Communitea Cafe, Canmore

Nestled in the beautiful city of Canmore, with a healthy dose of gluten-free menu items, Communitea Cafe has been on our list of places to visit for a long time now.

The cafe is in a great location, just around the corner from the main road that runs through downtown Canmore, and a couple of blocks away from a nice park. It’s spacious, bright, cozy and inviting – all the things one looks for in a neighborhood coffee shop.

There were lots of colorful tea pots, cups, mugs and teas on display throughout the cafe. Instead of having the shelves take up space as you see at other shops like this, they’ve used the shelves as dividers to break up the room to create a bit more privacy throughout. I really liked it!

Their breakfast menu was displayed in a frame next to the till with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers beside it. I loved the presentation of the menu but when it came time for us to decide what we were going to order, reading the text on the menu with 8 or 9 people ahead of us was next to impossible. This is fine for regulars who know what they want but isn’t so awesome for newcomers like us. We had to wait until we were in front of the frame to figure out what to order which didn’t leave us much time to decide!

They had loads of gluten-free baked goods displayed on the counter next to the till – Grizzly Granola Bars, coconut macaroons, and a plate of raw goodies from Tasty Living, a local raw & gluten-free bakery.

While the gluten-free selection was impressive, the employee who took our order at the register had an extremely hard time answering our questions on whether or not certain items were free of gluten, dairy, and raisins. Needless to say, figuring out what we could eat was frustrating. At one point, I even told the employee what was and was not gluten-free on her menu as she really didn’t have a clue. Though I don’t mind doing it, and am more than happy to help out, she had this strange attitude about her that made the experience very unpleasant.

I’m finding this more and more – restaurants are getting gluten-free items delivered to their location to attract more clientele, but have very little understanding of what gluten is and what other items on their menu contain it. Having been gluten-free for awhile, I can usually make sense of ingredients and make guesses based on my experience, but a visit like this for someone who is relatively to the gluten-free lifestyle can be downright impossible, not to mention overwhelming.

After a painful ordering experience, Kevin ended up with the blueberry buckwheat granola and I settled on a classic panini without cheese made with a gluten-free brown rice tortilla.

We were both pretty hungry for our brunch, do decided to share a cacao macaroon while we waited.

We waited about 15 minutes for our food to arrive to our table. Sadly, my panini came out with cheese… and Kevin’s granola was riddled with raisins. We sent my meal back to the kitchen while I snacked on Kevin’s granola. The employee offered to switch out the granola for something else on the menu but Kevin was a bit agitated at this point so he went without.

Since Kevin wasn’t going to eat his granola, I took it as fair game while I waited for my second panini.

The panini; which was more like a quesadilla because of the gluten-free substitution, was presented on the plate with a couple of thin apple slices, a fork and a knife. The portion was relatively small but come the end of it, I was perfectly satisfied. There’s nothing worse than going on a hike on an extremely full stomach… but I was totally feeling like there should have been hash browns or something to the side of my meal. I swear I could have hiked with a full belly.

The combination of creamy roasted red pepper sauce; which I was assured had no dairy, and hummus was out of this world amazing. It had about two eggs scrambled, with a generous amount of tomato and spinach. There was a bunch of sauce to lick off my fingers after I’d gobbled everything up, a sign of a good lunch.

All in all, I think we could have had a good experience at Communitea had it not been for the employee that seemed to know little about their service offering. The wrap was great, the granola was good, and the space was really comfortable, but ordering shouldn’t have been painful as it was.

If you’ve had a good Communitea experience, I’d love to hear about it!

We had originally planned to meet a group of friends for a hike at Grassi Lakes Trail but they couldn’t make it so we brought along the whole family instead – Pebbles and Lexy! They love hikes. Pebs is such a little trooper. She gets little twigs caught in her fur, mud up to her face and is extremely afraid of creeks and waterfalls, but she’s still a blast to hike with.

Being the photo junkie that I am, I Instgramed the whole time without fail.

We took the easy trail up to the lake, a 45 minute walk or so and decided to stop for a snack of maple pepper salmon cakes, a drink from the creek (dogs only), and I managed to nab a couple of photo opportunities, too.

For the walk down, we decided to go the back route which ended up being pretty intensely awesome! It was a steep decline for about 2 kilometers. Then we got lost and ended up having to walk down a service road to get back to our car. In the end we probably did about 5 kilometers, a nice walk for all of us!

Lexy was so parched by the time we got back to the car that she was drinking water from the puddles in the parking lot. Gross. I emptied out the tea from my Starbucks cup, filled it with water from my water bottle, and giggled at just how far she could get her snout into the cup.

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty successful day for the four of us!

How was your weekend?

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  1. Sorry to hear about the rough start at the restaurant. If I required a gluten free diet, I’d have been really frustrated too! But I’m glad your lunch (when it arrived) was delicious. It sounds like you guys have some good options out west for gluten free and vegan lifestyles. It’s making me wonder what I never discovered when I lived in Edmonton! ;) Maybe a visit to see you might be in order at some point in the future! :D

    • It’s getting there. The gluten-free/vegan scene is so much better now than it was just 5 years ago. There was basically 1 restaurant serving all us healthily inclined folk.
      I would absolutely LOVE for you to come for a visit! You’re welcome any time :)

    • You have, have, have to check out Iron Goat Pub and Grill. Amazing! Enjoy your time here!

  2. What beautiful scenery!! We went for an awesome hike yesterday not too far from here (Denver) and then went on a pedal boat..amazing time! Looks like you enjoyed your time outdoors too! :)

    • I haven’t been on a boat in so long! That must have been really nice. Glad you had a good weekend!

  3. Sorry about the ordering thing, but the cafe indeed looks like a fabulous place. I hope Toronto has many places like that, too! The forests and the Lake trail looks absolutely beautiful as well. Nothing beats the beauty of nature – especially when it’s Canadian !

    • I’ve heard Toronto has a BUNCH of amazing places! You’re right, the Canadian wilderness is quite spectacular!

  4. Yes, I totally feel your pain. One time I went to a resteraunt specifically because they had a “vegan” menu. Turns out the vegan menu had only 3 items. I ordered the veggie fajitas (which had been labeled as “vegan”). When they brought me my “fajitas,” it was nothing more than what you’d expect in a fajita filler minus the meat–so essentailly sauteed onions with some overcooked tomatoes thrown on top & my beans were smoothered in cheese. I didn’t want to be rude, but these people had no business marketing vegan stuff when they didn’t have a clue what that even meant.

    Now that I’m gluten-free AND vegan…makes for even more fun conversations with waitresses & cashiers :)

    Pretty pictures, so nice to get out into nature, huh?

    • Oh no! I remember having a lot of those experiences when I was vegan. I’ve never had a problem with helping the waitress or cashier make sense of their menu, most of the time we have a laugh about it and move on, but I felt like I was inconveniencing them which is never a good feeling!
      Ya, getting out to the mountains at least twice a month is essential for us, especially in the Summer! Hope you had a good weekend, Janae ;)

  5. Wow I can imagine how frustrating that was when ordering! I completely agree that when restaurants start to serve gluten-free, vegan, etc. menu items, the staff needs to be informed and educated on what they are serving. It wouldn’t take that long to teach them about it! But, at least you guys had a beautiful rest of your day :) We did a bit of hiking too this weekend, and I also made a strawberry pie (my second pie ever!) and some strawberry banana bread. Heavenly. Have a great day! :)

    • Strawberry bread sounds delicious. I couldn’t be happier that they’re finally in season!

      • Me too! Although where I’m at I think the season’s almost over :( Luckily my boyfriend and I found a farm in the middle of nowhere that had a huge organic strawberry patch (for only $1.5/lb.!). We may or may not have picked over 26 lbs. of strawberries… :)

        • Oh my gosh… I need to find a place like that! We’ll have strawberries until August, thank goodness!

  6. Thank you so much for this post! We will be spending the night/day in Canmore on our way to Washington in August and I definitely want to stop at Communitea Cafe now [hopefully the service will be better because their menu looks amazing!]. Do you think the hike would be doable with a 4 month old?

    • What a great vacation, I hope you guys have a lovely time here! Another great place for food in Canmore is Iron Goat Pub and Grill, I wrote a review about them here: If you go up the easy trail and back down the same way you came, you could, yes. The trail has an 250m elevation gain so it is a bit steep. A hike that you might enjoy if elevation isn’t your thing is Grotto Canyon. It’s less of an elevation gain and still really beautiful!

  7. Hello Leanne,

    Nice to find your blog, as it is a really beautiful and informative one. Love the layout and use of pictures throughout. Although I find it hard to read your post. After all, as the creator and owner of the communitea cafe, reading about an unpleasant review is not the easiest to take, especially from a distance. At the same time, I appreciate the detail and the time you took in explaining your experience this weekend. It is invaluable to get real, honest feedback, as it helps us react, learn and grow. Sincere gratitude.

    Of course we can’t take back your first experience. However, I would love to extend some gift certificates to cover the meal, as that is really not the experience or service that you deserved to have or pay for. We would love to help fuel another hike in the rockies, and hopefully you will get better weather for it too. We are really proud of our new lunch menu and invite you to try that. Menus can be found here

    To respond to a few of your concerns. It is obvious that you dealt with a new staff member that began with the cafe that week. We are very blessed with many amazing and bright staff members, most whom have been with us 1- 2+ years. Should the staff member that you dealt with have been on till serving customers so early in her training? Absolutely not. As management, we will have to take responsibility as I don’t feel it was as much her fault, but more ours in not having the time to train. We are a little short staffed at the moment, which is why we have recently hired. It can be a bit of a catch-22 for any business to need staff suddenly, and yet the need means there is not ample time and opportunity to train. I am currently on maternity leave myself. We feel training takes weeks, even months at the cafe, and under normal circumstances we try to allow for a longer training period. However a person does need to jump in at some point and learn while they are doing the job. We have learned from this, and so will she.

    You make an excellent point about the menu. We have agreed that our framed menus are not ideal. That is the reason we provide ample copies of our menus that the cashier should be handing out to our customers in line so they do have time to decide. You will notice that our menus are designed to help customers easily identify gluten free and vegan options easily. We do take allergies very seriously at our restaurant, and we do our best to offer many options for those with specific needs. Our kitchen has specific areas and separate equipment to prepare gluten free items with. Our breakfast menu is over 60% gluten free and our lunch menu is over 70%, which if a substitution of rice wrap for bread on sandwiches, would make it 95% gluten free. That is not an afterthought, that was done with clear intention and understanding.

    I hope that you take up our offer to have another communitea experience. Again, thank you for your detailed and thorough review.

    Kindest Regards,

    Marnie Dansereau

    creative director/ owner
    communitea cafe

    • Thank you for your response, Marnie. Had there been someone at the cafe on Saturday that I could have had this conversation with, I would have felt much better about our visit. I appreciate your gratitude toward an open and honest review. I often struggle with posting reviews of local businesses when I have a not-so-pleasant experience, so I’m happy that you appreciate my honesty!

      It’s not that the food wasn’t good; that red pepper sauce is to die for, the service just didn’t match the menu, space, or vibe which is why I was just so confused over the whole experience!

      Coming from a background in the food industry business, I can completely understand the predicament a business gets in when they’re short staffed and have to rely on new bodies to do the job. It’s not ideal, but business must go on! I would be open to return in the future to try out your lunch menu and have a second go at it.

  8. Restaurants who can’t get it exactly right, the first time, when you’re paying for it, AND you’re sitting there hungry…eek. Not good. I swear I’ve seen this restaurant mentioned before..maybe Angela did a review? Anyway, glad your hike was at least awesome :)

  9. Great article and review glad the experience proved to be an overall “win”….The nature you photograph so beautifully is stunning. My husband and I will be vacationing in British Columbia this end of August/September….Would you..could you recommend any great parks/wilderness/ hiking trails to discover?..(And/or any “healthful pursuit-friendly” cafés/restaurants?)…I realize this isn’t your precise neck of the woods…but coming from Europe we know very little about Canada…yet appreciate it’s natural splendor and beauty…Oh…and I second your love for roasted red pepper “coulis”/sauces…yum!

    • Hi Donna, what a fabulous adventure you and your husband will be taking! Will this be your first visit to Canada? Whereabouts in BC are you visiting so I know what to recommend?

  10. It enjoys me a lot when customer service is not there. I am glad it ended well and I have to say, the place looks gorgeous.
    PS: you have a beautiful bright smile .. Love it :)

  11. I alwys have bad food luck in Canmore! Have never had a 100% good food experience… even at the Iron Goat. I don’t have any dietary restrictions, so am curious as to how you deal with the possibility of cross-contamination… I would be worried that if the server didn’t know what was GF, that they wouldn’t be taking the proper precautions!

    • Really, even at Iron Goat? Wow… I’ve never had a bad experience there. They’ve been so fabulous each and every time… and we’ve been there at least a dozen times. That’s too bad. I try not to worry too much about cross contamination. It’s enough to make a person go mad. I just do the best I can to explain my allergies, and leave the rest up to the universe. A little hokey-pokey maybe, but if I worried about all of that, I’d drive myself crazy!

  12. Heading through banff & jasper home to bc today, I stopped here after remembering that you had done a Canmore review. The girl at the cashier was extremely helpful, suggesting her favorites from the many gluten free options on their lunch menu. I went with a green curry chicken bowl which was delicious & not too spicy. I would definitely stop in here next time I’m visiting the fam in Alberta. I’d give ‘em another chance ;)

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