February 19, 2013
By Jeannette Vega B.
Russ and Chris Prefontaine are the visionary brothers behind the hit wonder, Analog Coffee on 17th Ave, nestled in the heart of Mount Royal and the Red Mile business district, a better location could not have been chosen.
The sleek and stylish cafe has quickly attracted a discerning and loyal clientele who recognizes the artistry and passion being put forth in this initiative. The brother’s desire to bring a higher level of quality and service to Calgary has not gone unnoticed with the buzz about Analog being wide spread.
I sat down with Chris and Russ to find out more about their journey into Analog, I wanted to know what motivated them and drove their passion throughout the years. The quiet yet charismatic brothers had a lot to say, their extensive knowledge, dedicated heart and deep desire to bring us the very best was immediately apparent.
Q.1 When and how did your passion for coffee start?
1 – Its difficult to say when my passion for coffee started as it has been a part of my entire life. My parents started in the coffee business in 1974 so my brothers and I grew up with coffee around us all the time. When we were young boys we would earn an allowance through helping my dad clean up coffee brewers. My parents started roasting coffee in 1985, and as we got older, we began being able to assist my dad in the roasting department during our summer holidays. We would help package coffee and get orders ready for his clients. When I was in high school and College I started working at coffee shops. My brother Chris also worked in a coffee shop but in 1991 started Espuccino Imports with our oldest brother Jason while Chris was in College. Espuccino Imports was an Italian espresso equipment import company who also did service, installation and training for local coffee shops. I joined my brothers at Espuccino Imports as a service technician in 1994, but the three of us began partners in 1997 when we purchased my parents coffee roasting business which was called Custom Gourmet Coffee at the time.
Our coffee is consciously chosen, responsibly purchased, and carefully roasted.
Q.2 What motivated you to open up a retail location (Analog)
2 – Many people have asked us why we started Analog Coffee at the Calgary Farmers Market as well as our new flag ship location on 17th Ave SW. Our Analog Café’s were not designed to be “just another coffee house”. They were designed and created to give Fratello Coffee Roasters a voice directly who matters most. People who drink and enjoy our coffee everyday.
The idea of having our own cafe isn’t new. We have been talking about this for over 15 years when we first purchased the roasting company from our parents in 1997. Back in the early years of our roasting company, our father Cam Prefontaine did his best to buy better coffee from his competitors. He would experiment with different ways of roasting this coffee with the equipment he had and would service his customers way better than his competitors.
These were also the days before “2nd Wave” coffee was the norm, and back before anyone had even heard of Starbucks. Trying to convince the early bakeries and deli’s to buy what was “gourmet” coffee was a challenging thing to do. It was only the early/mid 90’s that Starbucks, Second Cup, Grabba Jabba (now Timothy’s) began to pop up on every corner that the ability for us to roast/sell higher quality coffee began to become easier.
In these years, or the 2nd Wave of coffee, we began working closer with our wholesale café customers with education on what espresso based beverages were all about. We did our best to encourage them and get them excited about wanting to sell better and better coffee. We would offer our brand image to them in hopes that they would represent us in a way which would create recognition for quality. This unfortunately is very challenging to do when you are required to rely on others to be your voice on the streets.
A big decision was made in 2007/2008 when we as a company decided to down-size and re-focus on what we cared most about. And what we cared about was quality. At this time we changed our name to Fratello Coffee Roasters (Italian for brother) and began to focus on our accounts who aligned with the same principles as us. If an account didn’t “fit” we simply decided to end the relationship. Over the course of 4 years, a 50-60% reduction in business as well as an entirely new company culture was formed. It was only during this process that we could begin our transition into becoming a “3rd Wave” coffee roaster.
The Third Wave of Coffee refers to a current movement to produce high-quality coffee, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than a commodity, like wheat. This involves improvements at all stages of production, from improving coffee bean growing, harvesting, and processing, to stronger relationships between coffee growers and coffee traders and roasters, to higher quality and fresh roasting, at times called microroasting (by analogy with microbrew beer), to skilled brewing.
At Fratello we understand coffee because it has – literally – been our passion for over a quarter century! Hundreds of thousands of people have tasted our coffee without ever knowing it! With the opening of the Fratello Analog Café in the Calgary Farmer’s market in early 2011 we took the plunge into retail, and we’re delighted we did. We continue to learn new experiences each month which empowers us with new knowledge to better train/coach our wholesale clients. Our brand has become more recognized in this city as the leading quality coffee roaster and has enabled us to have a “voice” in the street (away from business to business) of our own, and put our brand in our own hands.
With the 2012 opening of our flagship store on 17th Ave and 7th Street we are again able to begin sourcing coffee an entirely new way! It wasn’t typical of us to introduce 2 or more coffees from the same growing region at once, but this is something we are starting this year. We find it’s such a great opportunity for our customers to discover different flavour characteristics a country has to offer when you are able to taste different farm/cooperative offerings, from the same growing region, side by side.
Therefore, What makes a great cup of coffee? Simply put, pride! Pride in how we source our product, by knowing our producers and knowing our regions, and not being afraid to always make the call that quality is more important than quantity. Attention to perfection then continues back here in Calgary, where we use our many years of roasting/training experience. Lastly, the magic plays out in our cafes, Analog Coffee, where our amazing staff – who all understand and live the Fratello philosophy – bring you the perfect cup of coffee every time you order it. Come and check us out.
Q.3 How do you feel Calgary is benefiting from Analog’s unique approach?
3 – I definitely see Calgary benefiting from Analog Coffee being opened up. It’s like a chicken or the egg thing; what came first – the great coffee house or the great city? At Fratello we’re obviously biased, but we believe that you have to have great coffee houses to make a great city. And just look around, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Vancouver and Seattle – they all have remarkable cafes. Take it a step further. How many movie sets or TV shows profile coffee shops? Tons of them, and there is a reason for that. Because great coffee houses bring out the very best in us. They allow us to appreciate the good things in life; things that often get missed in the hurly burly of our daily existence.
In a great coffee house we socialize, we think, and we somehow become instantly gracious and appreciative. Perhaps it’s the magic aroma of magnificently roasted coffee, or the professional skills of your barista, but somehow a good coffee shop ‘brings you inside’ and gives you as much value from the experience of the place as from the taste of the product.
At Fratello we understand coffee because it has – literally – been our passion for over a quarter century! Hundreds of thousands of people have tasted our coffee without ever knowing it! With the opening of the Fratello Analog Café in the Calgary Farmer’s market in early 2011 we took the plunge into retail, and we’re delighted we did. We continue to learn new experiences each month which empowers us with new knowledge to better train/coach our wholesale clients. Our brand has become more recognized in this city as the leading quality coffee roaster and has enabled us to have a “voice” in the street (away from business to business).
With the upcoming fall 2012 opening of our flagship store on 17th Ave and 7th Street we’ll be in the heart of the action, helping to sustain the pulse of that vibrant part of town. Again, great café help build great cities.
What makes a great cup of coffee? Simply put, pride! Pride in how we source our product, by knowing our producers and knowing our regions, and not being afraid to always make the call that quality is more important than quantity. Attention to perfection then continues back here in Calgary, where we use our many years of roasting/training experience. Lastly, the magic plays out in our cafes, Analog Coffee, where our amazing staff – who all understand and live the Fratello philosophy – bring you the perfect cup of coffee every time you order it.
Coffee should be all about the people. The people who produce it, the people who roast/find it, the people who serve it and most importantly at Analog Coffee, the people who come in to enjoy it. And, great people make a great city!
Q.4 How do you stay current in your business?
4 – Staying current in this business is a constant battle. The coffee market is always changing, in the past 5 years has been changing faster than ever. New brewing methods, and the re-birth of older brewing methods are coming back. The way roasters source coffee is changing and we are pushing ourselves harder then ever to roast these coffees in ways which extenuate the natural flavours found in these beans. More than this is the consumer is he much more educated and expect more from the baristas at the best cafes. To compete in the cafe market at this level is hard work. Its about constant training and re-trainiing and never being satisfied with what you are currently doing. Being good, isn’t good enough.
We learn a lot from the roasters from around the world we meet when we are traveling to visit our coffee producers. We are always bouncing ideas off of each other and then stay in contact with social media. Twitter and Facebook are great ways to watch and learn from the best roasters/cafe in the world as well as going to different trade shows in this industry.
Really the bottom line for us to continually improve is the realization that we do not know all the answers. We have yet to perfect the art of roasting and the skill of customer service. We are striving to get there, but know we can never reach that goal, but by reaching for this goal we will continually improve what we do.
Since opening our doors at Analog Coffee 17th the main thing we have learned is that there has been a hunger for this level of cafe in Calgary. There are many cafes in Calgary that are doing a great job, but Analog has tried to create a very friendly and approachable atmosphere. We do not want anyone to feel intimated to ask questions and order beverages from our baristas. We want to give the information to the clients who are interested in it, but not be over bearing or “coffee snobs” to clients who are just starting to explore coffee of this quality. Our clients are really enjoying this and continue to support us as we perfect our systems in this new venture.
Stop by for a unique coffee experience and you might just end up staying longer than expected, savour an exquisite pastry or sandwich from one of the carefully chosen partners like Sidewalk Citizen and La Boulangerie, it will most certainly be an enjoyable stop that might end up being your favourite.
February 1, 2013
What a terrible time to be a coffee producer in Central America. An aggressive, widespread attack of the coffee-eating roya fungus is causing more damage and devastation throughout Central America’s coffee plantations than was expected and is inflicting high costs on producers at a time when international coffee prices have fallen sharply.
Just when you think it looks like coffee producers were beginning to be more profitable in their business’s through getting better prices for their coffee, the NY Commodity Market decides to decline sharply. Typically when you see the NYC Market go higher, you have a softening on the differential market. The opposite is then true when you see a down turn in the NYC Market. This is a stressful and risky way for coffee producers to sell coffee.
The differential market varies completely from origin to origin and often reflects quality levels as well as supply and demand with in an origin. The NYC market is a global benchmark for pricing, but does NOT reflect any sort of quality. The NYC Market fluctuates rapidly and has many variables, which make this commodity move. Years ago it was weather, the crop sizes in Brazil and supply & demand which caused the fluctuations, but today the biggest factor in this are the large Fund companies who buy/sell commodities everyday.
Due to Direct Trade, our pricing remains fairly consistent year over year with the coffee producers we work with. We reward them for the quality and care they put into their coffee, typically paying 25-35% more than what Fair Trade would pay them. Through this method of working with coffee producers they are ensured they will be profitable, gives them a secured customer, gives Fratello incredible quality and takes the pressure of the NYC Market away from the producers we work with.
All of this sounds like it gives everyone security; however, what this does not do is protect the coffee trees from environmental conditions which greatly impact the amount of coffee cherries produced each year. What we are seeing this year through out Central America is devastating, and will impact us all for the next 2-4 years.
The Roya, a leaf disease (a fungus also called Leaf Rust) is currently spreading extremely rapidly through all of Central America. The tree killing fungus is affecting the entire area, from Costa Rica to Mexico. For example in Honduras, Central America’s largest coffee producer, are talking of a 20% loss in this current crop this current year. All coffee producers were taken by surprise and were unprepared to combat this disease. Now the alarms are sounding!! This year yields throughout Central America are down as much as 30%, but the major impact will come the next 2 to 3 years depending on how well governments assist farmers to combat this disease. Major pruning of all trees, having to replace aging trees with new ones and most important is the requirement to fertilize adequately. It will be a major task requiring serious financial assistance. Today with these low NYC Market prices could potentially be devastating.
El Salvador is predicting coffee yields to be 50% lower next year, and the smallest harvest in 73 years! Guatemala is seeing 40% of their trees infested, Costa Rica is predicting a crop 25% smaller this year and 50% smaller next year. The same news is spreading north and is said to be the same outcomes in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras next year.
Colombia already went through what Central America producers are going through now. Production is recovering 4 years later. The biggest issue in Colombia is that the low NYC prices combined with a strong local currency (compared to the weak US Dollar) is creating a cost of production which is estimated to be 20% to 25% higher than what their current selling prices are. The government is in discussion today with Colombian FNC and key producing states to extend an assistance program.
Meantime, sellers are mostly withdrawn waiting for a better evaluation of crops and also better prices. Coffee exporters at origin are sitting on their inventories waiting for better news before selling. The C market has steadied for now and differentials are beginning to get higher.
The next 2-4 years are going to be a bumpy ride. Roasters are going to have to be aggressive to find and secure the top quality coffee. Fratello Coffee Roasters are hard at work visiting with coffee producers and exporters to ensure we have the most current information and to ensure we have the supply to pass on to our clients.
January 8, 2013
17th Avenue welcomes a new café where people can get their Fratello coffee fix and other sweet and savoury treats.
Lattes at Analog are made with locally roasted Fratello beans.
Longtime local coffee roaster, Fratello, first expanded from roasting beans to serving them at its Analog Coffee stand in the Calgary Farmers’ Market in 2011. Now, the Fratello brothers, Russ and Chris, have added a second location to their roster on the corner of 17th Avenue S.W. and 7th Street S.W.
Analog Coffee sits on the corner of 17th Avenue and 7th Street S.W.
If you can’t quite place the location, perhaps you’ll remember what it was before: A Buy Rite store. After decades of being a convenience store, the space has undergone an extensive facelift. The interior, which seats approximately 30 people, is bright and clean. White walls reflect any the sun shining in through the cafe’s front floor-to-ceiling windows, making the baristas’ work station the focal point of the room. Although limited, the comfortable booth seating is highlighted by two rows of black pendant lamps and an accent wall with an eclectic array of artwork. Last, but not least, Analog pays homage to its location’s predecessor, with the original “Buy Rite Store” lettering mounted proudly on the east wall.
Now, for the drinks. Honestly, if you’re really in a rush or looking for a non-fat triple venti caramel mocha whatever, than Analog Coffee probably isn’t for you. Like anything of quality in this world, the Fratello brothers believe that a good cup of coffee takes time. Here, their team of baristas operate The Slayer — a top-of-the-line espresso machine created by Fratello (now used in many top cafés all over the world) — to create espresso-based beverages, complete with latte art of course, and a pour-over system for drip coffee.
Aside from the house espresso called The Godfather, the small batch coffee roasts rotate regularly, and most beans are direct trade and single estate.
Sandwiches from the Sidewalk Citizen Bakery (like this Copa ham sandwich) are delivered to Analog fresh daily.
It’s rare for me to say an establishment makes none of its food offerings in-house and mean it as a good thing, but I’m happy to report that all sandwiches, savoury and sweet baking are delivered fresh daily by the Sidewalk Citizen Bakery so you can be assured of the highest quality.
Grab a scone or biscuit to go with your morning coffee before work. If you’re popping by closer to the lunch hour, try one of Sidewalk Citizen’s artisan baguette sandwiches. Although the baguettes change throughout the week, the roasted turkey with roast fennel, arugula and curry mayo or the Copa ham sandwich with tomato jam, Swiss cheese and pickled cabbage are two of the possibilities that your tastebuds may stumble across.
Analog is also open in the evenings, making it an ideal spot for a casual date, to get some work done (yes, there is free wifi), or to just sit up at the counter by the window to people watch on the always-buzzing 17th Avenue.
January 7, 2013
You know those idyllic coffee shops you see in advertisements for really expensive jewelry or high-tone perfume? The kind of place where tall windows spill light across hardwood floors onto shiny espresso machines, and where hip customers lean into each other, deep in conversation? Thats the new Analog Coffee (740 17 Ave. S.W.) in a nutshell.
Stepping out of 17th Avenue traffic through the corner door of the former Buy Rite grocery store is like crossing into a slightly amplified — and caffeinated — world. The December light glows golden at midday and the air is filled with the intoxicating aroma of espresso. Buy Rite lives on in its old metal sign letters hung over the coffee bar (Free Delivery is there too) but otherwise the space is fully updated. Herringbone hardwood covers the floors while those light-spilling windows are sealed against winter’s blast. Long black banquettes line the walls and a handful of tables fill the small room.
A long bar hosts a Fratello Slayer espresso machine — one of the best on the market — and a pour-over section for those wanting a longer coffee. For the fly-by crowd on the run, there will soon be larger coffee carafes at the ready for take-out. And for those feeling a bit peckish, there’s fresh baking from La Boulangerie and Sidewalk Citizen. That includes some of Sidewalk’s creative sandwiches built by talented chef Colin Metcalfe.
Analog Coffee is the second shop created by Chris and Russ Prefontaine, the brothers behind Fratello Coffee Roasters. Their first Analog opened in the new Calgary Farmers Market last year and always seems to have a lineup. Now the brothers have taken their concept uptown.
So what is their concept? Good coffee of course, using responsibly grown, direct trade beans (sourced directly from the growers) and a combination of technology (the Slayer) and handmade (pour-over). Combine that with service by baristas who know their product and you get a good cup of coffee.
Then there’s the Analog name, referring to their desire to hand-craft every cup of coffee and serve foods that are equally hand-crafted. Look along the back wall of Analog, under the Buy Rite sign, and you’ll see a long row of LPs, records collected from numerous sources around town. Although Analogs soundtrack is now distinctly digital, they plan to install a turntable and crank out old analog tunes from the disks. Perhaps that will make the coffee even tastier and the light just a little more golden.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
In Early November 2012 I had the opportunity to go back to Colombia. This was a great trip, again in Huila, where we focused our attention in the micro-regions of Acevedo and San Agustin (You can view photos on our Facebook page). This was my 5th trip to Colombia and am finally confident in working in these two areas for the foreseeable future. Colombia has always been a challenging country for me to work in for a few reasons.
Reason 1 – Colombia is a huge country and the distances between the coffee growing regions is great. A lot of our past trips have been in cars/planes/buses traveling from one region to the next. Each region is unique in standardized flavor profiles, and It was important for us to know that Huila was our most desired region (Tolima is second for us).
Reason 2 – Even the region (or province) Huila is huge and very diverse with MANY micro-regions, each giving you a different elevations, land scape and coffee culture. The past 2 trips before this one were all focused in Huila as well. Within Huila we traveled to these following micro-regions (keep in mind, this isn’t all of the micro-regions in Huila, but the main ones we visited):
Each of these regions offer a “unique profile”, let alone how each coffee producer with in these micro-regions grow different varietals, different elevations and different processing techniques all of which achieve unique cup profiles.
Reason 3 – The average farm size in Colombia has 3 hectares of land. From this, you can typically harvest 20-40 exportable sacks of coffee (152 lbs per sack), twice per year. Colombia and Kenya are unique in the world for having 2 harvests per year due to their proximity to the equator and many microclimates with in their countries.
Our challenge has been finding a coffee producer who is able to consistently produce enough high quality coffee each harvest for us to partner with. The risk with Direct Trade in Colombia is that you do not have much flexibility in choosing different Lots from a single producer. Ideally when working with coffee producers year over year, is the ability to pick and choose specific Lots (areas within a farm) that you want to buy that harvest. Each harvest produces new challenges to the coffee producers, and you are never guaranteed to get the same quality as you did before. Being able to choose different Lots from a single coffee producer creates more certainty in finding the specific quality we desire year over year.
These challenges are also what makes Colombia rewarding for us. Because this isn’t an easy country to source from, a lot of roasters do not go, or have yet to try and establish Direct Trade with any coffee producers. Due to the relationships we have established over the years, we have been able to find some amazing producers who we are confident to work with.
Our newest Direct Trade partnership is going to be with Elias Roa who has 2 farms. One in El Pital called Finca Tamana. Fratello Coffee Roasters purchased 1 Lot of coffee from him last year from Finca Tamana and our goal was to continue to work there moving forward. Unfortunately for us, but starting this year, 100% of all his production is going to Tim Wendelboe now. However; Elias’s other farm is located in Acevedo which continues to be my favorite region for cup quality in Colombia. This farm is called Finca Recuerdo (Translates to “The Memory”) and is located in the micro-region Primavera in Acevedo. I will have a separate blog post on Elias later.
Another very special lot of coffee we are bringing in is from Arnulfo Leguisamo. We are fortunate to be getting Lot #1 which is grown in San Agustin. Arnulfo holds the record in Colombia for highest ranking coffee, as well as most expensive Colombian coffee when he won first place in the 2011 Colombian Cup of Excellence competition getting $45.00 / lb. This is among the best coffee I’ve ever cupped in my life, and we will have this in early 2013.
We are proud to say that we are making big progress in Colombia, and are happy that our hard work is finally paying off. The producers we are going to be working with are 100% dedicated to achieving top quality lots harvest over harvest, so you can be assured that the quality of our micro-lots are only going to improve moving forward.
November 22, 2012
Happy Holidays from Fratello Coffee Roasters! At Christmas time why not pay special attention to the coffee lover on your list (that is usually most people on the list) and treat them to some great gift ideas from Fratello. We offer all of these items at our roastery, as well as at Fratello Analog Cafe at the Calgary Farmers Market and our new store Analog Coffee 17th Ave. Come by for a demonstration on how to use these items to their full potential.
Here is our list for you. Lots of great coffee, some popular and really neat by-the-cup brew methods and tools for the home or professional Barista are all great options! Any questions call or email us and we would love to help.
Fratello Coffee Roasters has a fantastic coffee brewing packages for the coffee lover on your list, or for you! By the Cup Brewing is becoming more and more popular in the top cafes around the world. It is also our preferred method at our Analog Coffee locations.
Not sure what this is? Here is a brewing video guide for the Chemex.
If your are looking for a espresso machines, coffee grinders and automatic coffee brewers than we those products as well. We are fanatical about brewing amazing coffee, and we only carry coffee equipment that we would also use in our own homes. This equipment truly brews coffee to the quality you find in your local cafes.
We roast every order fresh when you order from us on-line. We want to ensure that you and your coffee lover get the absolute freshest coffee possible. Choose from a wide selection of Direct Trade micro-lots that each have a unique flavor and story. We are proud of our coffee and work extremely hard at developing each roast profile to bring out the natural flavors found in each bean.
Sure a bottle of wine is the customary host gift during the holiday season, but why not give a bag of coffee this season! Amazing Espresso blends, top tier single origin coffee and Cup of Excellence selections are all in store for you!
Fratello has a great selection of espresso tampers, milk steaming pitchers, cleaning solutions and knock boxes for the home espresso enthusiest or the professional Barista alike! If you are looking for that particular product give us a call or come in to see us! We don’t have these items online, but would be happy to help you choose.
Happy Holidays from Fratello! Enjoy your coffee and enjoy your time with family and friends this season. We look forward to helping find that perfect gift!