Meet the Maker - Kitten and the Bear in Toronto, Ontario
There's a certain enchantment to homemade jam that lingers on as heartwarming memories. Whether it's childhood weekends spent with grandma, engrossed in the art of jam-making, baking scones and collaborating in arts and crafts while we wait for the treats to be baked. The cozy ambience of those moments was unparalleled, with blankets draped warmly around us, tea in hand, savouring the fruits of our joint labour.
It’s that cozy feeling of nostalgia that Kitten and the Bear founders, Sophie Kaftal and Bobby Zielinski serve up by the loving spoonful at their tiny tea room in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto’s West end. Their handcrafted fruit preserves are made using the finest local ingredients and the time-honoured French confiture cooking method (one that only a handful of artisans still use).
We caught up with our former artisans, Sophie and Bobby, who kindly shared insights into the distinctive Kitten and the Bear cooking methods and offered glimpses into their lives as jam makers in Toronto— a journey filled with passion and dedication.
Why did you start Kitten and the Bear?
As a husband and wife team, it was important to us to spend our days together. We wanted to work on a project that would allow us to be creative, and incorporate each other's skills and strengths.
What makes your jam so special?
All of our jam is made in small batches in traditional hand hammered copper "confiture" pans, which is a traditional methodology only a small handful of artisan producers still use. For Kitten and the Bear, we've created an experience that is genuine and true to the timeless practice of jam making, while imparting our own contemporary spin on this artisanal inheritance. It’s important to us to preserve this tradition.
We also strive to use local produce whenever possible, as well as tropical, heirloom, and hybrid varieties. Many of our ingredients are sourced from family-owned farms dedicated to sustainable and healthy farming practices. Our relationships with our growers allow us access to the season’s best crops and the freshest fruits possible, as well as ensuring quality by minimizing the time and steps from tree to jar.
What makes confiture different from other fruit preserves?
Confiture is made using hand-hammered copper “confiture pans” imported from France.
Historically, these pure copper pans were prized for jam making as it was thought to lend a “shiny,” “glistening” look to the preserve due to its metallic properties. Modern science explains that actually, the shine comes from the conductive properties of copper. It ensures a high cooking temperature and uniform heat distribution (of superior importance in all confectionary work), while the quintessential shape of the pan is engineered to allow for the quickest evaporation of moisture.
What is Kitten and the Bear's greatest accomplishment?
Being able to support our family doing what we love.
What are people most surprised about when you tell them about your company?
That we make jam for a living!
Where do you get inspiration for new products?
As fruits change throughout the year, we are constantly inspired by the ambiance of the season.
We also always consult with our team to get their opinion on new products and creative decisions. It creates a very open work atmosphere, and the success of the business is all of our collective effort.
What's been your greatest challenge?
Being able to produce enough jam to meet demand maintaining our standard of quality.
Where do you want to go next with Kitten and the Bear?
We are working on a few new products, as well as expanding our inspirational content online, such as recipes and DIYs :)
What's the best feedback you've ever gotten about your product? How did it make you feel?
When someone tells us that our jam & scones tastes like something from their childhood it feels like magic.
What’s your favourite music right now?
At the shop, we're currently playing the Hawaiian Oldies playlist on Apple Music. It's perfect for this time of year! At home, Smithsonian Folk Songs for Children is pretty much on repeat.
What is your favourite local restaurant?
CiCi's Pizza, because they’ve always got our backs.
What’s your favourite local neighbourhood?
Where do you like to travel the most, and why?
The NYC area. Sophie grew up there and it's kind of like a second home to us.
As we bid farewell to the inspiring founders of Kitten and the Bear, we take with us the cherished memories of homemade jam-making that linger in our hearts. Their passion for using the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients from family-owned farms reflects a dedication to sustainable and responsible business practices that we admire. The result is a delightful fusion of classic tradition and contemporary artistry that continues to captivate the senses.
Although we no longer carry Kitten and the Bear products, we invite you to experience the same heartfelt joy in our locally-sourced Toronto gift baskets, which frequently feature a curated selection of artisanal jams made by Canadian artisans just like Sophie and Bobby, who hold quality and authenticity in high regard, delivering world-class products made with love and dedication.
Shop locally-sourced gift baskets shipping to Toronto, Vancouver, Quebec, Calgary and Canada-wide.