the Ottawa Valley.
The beans are sustainably sourced through cooperatives in various countries, including Peru, Guatemala, Mexico and Ethiopia.
“Having those fresh beans ground per cup is really significant, that’s where you’re getting your quality,” he said.
No doubt that the quality cup also comes via the café’s very expensive Italian espresso machine, that Szakacs called a “workhorse.”
The Black Heart team are still working out all the bells and whistles on the school-bus-yellow espresso maker, but so far, “It’s performed magically for us,” Szakacs said. “It can handle the volumes we were hoping to see.”
And are seeing so far.
The café was packed this past weekend during Toonik Tyme events, and was also busy with a late-morning crowd when Nunatsiaq News caught up with Szakacs at his shop earlier this week.
“For me it’s always been a dream,” he said, of opening his own café. “Everyone that comes in has been very appreciative… I feel really grateful that we’re in a community that supports small, independent businesses.”