Eating & Drinking

URBAN HIPPIE: The inside scoop on Bridgehead’s new roastery, plus fun facts about this eco-friendly coffee chain

By Jen Lahey

Photo by Matt Usherwood

Venerable Ottawa coffee institution Bridgehead has opened their very own roastery on Preston Street, and owner Tracey Clark says that since the place opened on June 26, the public response has been fantastic. Fresh, seasonal coffee? We’re in.

The company also aims to meet high environmental standards while being socially responsible: the coffee is all fair trade, and like many fair trade coffees, it’s organic too. For Bridgehead, that means the farmers get a fair price for their product, and the beans are grown on small plots where the coffee trees are mixed with other species (better for the health of the land, plus it allows farmers to grow other cash crops or subsistence crops alongside the coffee). Growing coffee this way also takes into account the impact on watersheds. And because the coffee is organic, the land and the farmers are both protected from the deleterious effects of pesticides that are used in conventional coffee growing operations.

Though anyone worth their latte already knows they can rely on Bridgehead for a cup (or three) of consistently good coffee, The Urban Hippie decided to dig deeper for insider info. Here are four things you probably didn’t know about this eco-friendly Ottawa go-to.

1. Bridgehead was originally founded in 1981 by Central American solidarity activists in Toronto to offer a market for the coffee of Northern Nicaragua coffee farmers who faced a US embargo.

2. The building that houses the swank new roastery was originally built for Bell Canada as a stable in the 1920s. It has been an automotive repair shop, a glass fabrication centre, self-storage, and — rumour has it — a social club for illegal gambling.

3. While the smell of coffee can incite rapture in those who love the brew, the smell of roasting coffee isn’t always quite so fine. And according to Clark, Ottawa does not have an explicit air quality standard. So, for the new roastery, Clark insisted on meeting the very stringent air quality standard set out by the state of California. She invested in afterburner technology that eliminates visible effluent and virtually all odour. (We’re sure the neighbours are grateful!)

4. And finally, an insider tip for foodies: only at the roastery on Preston Street (for now — they may become available at other locations later in the summer), you can pick up an open-faced sandwich made with sourdough bread, and such toppings as roast beef with remoulade and crispy onion, or smoked trout with fennel slaw, amongst others.