The Canadian Coffee & Tea Show

IMG_5798

I received a media pass to attend the trade show and competitions at The Canadian Coffee & Tea Show, nevertheless, all opinions are my own.

Trade shows have a reputation for tedium, full of dry seminars for industry professionals, stationery samples, and towers of stale danishes.

But, imagine walking onto a trade show floor and almost immediately being handed a latte from one of your favourite local coffee chains. Then, spending the rest of the day sampling coffee, tea, chocolate, pastries and cocktails. All the while, competitions rage along to determine the best baristas and latte artists.

IMG_5795

That’s what visiting the Canadian Coffee & Tea Show is like. There was an enormous array of coffee roasters and tea importers from around the world, with suppliers of everything a coffee shop or tea room could want.

A month later, I’m still sorting through and absorbing the materials I brought home from the show, but I have a few highlights to share with you, along with some thoughts about the show and what it means for the state of hot beverages in Vancouver.

IMG_5799

Tea

I was a tea drinker for years before I ever touched a cup of coffee, so I was especially excited to see so many fine teas, highly qualified blenders and sommeliers, and the Tea Association of Canada at the show. I often drink coffee when I’m out, and as much as I enjoy it, there are many occasions when I wish I felt comfortable ordering tea, instead.

It can be difficult to find a good cup of tea in Vancouver, unless you’re at a tea room. There’s nothing worse than being served tea that’s improperly prepared, of poor quality, or both. Vancouver began solving its coffee problem in the 80s, so I’ve usually stuck with that at most of the places around town. (There’s one local coffee chain that particularly comes to mind – they have beautiful tea, chosen and blended by a talented team, but they pour almost half a cup of loose tea into a bag when they make a large cup. The tea is undrinkable and the leaves wasted.)

This is becoming less and less the case now, with the new generation of coffee shops focusing on the quality of everything they serve. They’re sourcing wonderful teas and preparing them precisely, making my decision of what to order very hard indeed.

This attention is reflected in the strong showing tea made at the show. Many of the conversations I had over the course of the two days left me feeling optimistic about the future of tea throughout Vancouver. Just as barista culture, artisan roasting, and the renaissance in brewing has elevated the quality of coffee in Vancouver, the influence of tea merchants and next gen coffee shops is elevating tea here, too.

So, you can expect to see more top shelf tea at coffee shops, hotels, and restaurants. But you should also expect more good quality tea at your grocery store, too. Though the emphasis at the show is on providing products to the industry, there were a number of retail brands in attendance at the show. I saw whole leaf tea, organic and fair trade brands, sommelier blends and more at the retail kiosks. The future of tea is bright in Canada.

IMG_5198

Coffee

For coffee, the future is already here, from discerning local roasting companies to innovative coffee shops. There was a dazzling display of machinery at the show, reminding me that coffee has a lot in common with cars – people love to look at race cars and long to bring an affordable version home. There were beautiful espresso machines, tap systems for everything from cocktails to sodas, and technological wonders.

But what’s really exciting now is that all the innovation we’ve seen in coffee brewing is ready to come home with you. Just look at this page on KitchenAid’s website, if you don’t believe me. Expect high quality coffee from local roasters to show up throughout the restaurant industry, while siphon and pour over machines appear on kitchen counters.

IMG_5797

Aspirations

One of the most enjoyable parts of the show was being introduced to products that were trying to find a foothold in Canada. There was tea from Nepal, chocolate from Ecuador, coffee from Brazil, and BKON’s Craft Brewer – an amazing machine that can infuse flavour into alcohol in seconds or brew a perfect cup of tea at precisely the right time and temperature. These were just a few of the exhibitors who were working to establish themselves here.

IMG_5796

Highlights

Edmonton’s Blue Hour Tea and their “sticky teas.” Premixing chai with Alberta honey is something different and delicious.

I’m hoarding the last of the samples I got from Lumbini Tea. Beautiful, whole leaf, flavourful tea is something to be savoured.

I was impressed by Trumps Fine Food‘s gluten-free collection. Producing tasty gluten-free goods in volume is difficult to pull off.

6 Mountains‘ Pu Erh tea was beautifully presented and served amidst the chaos of the trade show floor. It truly is the king of tea.

I learned a lot at the show and I’m looking forward to following up on leads for future stories, which I hope to share with you in the new year.

IMG_5799

In the meantime, I’m getting ready to visit the Vancouver Tea Festival. They’re at the Croatian Cultural Centre this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and I’ll tell you all about it next Tuesday. If you’re in Vancouver, though, you can find out for yourself. You can buy tickets to the Festival on their website, along with tickets to their educational sessions.

IMG_5800

Some Bright Ideas

  

Here’s what I’ve got coming up for you next week on the blog:

Meinhardt Fine Foods has opened a downtown location. I’ll tell you all about it, and their opening party, on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, barring any technical glitches, I’ll have another interview up in the G-W Portraits series.

On Friday, I’ll be sharing a recipe and describing the event that had me hauling out my copy of the Vegetarian Flavor Bible.

Here’s what I’ve got coming up, offline, this weekend:

A visit to Knit City, to ogle the wares of dozens of yarn and equipment purveyors. (Have I mentioned that my yarn diet is almost as fragile as my tea diet?)

I’ll also be attending the Canadian Coffee & Tea Show. I’ll be checking out their Tea Lounge and Tradeshow, while keeping tabs on the progress of the Canadian Barista and Latte Arts championships.

It’s also Doors Open Vancouver this weekend. If I have time, I might take the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes look at one of the City’s civic facilities. It’s a great way to get a new perspective on the architecture, infrastructure, and function of our City’s landmarks.

As always, I’d love to hear what you’re up to, online and off, this week.

Eastside Coffee Culture

A friend and neighbour of mine likes to text me when she’s in the mood for a cup of coffee. She knows I like to explore the neighbourhood’s cafés as much as she does and we both work on flexible schedules. So, once or twice a month, we head out for coffee and treats. Our neighbourhood is at the intersection of Grandview-Woodland and Hastings-Sunrise (also known as Vancouver East Village, by some). As I’ve mentioned before, there are strong Italian and Portuguese roots in the area, so there’s been a long history of coffee shops in this neighbourhood, especially along Commercial Drive.

There are only a few of the old cafés left, as people retire or move on, but there is still a vibrant coffee culture in the neighbourhood.

These days, old school means Cafe Calabria, Continental, or Turks, all of which were thought of as newcomers when I first moved to Commercial Drive, in my university days.


I have an especial fondness for Continental, as it continues to be the site of the kind of in depth political and philosophical conversations that students, activists, and long-time Drive residents love – and it still serves great coffee. I used to live around the corner from Continental and I had a really good chocolate cake recipe that called for exactly one cup of strong coffee. I’d get an Americano to go, bring it home, and make the cake. It was always a hit. Now, I like to visit for a shot of nostalgia with their excellent coffee.

 

 Turks is the place my Dad wants to drop by, almost every time he comes to visit. Their coffee is consistently good and their patrons are half longtime Drive conversationalists and half laptop-toting students. Locally roasted, award-winning coffee, generous hours, and treats from local favourites like Livia Sweets keep Turks busy from morning till night.

In the last few years, there has been a new wave of coffee shops and cafés appearing along Commercial Drive and East Hastings. These are the ones my neighbour and I like to try on our adventures. They’re not all coffee-focused, but they all serve a commendable cup.

Here are a few of the most notable ones:

Commercial Drive

Bump n Grind


Bump n Grind serves a variety of coffees from excellent small roasters like Victoria’s Bow & Arrows. They bake some great treats in house and source gluten-free and vegan treats from a local producer. It’s a welcoming space that’s always busy.

Moja


Moja is the new kid on the block and I end up there often, because they’re open from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. They’ve created a beautiful, airy space from an old storefront and they get their pastries from Thomas Hass. They’re passionate about sourcing and roasting their coffee and about three-quarters of the time, the coffee there is excellent. (I think the inconsistency is down to the newness of this location.)

Prado

 

Prado is part of the 49th Parallel family, another excellent local roaster. They serve great food, too, but just try to get a seat. Their bright, open space attracts a crowd all day long. It’s a good thing that they’ve got a parklet in front for sunny days. (Full disclosure, the photo above is from their Gastown location. Also, it’s tea.)

East Hastings

Basho


This is one of my favourite places in the neighbourhood, but I don’t go there as often as I’d like because it’s usually very busy. Everything they present is beautiful and delicious, from the tiniest cookie to a full meal. They use coffee from Handworks Coffee Studio, which is hand-brewed Matsuya-Style. Go for the coffee, but be forewarned – you’ll also be charmed by the tiny, perfect baked goods they serve alongside.

Black Rook Bakehouse


Black Rook Bakehouse expanded into a bigger space several months ago and it’s a cosy, welcoming place to meet a friend or read a book, while indulging in one of their pastries or quiches. They serve AGRO coffee, which is what gets them onto this list, but really, the coffee is just an excuse to have a [S]ingle [O]rigin [B]rownie or a slice of one of their impossibly tall cakes. Then, you’ll find yourself walking out with a bag of croissants or a freshly baked loaf of bread.

Platform 7 Coffee


Platform 7 puts as much care and attention into their coffee as they did designing their space. The concept for the café is a Victorian train station and they get every detail right. One benefit of this design is that the wall of the café is lined with little booths reminiscent of train station seating, which means it’s often easy to find a seat, even when it’s busy. They also have a not-so-secret garden in the back for even more seating in the summer.

All of which is a very good thing, because Platform 7 requires many visits to experience all they have to offer. They serve a range of Stumptown coffees, which you can try at their espresso bar, their brew bar, or cold brewed by the bottle. Their brew bar is especially fun – get a flight of coffees and you can try three different beans prepared the same way, or one prepared using three different methods.

Pallet Coffee Roasters


Pallet Coffee is much more than a café. They source and roast their own beans, make breakfast, lunch, and treats in house, and source their ingredients, tea, and dairy from local suppliers. You could happily spend all day there, though you’d be awfully full and very caffeinated.

There are more, of course, like JJ Bean or Uprising, but I think I’ve given you at least a week’s worth of places to try.

Let me know if you think I’ve made any glaring omissions. Or, if you’re not local, let me know what your best coffee neighbourhood has to offer.