Two if by Sea & Dartmouth

If you live in Halifax, and can’t remember the last time you went to Dartmouth, I’ve got some very compelling, caffeinated reasons for you to go.

Zane Kelsall and Tara MacDonald are the dynamic owners of Two if by Sea (TIBS) -  café with locations on either side of the harbour - and Anchored Coffee, the attached coffee roastery in the Dartmouth location.  TIBS opened just over four years ago, and they were able to launch the roastery a few years later, when Zane won the $100,000 BDC Young Entrepreneur Award for his plan to source coffee directly from farmers.  

Zane is a more complex coffee nerd than any other I’ve met; on one hand, he uses fancy graphs, charts and his own computer program to meticulously track the roasting process.

On the other hand, he does his deliveries by foot, crossing the harbour by ferry while pulling his coffee in a red wagon. 


He graciously took nearly an hour out of a busy Saturday morning to show us around the shop, and discuss his buying and roasting techniques.

Zane roasts his coffee with keen attention to the sugar content of the coffee beans.   Sugar and coffee don’t normally go together in my mind, but after talking with Zane I realized coffee already has sugar in it.  It’s a bean; it grows, and thus has some natural sugar content, the handling of which majorly affects the flavour.  When roasting, the beans get to a certain temperature, then ‘crack’ to release gas.  Most roasteries heat the beans until they crack, then cool them very quickly.  Contrary to common practice, Zane cuts the heat before the beans crack, and cools the beans very slowly.  This method keeps the coffee’s natural sugars intact, and creates more caramelized notes in the final roast.  Just like that, Zane changed my view of sugar and coffee.

Zane and Tara have 35 fulltime employees.  Coffee is roasted on Mondays, and the staff participate in tastings every Tuesday before the coffee is shipped to cafes across Canada.  You can find Anchored coffee all over the place, including Fixed Coffee in St. John’s, and Revolver in Vancouver.

It’s a product that’s ethically sourced, expertly roasted, and handsomely fastened with a binder clip (please, someone show me an unattractive use of binder clips.  I don’t believe one exist).

TIBS also hosts long-table communal dinners 1-2 times per month, teaming up with Doug Townsend (of Taste of Nova Scotia) and Renée Lavallée (aka Feisty Chef).  Renee designs and executes a menu, Doug is in charge of bread, Zane serves up some serious coffee, and Tara makes dessert (she just released a dessert cookbook!).

The meals are usually themed, unique, locally based, and BYOB, with everyone  seated at a long table in the small café.  The goal is to provide an alternative fine dining experience that focuses on bringing people together.  It sounds like an amazing and unique event, and it’s just $55/per person.

Renee has just opened a sandwich shop, The Canteen, in the suite above TIBS, making this corner officially the best place to be on this side of the harbour.

I lost count of just how many reasons I gave you to cross the harbour, but I’m pretty sure it’s enough.  Grab a couple friends, get on a boat, drink coffee, eat a croissant or a sandwich, or go to a TIBS Family Dinner (and please, someone tell me about it).  If you’d like to finish your visit with another drink, pay a visit to Wooden Monkey’s amazing new patio. 

Get a Dark and Stormy made with Propeller’s ginger beer and enjoy the great view of the harbour – as you sip, I guarantee you’ll already be making plans to cross it more.