Celebrating a Canadian coffee legend

Albert-Louis Van Houtte opened his first store in Montreal in 1919 and bought a roaster to start roasting his own coffee – it marked the beginning of the legendary brand.  KEURIG CANADA INC.

Albert-Louis Van Houtte opened his first store in Montreal in 1919 and bought a roaster to start roasting his own coffee – it marked the beginning of the legendary brand. KEURIG CANADA INC.

Albert-Louis Van Houtte’s skills laid the foundation for an iconic brand

Exceptional master roaster skills, innovation and listening to what his customers wanted were the foundation for Albert-Louis Van Houtte’s Original House Blend coffee created in Montreal way back in 1919. Those same values apply today as Van Houtte, the coffee brand that democratizes the artistry of the master roaster, celebrates its 100th anniversary.  

Recognized as one of the 150 brands that ‘make us authentically Canadian’ in The Interbrand 150: Iconic Canadian Brands Report, Van Houtte has stayed true to its roots, with the finest Arabica beans sourced and roasted in the same traditional European single-batch process used to produce the Original House Blend Van Houtte sold to his customers a century ago.

His decision to separately roast light and dark beans and then combine them to create his famous blend was a true innovation at the time, and a technique still practised by the company today. It is this same attention to detail and to the selection of the finest beans that give each Van Houtte coffee blend a unique flavour and character.

Cynthia Shanks, director, communications and sustainability, Keurig Canada Inc., a Keurig Dr Pepper Canada company, says the brand has always had coffee farmers’ well-being at heart. For example, through its Signature Collection, Van Houtte offers a collection of coffees using Fair Trade certified beans. The brand’s parent company, Keurig Dr Pepper, is also on track to reach its goal of responsibly sourcing 100 per cent of its coffee across its portfolio by 2020. 

“We have sourced coffee beans from the same producers for decades, and some of those producers haven’t changed since the time of Albert-Louis Van Houtte. Over the years, we have built mutually trusting relationships to enable access to the highest quality coffee beans while supporting and empowering the people who grow the crop,” she says.

“At Keurig Dr Pepper, whose portfolio includes more than 125 brands across North America in addition to Van Houtte, we promote better farming techniques, we help farmers to increase their crop yields and income, and diversify their crops for improved food security. We also support projects that teach coffee farmers to be good water stewards, which can reduce the impact of climate change on their farms and in their communities,” says Ms. Shanks.

“The 100th anniversary is an opportunity to honour our master roaster, Albert-Louis Van Houtte, along with other masters,” says Stéphane Renauld, director, brand management, Keurig Canada Inc., a Keurig Dr Pepper Canada company. 

“The brand partnered with Cirque du Soleil to showcase the passion that is required for every masterful creation, from an iconic coffee brand to world-famous entertainment,” he says. 

Other initiatives include a collaboration with online meal kit service Miss Fresh, and a project with four Canadian chefs – Ted Reader,
Michael Allemeier, Didier Leroy and Sébastien Harrison-Cloutier – to produce a booklet of recipes using Van Houtte coffee as an ingredient. (See:
vanhoutte.com/en/gourmet-recipes)

Finally, to cap off the year’s celebrations, Van Houtte has established a fund to recognize Canadian masters who excel in their respective fields, with bursaries totalling $100,000 to celebrate their passion and help these visionary artisans develop their know-how. The winners will be announced later this year.

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