When Dave Cook takes a break from befriending rock gods like Gene Simmons with his band-branded, top quality artisanal coffee and chocolate bars, he is answering questions on the long awaited opening of the new Fire Roasted Coffee Company Café and Habitual Chocolate location at King and Talbot. Cook and Luis Rivas — owner of True Taco and Operations Manager of Artisans’ Group — take the pressure in stride, knowing that doing things right trumps doing things on schedule.
The expected opening date fell sometime in April of this year. Now, just prior to the September opening, Cook says “I’ve been mentally willing things. We’re so close I can taste it.” In a blog post concerning the delay, Cook outlines some of the challenges they’ve faced in the process including, “…insane landlords (not the current one), ridiculous lease regulations, cost overruns, funding shortfalls, construction mistakes, construction delays and tradesmen that just never show up and a plan that was developing as we went along much like the creation of a sculpture.”
Along with the predictable unpredictability attached to renovating a building and expanding an established business, Cook spreads himself thin with other ventures. Owning the Artisans’ Group and overseeing both the Western Fair Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market and the Masonville Farmers’ Market, leading the fight for food trucks with Michelle Navackas (Business Development Manager of Artisan’s Group), co-writing feature articles for Roast Magazine, and traveling to coffee and cacao producing countries like Haiti to meet one-on-one with his suppliers, are just a few of the things that keep him running.
“When we first got the space it was in rough repair. We basically had to bone it out like a chicken.” As expected with a 19th-century building, the beautiful space has a few “scars” as Cook describes it. Embracing the character of the space, the philosophy behind the décor is a mash-up of the basic level structure with high-end details. Designer Wayne DeGroot, owner of D-Cubed, has lined the contour of the café side of the space with a bar constructed of a halved walnut tree trunk that has been varnished and polished to chic perfection. The coffee bar is composed of thick repurposed barn board and the exposed duct work of the ceiling is highlighted by retro-contemporary lighting. The communal tables on the café side hold 32 seats with 10 more outside. Rick Ho of London Audio has wired the exterior for tunes, a move the city struggled with, but one Cook believes is essential to promote “café culture” in our slightly conservative city.
The café will offer simple fare from Pastry Chef Michele Lenhardt (previously of The Black Walnut Café in Wortley Village and The River Room Café at Museum London). “We don’t want to veer far from what we do,” says Cook, concerning menu options. Fresh juices, baked goods and pastries, salads, sandwiches, and late night charcuterie plates will be available to accompany the local beer and wine list.
On the south side of the space is the exposed brick and glass lined chocolate room. The production room is temperature controlled and houses two 65-pound batch chocolate grinders for the company’s bean to bar operation. Also here is the “chocolate faucet,” which tempers the chocolate to the correct degree, and is responsible for the perfectly smooth sheen of Habitual’s final product. The crew wants the public to experience the operation in its entirety, both visually and aromatically. The open exposure allows for this level of involvement. Rivas claims the chocolate smells even better than the coffee. “I grew up around chocolate in El Salvador, but never knew much about it. Through travelling I have expanded my understanding and can now do so much more with it.” Rivas explains they are looking to offer somewhat of a chocolate school in the space. “We want to change the public’s perception of chocolate through exposure and education.” According to Rivas, chocolate is full of antioxidants and provides natural energy. The facility will be able to produce 130 pounds of chocolate in 24 hours. The entire space will be available to rent out for special occasions and chocolate/coffee education to large enough groups. Through their long hours of operation, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., they also want to accommodate event ticket holders from Budweiser Gardens, feeling they have a lot to offer pre and post concerts, games, and events.
With one eye always on the big picture, expanding this business is just the first step towards an expansion of community. With the intention of working with Budweiser Gardens and Covent Garden Market, as well as other nearby businesses, there are plans to encourage more of a night life in the King and Talbot area. With such benefits afoot, better latté than never!
The Fire Roasted Coffee Co. &
Habitual Chocolate Café
105 King Street at Talbot, London
and on Facebook
Monday to Saturday 7 am–11 pm
Sunday 9 am–5 pm
CHRISTIE MASSÉ is a graduate of the Stratford Chefs School.