The coffee in Vancouver, Part 1
Is adventurous. That’s the best way I can describe it after having spent a month in the rainy city. It is the same experience I encounter when learning a new programming language.
1st, I start with disbelief, then an ‘Aha’. Finally, I get it!
So many cafes
I must admit it did take me a few weeks to get it and I had to visit quite a few coffee shops. All with different approaches and value systems. Some doubled as either bakeries or even doughnuteries. Obviously, not every coffee experience was brilliant. There were definitely some let downs but on the whole it was an inspiring experience. What united everyone was their passion, friendliness and willingness to listen and explain. Mucho fun.
When I was there, I felt Vancouverites generally had good palates. Not in a snarky pretentious way. They’re true foodies. As a city, Vancouver is littered with scrumptious food trucks, residents regularly buy impressively fresh ingredients and the ice cream was to kill for. A culture of food with no shortcuts and much appreciation.
I mention this because it truly feels like this food ethos fuses with the art of coffee in the city. Unlike Europe, where 3rd wave of speciality coffee has been pioneered by business savvy Kiwis and Aussies. Vancouver offered a true American experience.
For example, I love filter coffee. In London I’m used to paying a premium for that experience. That is unless I ask for a bulk brew which only a few places do offer. On weekends, I’m plainly told that “we’re too busy to make any filters at all today”. In North America, filter coffee is a staple. And it seems that Baristas across the pond have truly been experimenting.
Enter Revolver Coffee!
Imagine my amazement when I got there and discovered that not only do they have a 6 Chemex brew bar but they also offer 6–7 different coffee roasters to select your cuppa from! To say I was in heaven is an understatement. Add to that the Chemex brews are just the base brewer. You can actually upgrade (at a price) to a V60 or downgrade to an Aeropress. The espressos were equally the business — consistent and managed to capture the depth of flavour in the offered roasts, yum!
IMHO, in London this would just confuse the average speciality coffee shop punter. But Vancouverites take all these choices in their stride. They enjoy discussing flavours and selecting a brew with the help of the most approachable and knowledgable Baristas I’ve met outside the big smoke.
Revolver Coffee became a daily ritual.
And after a sleuth of visits, I started noticing that every variable and nuance has been accounted for. The brewing process has been optimised to a T. They used Kone filters to keep the process fluid. The base brew is a Chemex, which are generally easier to brew guaranteeing more consistency. While brewing, the wet grounds are covered using lids to ensure a uniform brewing temperature.
That month in Vancouver, much to my partners delight, I didn’t brew a single cup of coffee. I only observed and learnt. Revolver helped me greatly evolve my understanding of technique. However, their selection of coffee, although delicious in every way, was still familiar in taste.
In part 2, I get challenged by actual coffee taste. I thought I already knew what good coffee tasted like but it turns out I’m really just starting!
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