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Iconoclast Koffiehuis changes café game

Iconoclast Koffiehuis is tucked away in an industrial area just North of Oliver. Keeping with its location, the café throws out an industrial minimalist vibe, with exposed brick walls and a burly wooden coffee bar. A smattering of tables and chairs loosely fill the huge space, while an Industrial-Revolution-era-looking coffee roaster hangs out near the back.

From the pair of 50-something-year-olds discussing woodworking over a regular coffee to the students gulping down Tolstoy alongside their second or third cappuccino, the cafe appeals to a broad range of people — which is just what owner Ryan Arcand wants.

In 2008, after discovering his love for Italian coffee, Arcand started Iconoclast as a wholesale roasting company. Seven years later, it’s a coffee house that works the beans through nearly every step of production — from roasting the green beans that arrive six or seven bags at a time from West Coast suppliers to handcrafting the latte in your hands — and remains locally and quality minded.

Arcand describes Iconoclast’s vision as revolving around practicality and quality, and says that small-batch roasting ultimately produces a consistently high-calibre product. Although small batches permit more variability in flavour, keeping production small-scale ensures that quality-minded people are following the coffee every step of the way.

Iconoclast roasts small batches of coffee in-house four days a week, and has espresso pouring all seven. While the hip café may appear to cater to a younger demographic, Ryan hopes to make anyone feel welcome. He insists he is not a “coffee snob,” and instead of trying to convert all coffee drinkers to small-batch brewing, he says he just wants people to feel comfortable enjoying coffee.

“(If) somebody walks into our place and says ‘I want a dark roast cup of coffee,’ I’m going to give them a dark roast cup of coffee. I’m not going to tell anyone how to enjoy their coffee. My idea of coffee is (that it’s) one of life’s simple pleasures,” says Arcand.

His vision for the coffee house is modest but genuine, and focuses on people rather than dramatically changing Edmonton’s coffee scene.

“I don’t have intentions to be the biggest,” he says. “If anything, my motivations lie with doing real things with real people — interesting things.”

Aside from hosting private events like small weddings, product launches and even birthday parties, Iconoclast offers a ping pong table with plenty of room to swing, a chess board, and a free games night once a month. Last month they hosted a “Sherriff of Nottingham” tournament, where the winner took home a free copy of the game. The next games night, which will be held March 26, won’t focus on one game, but will be open-house style, and a good opportunity to bring a friend for a cup of coffee.

As far as the city’s growing coffee culture, Arcand says “Edmonton has experienced the same bloom of café culture that every other city on the continent and in the West has.” (So don’t worry folks, we’re not so far behind Seattle after all.) He also notes the progression toward “scratch-production,” which is easily recognized in Iconoclast’s small-scale and home-grown approach.

“I think there’s this renaissance of mercantile economy and production where people are going back to school to get their butchers tickets, training themselves to be bakers … in a way that it’s become cool and hip, and maybe profitable. I don’t know, but it makes sense that more small businesses would turn to producing goods — coffee included,” Arcand says.

Iconoclast’s old-world vibe is also felt through their ongoing collaboration with Red Bike. To create a bike-positive environment, the café sells bikes — which are coolly displayed on the walls — and this spring, they will begin carrying bike accessories. Once the weather warms up, the cafe will open up their two dock doors, and cyclists can roll their bikes right into the shop while they enjoy a game of table tennis.

Arcand notes “this idea of the third wave of coffee culture has blossomed and taken root,” so if you’re interested in reaping the benefits of quality coffee, Iconoclast Koffeehuis is a good place to start.

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