The Best Coffee Brands & Roasters in Canada
While you can get lost in coffee culture and the products and techniques that come with it, if you do not have good beans, you will not be able to make good coffee. While “good” is a subjective term, and people’s ideas of “good coffee” will vary, it is important to have coffee you like – whether that is a recently roasted whole bean, ground coffee, or a K-cup or Nespresso pod with your favourite roast. There really is not a wrong answer to the question “how do you like your coffee?”
In case you’re still not sure of what’s the best coffee option for you, read on for our full review of the best coffee brands and local roasters across Canada.
What to look for in coffee
Coffee drinkers exist on a wide spectrum. Some do not care about what they are drinking as long as it has caffeine and can take cream and sugar. Some people obsess over every component and spend hundreds to optimize their coffee routine. While not everybody will care (and that is perfectly okay!) if you want to improve your coffee routine each morning and get better tasting results, here are some things you should consider.
- Ethics: This does not concern flavour, but how ethical coffee is can be very important to some people. Many regions with the climate suitable for growing coffee lack proper regulation, and many companies are exploitative of the workers and the natural resources of the area. Look for companies that bear the Fairtrade logo, or are transparent about their ethics.
- Freshness: If there is one thing that people do not consider, it is how fresh their coffee is. There are lots of widely available coffee that do not have a roasted date, and using freshly roasted coffee is easily one of the easiest ways to improve your coffee’s flavour. Some coffees are best consumed within a month of roasting, some lighter roasts will hit their optimal flavour between 4-6 weeks. We generally recommend shopping for coffee that has a roasted date on it, so you know when the roasting process happened. Likewise, if you buy ground coffee, try to buy coffee that is freshly grounded, as coffee will start to lose its flavours after it’s grinded. The longer it is grinded, the more flavour it loses.
- Origin: Different coffee varieties are grown in different environments, altitudes and climates will yield different results. Ethiopian coffee, for example, is renowned for its fruity, flowery aromas and tasting notes.
- Roast: Do you like deep, bold flavours, or easy-drinking smoothness with your coffee? Considering how your coffee is roasted is an easy way to determine what kind of coffee you will get. The longer a coffee is roasted, the more intense the flavours in the coffee will be.
- Tasting Notes: Notes can help you determine what you like in coffee and what you don’t. Coffee growers and roasters will offer certain “notes” or flavours that may be present within the coffee, including fruits, nuts, caramel, chocolate, etc. While taste is subjective, using these notes to identify things you lie or do not like about your coffee will allow you to narrow down that perfect bean for you.
Why trust us
While we cannot tell you what coffee your taste buds will love, we can put time into figuring out what users online have loved and why. That is why we put 20 hours of researching Canada’s favourite coffee brands, beyond Tim Hortons and Starbucks (not a knock on those – but you have definitely tried them already.) We tried to cover all sorts of coffee varieties and types, so whether you need something to keep you awake during your busy weekday mornings, or you are a coffee fanatic with a fully-fledged setup, you will find a handful of companies or roasters we think you will love to try.
The best coffee brands in Canada
These Coffees – available either in your grocery store or easily available on Amazon – are some of the better coffees you will not have to go out of your way for. These companies win out over other brands due to their commitments to the environment, their workers through the steps in the supply chain, and solid tasting roasts. However, if you want the freshest, tastiest roasts, read on to our section “The Best Coffee Roasters in Canada”.
Best Canadian coffee brand
Kicking Horse Coffee
Kicking Horse Coffee has become a Canadian coffee institution that can be found in grocery stores across the nation. Nestled underneath the Rocky Mountains, Kicking Horse offers a line of Organic, Fairtrade coffee with a range of flavours and roasts that are a step up from Timmies.
Kicking Horse’s coffee comes from Arabica beans sourced from certified Organic and Fairtrade cooperatives spanning 10 countries in four continents. Kicking Horse is dedicated to using fresh beans for their roasts, which are blended for a defined flavour profile for each of their coffees. Kicking Horse primarily produces medium to dark roast coffees in whole bean and ground options.
Popular coffees Kicking Horse always carries include Smart Ass, a brighter medium roast with notes of chocolate and berries, or their bolder Kick Ass dark roast, which has notes of smoke and dark chocolate. These two staples of Kicking Horse, as well as a wide range of other varietals, make up the Kicking Horse lineup that Canadians have come to love. Kicking Horse also sells a delicious cold brew that is available in some grocery stores, but unfortunately, we have been unable to find a link for you to buy the cold brew from.
Consumers generally like Kicking Horse coffee for its bold dark roasts and smooth medium roasts. However, Kicking Horse is a second-wave coffee company with third-wave values. The company staying true to its commitments to organic and Fairtrade coffee is respectable, but like other larger coffee establishments, their coffee is sold and packaged for long-term use. Even with Kicking Horse’s commitment to the freshness of their beans pre-roast and packaging designed to keep the beans fresh, if you do not know when the beans are roasted, you will not know how truly fresh the coffee is.
For example, some consumers have raved about the aroma of the coffee, and others have noted a lack of an aroma. This is not a result of inconsistent roasts but of freshness. This is a general problem among supermarket coffee brands, and so while we cannot dock Kicking Horse too hard for this, if this coffee does not hit the spot, consumers will probably be heading to their local roaster (or their website) rather than back to the grocery store.
Best Italian coffee brand
Italians love coffee, and Italians love their coffee their way. Dark, bold roasts are the Italian specialty. When I worked in an Italian restaurant, our coffee was complimented frequently, and our secret was Lavazza. In terms of Italian coffee companies, Lavazza is one of the biggest, and for good reason.
Lavazza offers Arabica and Arabica / Robusta blends for most of their coffees. Lavazza sources their coffees worldwide, from over 12 nations spanning the Americas, Africa and Asia. Lavazza has committed themselves to more sustainable business practices since 2004, including projects for reforestation and providing agricultural best practice education to their producers. These projects and more have led to Lavazza coffees being Rainforest Alliance certified and Non-GMO project verified.
Since Lavazza offers a variety of roasts with different kinds of beans, your mileage with their different varieties may vary. Italian coffee is typically dark with a hint of bitterness, which may turn some off. If your experience with Lavazza is bitter or burned tasting coffee, we recommend trying their Arabica roasts including Qualita Oro, or Espresso Italiano. In general, Lavazza roasts make a bold and aromatic cup of coffee or even espresso, but users online have seemed to get the best results out of their Lavazza with a Moka pot. For those on the go, Lavazza is available in K-Cups and Nespresso pods – the latter being a favourite for my Nespresso machine.
Some users swear by the bold taste of Lavazza coffee. However, the flaw with Lavazza, as with many supermarket coffees, is the question of freshness. Since Lavazza is all roasted in Italy, there will be significant time between roasting the beans and you buying them on store shelves. Some of their coffees come in air-tight or resealable packaging, but this is no substitute for freshly roasted beans. Lavazza is a solid coffee you can find everywhere, and we like the company’s commitment to sustainability. This makes Lavazza a natural choice for us for supermarket espresso or their pods.
Best supermarket coffee
Melitta is a German coffee company that is steeped in coffee history. Started after founder Melitta Bentz invented the coffee filter (which is an impressive claim for a coffee company in of itself), Melitta has spent over 100 years in coffee sourcing and production, leading to a coffee company that knows their coffee.
Melitta uses high-altitude Arabica beans throughout their coffees. Melitta is committed to sustainable business practices and is UTZ, Rainforest Alliance, and Fairtrade certified. While certain coffees are identifiable for where they come from like Melitta’s Colombian roast, most Melitta coffees do not detail where they are from. While this may be the result of Melitta using different suppliers for their roasts throughout the year, for many coffee drinkers, transparency is important.
Melitta carries a smaller range of coffee varieties than most other coffee brands, which is not a bad thing: fewer coffees mean you can ensure quality in the coffee you do make. Their 100% Colombian roast seems to be one of their more popular varieties, with drinkers enjoying the full-bodied, balanced taste. Melitta’s espresso is also tasty, producing a nice, smooth espresso that makes nice espresso-based drinks. Melitta features a range of coffee from whole bean, ground and even compostable K-Cups for when you are on the go.
Consumers of Melitta coffee are generally high on the brand, however, some find their roasts on the bitter end of the spectrum. Like plenty of larger coffee companies, there are issues with the company’s transparency and freshness. However, we appreciate that Melitta carries many certifications that many companies of its scale do not have, like Fairtrade and UTZ.
Best ground coffee brand
Another Italian company that has a history of making quality coffee, Illy can be found in some supermarkets. For a coffee company that offers solid dark-roasted coffee and especially espresso, Illy is an available option that can keep you going.
Illy features a line of single-origin coffees from some of the most famous coffee regions in the world, including Ethiopia, Brazil, and Colombia (available in whole bean or K-Cup), however, for the most part, Illy’s coffees do not list where they are from. Illy also does not have any mainstream certifications, so it is hard to determine where the company stands on sustainability and workplace ethics. No, being esteemed in sustainability from a for-profit company like Ethisphere does not substitute for these certifications.
Illy’s coffee stays fresh longer due to their proprietary patented pressurized canister system that removes oxygen that causes the deterioration of the coffee’s flavour and replaces it with inert gasses. This allows an unopened can of Illy coffee to stay fresh for up to two years, the company claims. After opening, you should have a week of great-tasting coffee.
Illy has a wide range of coffee you can try, including whole bean, ground coffee, K-Cups, Nespresso pods, and E.S.E. pods that look like a tea-bag but slip into your espresso machine. Illy even has their own espresso pod machine with their own type of pod that Illy sells.
Users seem to like Illy, however, there are complaints based on price and import times as the coffee ships from Europe. However, for rich, Italian-style roasts of coffee, Illy is a strong competitor.
Best organic coffee brand
Ethical Bean is a Canadian coffee company found in supermarkets across the country that focuses on, well, Ethical beans. Ethical Bean is Fairtrade certified and Organic, so you can feel good about sipping on your morning cup of joe.
Ethical Bean sources all their coffee from Central and South America and roasts all their coffee in Canada. All their coffee is 100% Fairtrade and Organic certified, so you know the coffee was made right at every step of the way. While the back of each box or bag of Ethical Bean coffee has information relating to the specific origin of the beans, Ethical Bean’s app can read the QR code on the back for in-depth info on the origin and co-ops where the coffee comes from, plus more coffee information. Not only that, but Ethical Bean highlights on their website that the roasted-on date is exactly a year before the best before date – so you can take out the guesswork for how fresh your bag of coffee from the supermarket is.
With a colourful selection of roasts available, it is very likely that Ethical Bean has a roast you will love. Their medium-dark “Lush” and “Sweet Espresso” roasts are some of their highest rated roasts, the former with its bold taste with hints of fruit and smoke, and the latter with its rich flavour profile with an excellent crema. Ethical Bean sells whole bean and ground coffee, with certain varieties also available as a compostable K-Cup.
Users typically love Ethical Bean’s roasts, as well as the company’s commitment to the environment and coffee farmers. Some users have noted bland coffee, and while Ethical Bean does make the roasted-on date available for consumers (unlike other supermarket brands), the fact this requires some work (either downloading the app or doing simple math), there is a good chance you might be looking at an older roast. If you manage to find a fresh bag, we seriously implore you to try out this coffee brand.
Best dark roast coffee brand
Death Wish Coffee
Death Wish Coffee is an upstate New York-based roaster that roasts dark roast coffee that packs a punch – both flavour and caffeine-wise. The company brands this as “The world’s strongest coffee” – which is a bold claim, like their coffee. Do we think this is the world’s strongest coffee? Probably not. But for a highly-caffeinated cup that will kick you into top gear on those mornings, Death Wish does the trick.
Death Wish sources their beans primarily from India and Peru – these countries chosen for the beans that help Death Wish get the intensity it is known for. Death Wish proudly serves coffee that is organic and fair trade, which you can expect from a roastery of this calibre. Death Wish then has a very specific roasting strategy to optimize their beans’ flavour and caffeine content.
With coffees that claim to offer “intense” flavours, sometimes that intensity is a bitterness that may be unpleasant. Death Wish on the other hand carries a smooth, full-bodied flavour that consumers have said they loved. However, other users have failed to pick up any notes that bring their coffee to the next level. We wonder if this is a result of coffee being shipped after its “best consume by” date – which some discerning Amazon customers have reported.
Consumers who like this coffee seem to really like it. However, taste is subjective and this coffee was not a hit for every user. For some drinkers, this supercharged blend will keep them going throughout the day and be worth the price, but the price tag may make you consider opting for something closer to home.
The best coffee roasters in Canada
If you’re looking to go local with your coffee game, read on for a list of the best-reviewed coffee roasters in major Canadian cities, from Vancouver to Halifax.
Best coffee in Calgary
Phil & Sebastian
Phil & Sebastian are not only a force in coffee in Calgary – the duo’s roastery is renowned worldwide. What started as a passion project for two U of C engineering alum became an affair that spans across Calgary with fans that encompass the coffee-drinking world.
Phil & Sebastian aim for perfection along every step of the way. From their early days of learning (and mastering) the art of the barista to learning to roast their own coffee, to sourcing coffee directly from farmers in 9 countries, and starting quality and sustainability projects in these countries, Phil & Sebastian do everything right.
Phil & Sebastian specialize in third-wave coffee flavourful and intriguing roasts but carry more standard, everyday roasts as well, which they communicate with a handy rating tool that gives you a benchmark for your expectations. Direct trade with coffee farmers not only ensures farmers are making a decent living but allows for the roaster and farmer to collaborate in order to make the best coffee they can. The result is a vibrant, dynamic lineup of coffees from juicy Ethiopian roasts to complex roasts from Panama and blends anywhere in-between.
With 7 locations across Calgary, Phil & Sebastian have become a major player in YYC’s coffee scene. Not in Calgary? Phil & Sebastian ship across Canada and the US, and currently offer free shipping on orders over $25 in Canada. Can’t get enough of your fresh coffee from P&S? Phil & Sebastian offer a personally customizable subscription package that you can build to your taste.
Best coffee in Edmonton
Transcend has a special spot in my heart. When I was in university and I was trying to churn out essay pages, good coffee was only a block or two away thanks to Transcend. Now, 15 years later after bringing single-source coffee to Edmonton, Transcend is a staple roaster for coffee in western Canada.
Founder Poul Mark, the second Canadian to receive the Coffee Quality Institute’s Q-Grader qualification, has operated Transcend for 15 years. While the road hasn’t always been easy for third-wave coffee in Edmonton, Transcend has etched out its spot as one of the cities definitive coffee roasters.
Transcend prides itself on picking the most sustainable, best-tasting coffee and building lasting working relationships with the growers. Transcend works primarily with six countries from Central and South America to Africa, to offer a lively variety of roasts.
Transcend primarily features a rotating selection of whole bean coffee, but can also sell you ground coffee or green unroasted coffee online if you prefer. Transcend also carries one of the better – if not the best – instant coffee that we have tried, with hints of nuts and raisin, without any of the bitterness we’re so accustomed to with instant coffees. The brand also has a solid subscription service that you can customize how you want it if you cannot get enough of the brown stuff.
Best coffee in Halifax
While anchored to its physical location in Dartmouth, Anchored Coffee is one of the more highly regarded coffee roasters in the Halifax Regional municipality. Dedicated to transparently sourced and delicious coffee, Anchored Coffee covers the East coasts’ needs for delectable third-wave coffee.
Anchored Coffee works hard to source and roast the best coffee they can. A big part of this is working closely with the producers of the beans. Anchored Coffee roasts beans from Africa and the Americas, with information such as the region, farmers, varietals, and elevation highlighted on the front of the bag. Anchored Coffee primarily produces blends of different varietals for flavourful roasts, including a selection of filter coffee, espresso, and low-caffeine roasts.
Anchored Coffee offers special roasts too, from their Heart’s Out Initiative medium roast that donates a quarter of each bag to Indigenous-led organizations to Rink Drink, a hockey-inspired roast in collaboration with loud chef and internet personality Matty Matheson.
If you find you really enjoy Anchored coffee, you choose to have it sent to you monthly through a subscription, with either your favourite choice or the dealer’s pick coming to your mailbox each day.
Best coffee in Montreal
Saint-Henri is a coffee roaster and café based in Montreal. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Saint-Henri has built a solid reputation off of quality, expertise and transparency.
Saint Henri purchases their coffees from a multitude of ways for roast level, including direct trade from single source lots, and working with sustainable and ethical coffee cooperatives. Not only is the coffee ethical, but Saint-Henri is thoughtful too: some (most) of their coffees are even named after the farm, region or farmer themselves. Saint Henri also does something we have yet to see: they list the market rate of coffee that other larger retailers are selling for, and the price they pay for the coffee – which is often 3 times higher than the market price, so you can sip your coffee and feel good that it was ethically sourced and exploitation free.
Saint Henri boasts a wide range of coffees, including top-notch espressos, micro-roasted coffee and sampler packs with three curated selections of coffee. If Saint-Henri intrigues you, you can enjoy free shipping over $49 before enjoying their expert roasts. Saint-Henri also offers subscriptions if you like their coffee so much you want to commit to it.
Best coffee in Regina
33 1/3 Coffee Roasters
33 1/3 is a coffee roaster in Regina focusing on single-lot, micro-roasted coffee. With an excellent selection of ethically sourced beans, 33 1/3 Coffee stands with some of the best roasters in all of Canada.
Starting from humble origins at Regina’s farmers market, 33 1/3rd has come a long way in the 7 years since. Now with two store locations and a roastery in the Cathedral neighbourhood of Regina, 33 1/3rd is out to take Regina’s crown for the best cup of joe.
Browsing 33 1/3’s selection, you will realize this is a roaster that really cares about where the coffee comes from. You get to learn about the type of coffee grown, the growing conditions, where the coffee comes from and even the person or organization growing the coffee.
With coffee sourced from Africa, Central & South America, this is particularly important. With such a range of roasts from rich dark roasts to delightfully fruity and nutty lighter roasts, it is likely that 33 1/3rd has a coffee roast for you.
Best coffee in Toronto
De Mello Palherta
Picking one best coffee roaster from Toronto is a near-impossible task, which is a testament to the impressive list of renowned and recognized roasting establishments the city has to offer. However, the praises sung online about De Mello Palherta make it our choice for the city’s best coffee, due to its consistency and commitment to ethically and sustainably sourced coffees.
De Mello procures coffee from a wide range of countries, with a wide range of single-origin roasts that the roaster works hard with the growers to ensure a great final product. Each package has the essential coffee information, including where the coffee comes from and what kind of tasting notes you can expect. Like all coffee roasters, you can buy the beans whole, but De Mello will also grind your beans for you, with different optimal grinds for a variety of the most popular ways to prepare coffee.
De Mello offers free shipping within Canada for orders over $50. Additionally, De Mello offers one of the more flexible subscriptions, with their “Build-Your-Own Coffee Club,” where you can choose exactly when you want coffee shipped to you, how much, what type of coffee you get, and which kind of grind you want.
Best coffee in Vancouver
Luna Coffee is a small coffee roasting operation with a big reputation, quickly becoming one of Vancouver’s favourite local roastery. Run by dynamic duo Laura Perry & Nate Welland, who make up the entirety of Luna’s staff, Luna’s goal is to bring their expertise in roasting light roasts direct from the source so Canadians can experience the lighter, brighter side of coffee.
Luna’s modus operandi is to curate a line of the best coffees they can with transparent supply chains. With that in mind, Luna’s pride is clearly in their subscription service. Once a month, each subscriber will be sent a curated selection of two freshly-roasted coffees and a zine with information about the coffees. Luna only sells whole beans, and generally keeps a small selection in stock that varies monthly. However, this lets Luna roast the beans optimally in small batches for some of the best coffees in Western Canada.
One of the coolest things about Luna Coffee is you do not only get transparency about the selection and growing process – you can know the names of the individuals who grew the coffee, where they live (down to the community) and when the coffee was harvested. With this dedication to high-quality coffee and the growers of high-quality coffee, it is no wonder how Luna broke out as a notable name amongst one of the biggest coffee cities in the country.
Best coffee in Winnipeg
Black Pearl Coffee
Black Pearl is a Winnipeg-based coffee roaster that roasts a selection of Fair Trade, Single Origin and Organic Coffees. With coffee from all over the world, Black Pearl stands near the top of Winnipeg’s coffee scene.
Inspired by head-roaster Trevis Boyd’s time in Seattle, Black Pearl was founded to bring the magic of specialty coffees to Winnipeg. Now in its 20th year, Black Pearl still stands strong.
Black Pearl roasts coffees from all over the world, from light to dark roasts, but also carries loose teas and chocolate-based products including Black Pearl’s take on Mayan hot chocolate.
With a selection of Fair Trade, Certified Organic, and/or UTZ certified sustainable coffee to choose from, Black Pearl carries worldly coffees you can feel good about drinking.
How we picked the best coffee brands in Canada
Between looking at local coffee roasters and more widespread coffee brands, one of the first things we considered is how people generally liked the coffee. While coffee and taste, in general, are subjective, we found that users online would be attracted to certain companies more than others. We also accounted for how easily the coffee is available in Canada and factors such as price, ethics of their business practices, and environmental sustainability.
Frequently asked questions about coffee
What are the types of coffee?
First, we need to talk about the types of coffee beans that we drink, of which there are two: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica is a more popular type of coffee, due to its more complex flavour that is better for black coffee. Robusta is a more caffeine-heavy variety of bean, that has a more bitter flavour, and is more typically used for Espresso and instant coffee mixes.
Roast type is another important indicator of coffee that can vary. Dark roasts produce darker coffee and have roasted flavours like chocolate and toast, where light roasts can have quite the range of flavour profiles as the lighter roast lets the beans dictate the flavour more.
Finally, there is a preparation that defines “types” of coffees, but in this case, refer to the type of coffee drink. There are too many names and techniques of different coffee drinks for us to name.
What are the most coffee brands used in Canadian homes?
The biggest coffee brands in Canadian homes in 2020 were Tim Hortons (of course), followed by Maxwell House, Starbucks, Folgers, Nescafe & McCafe rounding out the next 5. Canadians frequently drink their coffee by drip, K-Cup devices, Nespresso machines and Tassimo.
What is third-wave coffee?
I used the term “third wave” a lot in this article, which may leave some coffee drinkers scratching their heads – I myself did not know the term “third wave” until recently myself. To explain this phenomenon best, I will need to start with the “first wave” – where during the 1960s coffee became a mainstream drink and for the first time was widely accessible. The “second wave” was a result of companies like Starbucks realizing the extreme profits that could be had, and developed coffee as not an early morning necessity, but a luxury product. “Third Wave” is then the evolution beyond this commodification of coffee, treating coffee as a quality product that needs recognition upon every step of the supply chain. “Third Wave” coffee undertakes the important work in rewarding coffee producers that had been exploited in the first two waves, recognizing the importance of quality roasting and preparation as well. Sustainability, ethics, and technical expertise become more important in coffee’s Third Wave, which not only produces a better-tasting cup of coffee (in this humble content writer’s option) but helps us produce a better world too, somewhat.
Does Canada consume a lot of coffee?
Canada is one of the world’s biggest consumers of coffee, coming in at 10th in 2020 statistics, and coffee is Canada’s most consumed beverage among adults – even more than tap water.
Is coffee good for you?
Coffee, taken daily in moderation, has a plethora of positive health effects, including
- Caffeine, which has been shown to improve mood.
- Lower risk of coronary heart disease in women, as well as a lower risk of type-2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
However, drinking excessive coffee, having your coffee drinking habits interfere with your sleep schedule or consuming too much cream and sugar with your coffee can have negative health impacts. It seems that health-wise, the question is not “is coffee good for you?”, but “how much do you take it?” and “how do you take it?”
What’s the recommended coffee daily intake?
Research suggests the average, healthy adult, can consume up to 400mg of caffeine per day safely. This is the equivalent of about four cups of coffee. However, you should consider that other forms of caffeine are commonly consumed, including in tea, pop or even chocolate. However, different people will take to different amounts of coffee differently.
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