Quality Coffee: Developing Sustainable Habits PART # 3

Habit Coffee is a bicycle friendly establishment with ample bicycle parking available for the whole family.

As a  wander lust younger man, Shane Deveraux  spent five years on the road: traveling, living and learning. During his travels he developed a strong attachment to Australia, arguably this is where he became hopelessly in love with coffee not just as a business but as an art-form.

In Australia, is where he discovered that the North American coffee shop model was lacking creativity, which contributes to a shortcoming in maintaining an inclusive and welcoming environment for all customers.  Australia, as Shane succinctly argues, is more coffee obsessed than Canada is; they have more espresso machines per capita than any other country in the world, save for the motherland of coffee-Italy.

The friendly staff and customers at Habit. By the way, the two gentlemen sitting at the table are fixtures at Habit Coffee. So much so, that they are on a first name basis with Shane, the store owner and operator.

To counteract this cultural malaise within the coffee industry, he took too heart, what the Australian’s affectionately call the three pillar approach to sustaining a healthy coffee business model, by adopting the following business values: quality, service and community.  This values based  commitment to the coffee business is apparent, as soon as a customer walks in and orders a cup of coffee from excellently trained staff at Habit Coffee & Culture . Not only, is your coffee made fresh to order, it is also made in a French Press. If you haven’t had coffee made from a French Press, then you are in for a pleasant surprise.

At first, what appears as a minimalist operation is anything but; instead it is a true genuine and unique experience.  The longer you spend within the establishments four walls, while sharing a cup of coffee with a friend or loved-one, the more you become inspired by the business that Shane spent four-years painstakingly researching and planning before opening the doors for business.  Interestingly he does not like the current trend that coffee shops have taken by installing and offering free wireless internet to customers: “It’s about the atmosphere, I’m not interested in setting up a computer lab.”But is he concerned that his unconventional approach to the coffee business will lose him customers, not really. He believes that the product speaks for itself, the quality of the cup is different and arguably better than what his competitors offer. But he is his honest, in his assessment of not being able to win over everyone: ” If you are a true Ontarian-and if that’s what you’ve grown up with [Tim Horton’s coffee] and you are price sensitive, then I am not going to win you over.”

Shane and I, share a cup of coffee during a promo shot for the interview outside beside the store sandwich board.

In terms of price, some customers will encounter price shock, when they look at the menu. While we chat- Shane asks the young female barista behind the front counter, to bring over a half cup of one of the finest blends of coffee that they sell, which is imported from Yemen. The store purchases this variety of bean from its roaster, Hines Public Market Coffee at $5.50 a pound, in fact Shane won’t pay any less than $2.50 per pound for coffee. In comparison, to the present fair trade coffee prices $1.40 per pound is a stark constrast.  It is for this reason that Shane doesn’t believe in Fair Trade coffee so much as he believes in quality coffee, because how can a farmer produce a decent crop of coffee beans when you are living hand to mouth, according to Shane you can’t and furthermore: “you won’t give a shit about being fair trade,” he states defiantly. Cooly and calmly he continues, over the cacophony of the easy going 20 something crowd, that have come to frequent his shop, that: “Fair Trade [market] prices haven’t changed in 15 years, but the cost of living for the farmers has.”

Shane, who at the time of this writing is in Brazil at a trade convention, has visited six coffee producing countries in the last six years and is seriously committed to continuing to learn more about coffee, even as his second location is just about to open. So in closing, what about the ethical and environmental concerns that stem from not purchasing fair trade or organic certified? Shane believes, that these concerns are misguided; if you are paying the farmers more, in order to produce a better coffee bean crop, then by extension better care and attention will be given to ensuring that the land they depend upon, will be taken care of for the next generation of farmers to inherit. At least this is how it has been historically before the Starbucks revolution of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Only time will tell, if Shane’s beliefs are accurate. Habit is opened daily from 8AM until 6PM.

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