Coffee culture is growing in St. John’s, thanks to the continued success of longstanding cafes like Hava Java and relative newcomers like Rocket Bakery and Fixed Coffee & Baking. Downtown roasters Jumping Bean Coffee recently announced a deal to get their beans into Target stores across the country, while others are focusing on local efforts—Fixed, for example, is busy establishing a second shop (Broken Books) that will expand on the coffee principles of its current Duckworth Street location.
The plan for Fixed began when Jon Howse and Greg Hewlett, who knew each other growing up in Springdale, ran into each other on Water Street. Howse was introduced to coffee while attending school in British Columbia, which he followed up by working as a barista in Halifax. Hewlett had learned about coffee on the other side of the world, in Australia, but was similarly interested. The two hatched an idea for a cafe in St. John’s that took a modern approach to coffee based in food science.
“We sort of both brought what we saw in other places back here,” Howse said of the pair’s influences for Fixed. “We saw a big hole we could fill.”
Now the duo, along with Jon’s brother Matt Howse, have a new venture: Broken Books. Located just around the corner from Fixed, Broken Books is both a book and magazine store and a cafe focusing on handmade and brewed-to-order “slow” coffee, with a focus on techniques like pour over.
But coffee’s island boom isn’t just happening in the province’s capital. Brewed Awakening in Corner Brook has an in-house roasters and cafe, something Howse (who helped open Brewed) said he’d love to see more of in St. John’s. And Curtis Burns is making a go of it on Fogo Island, where he’s opened a cafe and is roasting and selling beans under the Flat Earth Coffee Company label.
Right now Flat Earth is sold both in the local cafe owned by him and his wife, and at a few other locations, including Cinched Bistro and Crafted Treasures in St. John’s. Burns hopes to expand the business to balance out its summer-focused seasonal nature and to get his beans to more coffee drinkers. “I want Flat Earth Coffee to be able to stand on its own and be as widely available as people want it to be,” he said.
What connects Burns, Howse, Hewlett, and other coffee entrepreneurs in Newfoundland and Labrador is that they’ve found a way to do something they love—and offer it to other people in the province—in a place where it might not at first seem like an obvious fit. But as Burns pointed out, the first Europeans to settle the island faced a similar challenge of making a go of things in a very different time. “In an odd way I feel like I’m somehow connected to those first entrepreneurs,” he said.
Terri Coles, a freelance writer and editor, recently moved back to St. John’s after more than a decade in Ontario.