Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently selected. Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission for purchases made through links on this page.
Beanstock Coffee Festival
When: August 20 and 21, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Where: Roundhouse Community Center, 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver
Tickets: $43-$76 at universe.com
Coffee is life for Adrian Griffin. As CEO of Toronto-based importer Mountain Coffee, the producer behind the Beanstock Coffee Festival, he spends a lot of time testing, or as they call it in the trade, cupping, different beers. So how do you sleep at night?
“You drink and spit a lot,” he said. “I don’t get too nervous. You don’t drink that much. Some people I know make it really strong and I’m in their shoes and I’m flying high after a cup of them.”
In recent years, high-quality, artisanal and fair trade alternative coffee has become increasingly popular. Now in its fourth year, and the third in Vancouver, the annual Beanstock Coffee Festival brings together importers, brewers, espresso machine vendors and coffee lovers for a celebration of specialty coffee.
The growth of this “third wave” coffee movement is similar to that of craft breweries and brewing, though somewhat slower to take hold.
“On the West Coast it’s been a little faster,” he said. “It is becoming what it was and is the craft brewing industry. It is becoming more conventional. When something like Starbucks is starting a section of specialty coffee and reservation stores, you know that corporations are looking at where the market is.”
Beanstock, he says, helps raise awareness of the variety and quality that is available.
“Sometimes I do a cupping session where I put a commercial coffee next to a specialty coffee. Until they taste the two side by side, people don’t realize how much better specialty coffee is. There is no comparison. A lot of coffee needs cream and sugar, but specialty coffee doesn’t. It’s not something you have just for the caffeine. I passed it myself. It’s like an awakening.”
Previously CFO of CIBC Wood Gundy, Griffin became the owner of Mountain Coffee three years ago.
“I knew finances and how to manage people, and I’m a bit of a foodie,” he said. “But I didn’t know coffee as deeply as I needed to, so I became a real student.” He took every course he could find, he says: tasting, barista training, brewing and extraction, buying, roasting. He spent time on farms in Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and became a coffee sommelier, known as Q Grader.
As well as their own black-gold awakening, Beanstock ticket holders can look forward to unlimited samples of handmade specialty coffees, a ceramic mug, two 100g sample bags of beans from the roaster of their choice, and the chance to see baristas compete in the Canadian Specialty Coffee Association Championship. National Barista Championships.
“It’s incredibly scientific,” Griffin said. “The amount of preparation they go through, you have no idea how crazy he is with the speech and the topic. It’s a 15-minute rehearsal. They serve multiple drinks, different types.”
But the real draw is the chance to sample some of the best beans in the world.
“For people who are new, it’s about knowing the real taste of coffee. Some have fruit flavors and can taste like peaches, lemons, blueberries, and strawberries. Then there are the floral flavors, chocolate, and nuts. We’re going to have a sensory station so people can experience these different flavors. And it’s bringing people who know specialty coffee together with their favorite roasters.”
One disadvantage is the higher cost.
More difficult to produce, specialty coffee is more expensive than commercial coffee. “For the most part, farmers reap the benefits,” Griffin said.
Another potential drawback is that after trying next-level coffee, it can be hard to go back to the old familiar taste of burnt gym socks. Would Griffin go into shock if he took a sip of something from, say, a popular chain?
“It’s not really fair,” to said network, he says. “But yes, more or less.”