Inside Balzac’s: An Interview with Diana Olsen

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Located on Market Street, Balzac’s is your best bet if you’re looking for a great cup of coffee in our neighbourhood. There are a handful of locations all over Southern Ontario, and the St. Lawrence Market is lucky enough to have one of them! We were really excited to speak with Diana Olsen, the founder of Balzac’s Coffee Roasters, about how her dream of making the perfect cup of joe came to life. After all, it’s not every day you get to chat with the owner of your favourite coffee shop.

Here’s what she had to say about how Balzac’s started and why she opened up shop in the St. Lawrence Market:

Can you tell me a bit about the history of Balzac’s?
I started in 1993 with an espresso kiosk at Ontario Place, and in 1996 I bought a coffee roaster and opened my first café in Stratford. From there we have just grown slowly but steadily as great opportunities (locations) come our way.

Why did you choose to open the first shop in Stratford?
I met some people from Stratford who loved my coffee and they suggested I check it out. The first space I looked at was perfect, so the rest is history.

How did you come up with the name Balzac’s?
When I started Balzac’s I wanted to create an atmosphere and look to the cafes that was not typical of North American coffee chains but that brought to mind the Grand Cafes of Europe. Honoré de Balzac was a 19th century French writer who had an immense passion for coffee and café society in Paris.

What brought you to the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood?
I was approached by Eve Lewis, the developer of Market Street. Her late husband Paul was a great customer at our Distillery café, he would ride his bike there on the weekends. She felt we were the perfect fit for the project and I agreed as soon as I saw it.

What does Balzac’s bring to the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood that you can’t get anywhere else?
The district has so many fantastic options for coffee roasters and cafes, we are proud to be among them. We try and be creative by offering some unique custom beverages such as our Citro-Booster, Café Nordique, and Organic Miso. We also use 100% organic milk and cream and our espresso blend is certified Fairtrade and Organic.

What’s your favourite thing about the Balzac’s shop in the St. Lawrence Market?
It has such a historic and traditional cafe feel to it, like it has been there forever. It is long and narrow, with comfy banquette seating, an original brick wall and the lighting makes it so warm and inviting.

What’s your favourite kind of Balzac’s coffee?
Right now I am in love with our new Winter Blend which we will be bringing in to the cafes in November. It is a mixture of Indonesian and South American beans and its flavour has such a depth and richness…perfect for cold mornings.


Photo via Google Maps 

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