Something’s brewing at Balzac’s

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by Faith Rahman

Tucked underneath Blair House on Phillip Street, Balzac’s Coffee Roasters was bustling with a diverse crowd, bringing together coffee enthusiasts from across the Kitchener-Waterloo region. Although the cafe had its soft opening over a year ago, Oct. 4 celebrated the official grand opening.

Most notably, Mayor Jaworsky of the City of Waterloo and Mayor Vrbanovic of the City of Kitchener joined Diana Olsen, the founder of Balzac’s, in unveiling the location’s unique poster art. The poster, featuring a coffee robot superimposed on an illustration of Engineering 5, was created by Alayna Paquette, an artist hailing from the United States.

Having opened the first location in Stratford, Ontario, Olsen has since then expanded to 14 locations across Ontario. Balzac’s prides itself in well-sourced and sustainable products through Fair Trade Organic coffee, sugar, cocoa, and organic local dairy.

As well, every one of Olsen’s coffee shops showcases the community’s specialties and characteristics through a location-specific poster: “I love to collaborate with artists. That’s in line with what a cafe is. It’s a cultural place for people to come and see art and exchange ideas,” she said.

She wants customers to come in for an authentic coffee experience, feeling inspired by art on the walls and for the space to speak to those in the community, ensuring that the cafe included its fair share of cozy study nooks for students.

“I like the idea of people from all walks of life hanging out,” she said. “Balzac’s quote was ‘The cafe is the people’s parliament’ which to me means that people from all ages, nations, genders, everything, are welcome and we try not exclude everyone.”

As such, Olsen was compelled to contribute and to support the local community, presenting a donation to the University of Waterloo Robotics Team and Button Factory Arts.

“We love our students and they love us,” Olsen said. “There’s a good symbiotic relationship between coffee and students.”