Wednesday 29 March 2023

Forno Cultura: “Specialty coffee still has a very small market share in Toronto, but it’s growing”

Rohrbacher, Coffee Program Manager: "Italian artisans have a relationship with their craft that’s often so much deeper than we can understand as a more newly developed part of the world. It’s often a way of living for them. This perspective creates so much potential, especially for those who want to break out of their shells."

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MILAN – Espresso, the art of Italian coffee roasting, the way of enjoying food and drink: all this makes the Bel Paese famous throughout the rest of the world, where Italian products are appreciated and imported to be re-proposed in their quality and uniqueness to international consumers. Among the realities that have embraced Made in Italy, there is also Forno Cultura, a business that has been synonymous with hospitality for three generations, which we got to know through Aliena Coffee Roasters (a Roman micro-roastery of the founders of Faro di Roma). We asked first how the Italian signature came to Toronto.

What is Forno Cultura, when was it born and what is the concept behind the activity?

“Forno Cultura connects the community with a true taste of Italy through three generations of family recipes and understanding of traditions and culinary methods that shaped the landscape of quality food. The brand is routed in family, tradition, quality, collaboration, innovation, and relationships. The landscape of flavors is reminiscent of European quality and tradition but quickly becoming part of our city’s own culinary tradition.

Great quality food should be available to all who enjoy it and value having it as part of their community. Communities and families become stronger when time is carved out for great food, good conversation and exchange of ideas. Forno Cultura, is a space that is built around the heritage and artisan craft of quality food but more importantly a space that inspires openness, conversation, exchange, and enjoyment.

We are based in tradition and take an innovative approach to that tradition. We also know that the best ingredients make the best final product. We aim to be engaged, diligent, aware, innovative, uncompromising, inclusive, spirited, generous, giving”.

Why an Italian name in Toronto?

“Toronto is a beautiful melting pot of cultures. My favorite places in this city are the ones that respect their roots but also allow for the diversity of this city to bleed through.”

What is the out-of-home scene like in Toronto? What about the specialty one in particular?

“Our out-of-home scene is thriving right now. I think this is one of the major things the community missed during the pandemic, socializing with others, around food. It’s common to see the average household eat one meal out-of-home a day. In terms of coffee, the number of home brewers is growing in the community but it’s a market completely
dominated by out-of-home sales.

Specialty still has a very small market share in Toronto but it’s growing every day. I think the more enfaces that’s put on being approachable, in both offerings and hospitality, will continue to help it grow.”

Are consumers already well disposed towards the Third Wave or are they yet to be approached?

“Most of the community has a favorite Third Wave café they frequent. I think some of the best places in the city to find great coffee offer much more than coffee. This tends to create a more approachable environment.”

How do you drink coffee there?

The filtered coffee in Forno Cultura (photo granted)

“We tend to take a simple approach to our coffee here, allowing the coffee to speak for itself. We offer a full espresso-based menu at all of our locations but without any flavor additions, just espresso and milk. Most of our locations have filter coffee as well. We also have one location that specializes in pour over coffee. In the summer season we have a slow prepared and carefully curated cold brew to add to our menu.”

Have you also thought about specialty pairings for your coffees at Forno Cultura?

“With the heart of our business being a bakery, we’re always thinking about pairing food and drink together. Doing events around this has always been something we’ve discussed and been very excited about. I think with a little more time, you’ll see them happening.”

How come you decided to source Forno Cultura’s offerings from Italian artisans? With whom have you forges relationships?

“Italian artisans have a relationship with their craft that’s often so much deeper than we can understand as a more newly developed part of the world. It’s often a way of living for them. This perspective creates so much potential, especially for those who want to break out of their shells. They often tend to be very misunderstood in their own country too. We’ve forged relationships with Aliena Coffee Roasters as well as Ditta Artigianale. We also have relationships with many artisans from wine makers to farmers in Puglia.”

For specialty we know about your connection with Aliena Coffee Roasters: what do you currently serve and at what price?

“For specialty, we’re currently serving Subtext, Fuglen, Rogue Wave and Ethica. This does rotate every month though. We offer as least one of these at all of our locations on filter for $3.25. All are available as a pour over, where available, for $4.50. The retail BeanShop, as we like to call it, is stocked at each location though. Prices normally range from $20–28.”

What equipment do you use for your espresso bars?

“We use Unic espresso machines, Mazzer espresso grinders and Mahlkonig filter grinders.”

Is the staff, the barista, there in Toronto considered and paid as a full professional?

“In general, a barista is not considered a full profession in Toronto. Especially with the cost of living being so high in the city, most baristas have other incomes or are students. There are certainly some rare exceptions to this in the city but they’re far from commonplace.”

What are your next steps for Forno Cultura?

“There are many things in the works now including some new locations in Toronto. We’re also constantly looking for new companies to collaborate with to expand our offerings and share our passions. I wouldn’t be too shocked to see us roasting coffee one day as well.”

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