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Non-fat Café Americano: Calgary coffee shop wants safe space for women

Calgary coffee shop owner Jessica McCarrel said you can now order a non-fat Café Americano in our city.

That signals the need for their safe space plan to go into action.

McCarrel was inspired by a recent social media post from Vancouver. She thought she could create her own safe space here in the city.

Eldric Stuart, owner of Vancouver-based Harken Coffee set up a safe space in his coffee shop last week. It was after seeing the experience of a woman who posted a video about being followed.

With worries of gender violence escalating in Calgary, McCarrel wanted to do the same here.

“I put the question out to staff, whether we should implement something similar and it was immediate. It was a unanimous yes,” McCarrel said.

McCarrel owns Kaffeeklatch das Café at 1205 – 1 Street SW in Calgary’s Victoria Park. It opened in November last year and immediately, McCarrel learned of the diversity of people in the area.

It was important to her to begin creating a “mutual aid” location at the space. Before they opened, they had to clean up human feces, needles and other debris. Along with that, they had a disposable needle drop box put in and they now carry a naloxone kit in case of overdoses in the area.

She said she’s also posted a Trans flag, a Queer flag and Non-binary flag in her window, so members of those communities can feel comfortable they’re welcome.

“I’m very small. I’m not sure how much help I can do, but I want to help as much as feasibly possible. Mutual aid is needed, especially now, she said.

“The community needs to step up and help each other; we’re also very aware of the police service limitations.”

The non-fat Café Americano

Last week, the Calgary police went public with a statement on reports of various attacks on women circulating on social media. These reports are being investigated by police and they’re collecting CCTV footage where possible.

“Every woman has the right to live free from the fear, threat or experience of violence and sexual harassment,” said CPS Supt. Nadine Wagner.

“Our officers are also aware of these reports and are being extra vigilant for any suspicious activity that could potentially be connected.”

McCarrel said it presented a chance to add to their community work by adopting the non-fat Café Americano plan brought in by Vancouver’s Harken Coffee.

This is the Instagram post from Kaffeeklatsch two days ago. KAFFEEKLATSCH

If a woman is being followed, harassed, or feeling she’s in an unsafe situation, she can go to the counter and order a non-fat Café Americano.

It’s not a real drink; a Café Americano is a shot of espresso with hot water.  There’s no milk in it, like a latte, so therefore no fat. That signals a woman may be in trouble.

“The coffee prompt is specifically when you are stuck with someone. If someone that you’re with is problematic, and you have to do it secretly,” McCarrel said.

If it’s asked, it comes up on the Square terminal and the person can indicate what they’d like staff to do. It’s then printed out like a regular drink ticket.

“That we can very quickly and easily share with others without having to say words so that it can be done discreetly,” she said.

McCarrel said it’s all about being a part of the community.

“I’ve always wanted that to be Kaffeeklatsch. I always wanted this to be a safe space,” she said.