I love Vancouver a lot. I love the mountains, the proximity to the ocean and the modern architecture. Even their hockey is decent (it's not the Montreal Canadians but hey, at least it's not the Maple Leafs). One thing I haven't had the time to explore is their coffee. Thankfully, many of their roasters ship outside of the beautiful province.
One of their roasters that I keep hearing about is 49th Parallel. Actually, calling them a roaster is not quite fair as they do a wide array of coffee related activities. They roast, they supply, they help new cafes set up shop and they have their own cafés.
They even take the time to answer their e-mails, no matter how many questions are included inside.
Hey guys, first question. How long have you guys been roasting beans?
We've been roasting since 2004.
How do you know when you’ve found the perfect roast for beans?
We sample roast and evaluate each coffee before we begin dialing in on the roaster. In doing so we get a pretty good idea of the flavor profile and density of the beans. We follow up by doing a test roast, then cup, evaluate and make any changes to our roast profile. That being said, we use all of the tools at our disposal to get as much information about the coffee as possible.
This includes cupping the coffee, checking the TDS (total dissolved solids) of each roast and doing batch brew tests to see how it tastes on the Fetco or espresso.
I don’t think it would be fair to say that we ever think that a roast is perfect. We are always striving for something a little better than the last, more sweetness, better development, more complexity.
Do you guys favour any type of music (if any) while roasting coffee?
Mike plays a lot of classic rock for the warehouse but there is a preference towards no sound at all so that it’s easier to hear what’s going on during the roasting process, first crack, etc.
Do you ever revisit how you roast beans to try and get a different flavour out of them?
Definitely, we learn from everything we have done in the past to improve the next roast. Also, using previous roast profiles as a starting point for similar coffees can be very helpful.
Why did you guys start creating your own almond milk?
The thing about homemade almond milk is that it tastes like real almonds. We weren’t happy with the products we tried that were already on the market. Hence, we decided we would embark on making our own.
Our almond milk is made with whole organic almonds, it's soaked with dates and it has no additives. It’s made fresh daily at our two café locations in Vancouver.
I hear a lot of roasters talking about how direct trade helps both the roasters and the farmers work together. What kind of feedback does a roaster give to a farmer to help him move towards better coffee?
We provide feedback to producers by working collaboratively with them, reviewing together what’s working and what’s not. The thing to keep in mind is that this feedback goes both ways.
Its not simply a matter of telling a producer they need more drying beds, or a different system and then leaving them to do it. The idea is to be there to listen and be as much of a partner in this supply chain as the farmer is to us.
The biggest benefit of working in a direct trade model is being able to provide a steady price to the farmer. In doing so, the farmer is paid a premium above the commodity price, which allows them to further invest in their farm to continue to increase their yield or invest in equipment that will hopefully improve the quality of their coffee.
What books would you recommend for people interested in coffee?
The World Atlas of Coffee from James Hoffmann. The way the book is divided from seed to cup, to preparation and producing country overviews is thoughtful and a nice resource for enthusiasts and pros alike. The Scott Rao books are also a great learning tool for baristas and individuals looking to improve their home brewing or espresso techniques.
What is your preferred method of brewing (personally)?
We are a split crew of espresso and filter coffee. Vince is definitely an espresso lover, but we all drink a lot of filter coffee here at the roastery.
Briefly, how did 49th Parallel coffee start?
49th Parallel started with the intention of sustainably sourcing and roasting delicious coffee. Vince and his brother Michael began roasting coffee in 2004 and opened their first café location in 2007 and a second in 2011.
Our focus is transparent direct trade sourcing and roasting the coffee to the best of our ability. If you want to know more about our practices, check out the sourcing page on our website and read our transparency report. http://49thcoffee.com/pages/sourcing
What’s one thing you wish you could change in the coffee industry at the moment?
Brew by the cup.
I’ve heard almost as much about your coffee as I have about the donuts you serve at your café in Vancouver. How special are they?
The doughnuts are made from scratch every day at both of our cafes. Our bakers get up early and stay late to prep and make fresh doughnuts throughout the day. The menu also changes seasonally to make the best use of fresh, local ingredients. Nothing goes together like coffee and doughnuts.
Thank you so much for your time guys.
You can learn more about 49th Parallel at these addresses:
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