Saturday, May 4, 2013

Rocanini Coffee Roasters

My first time here was at a Yelp event in March and I learned a great deal about the coffee industry at this crash course in roasting. I would not recommend Rocanini as a cafe. This is a roastery, in the factory and small manufacturing district of Vancouver, and the cafe within the business is clearly an addendum. Sharif was hosting the event I attended and he was extremely open and frank about both the coffee world and his business' practices. For example, I learned that the average cost for one pound of decent green beans in North America is $5. This means that roasters add between $10-$15 to roast, package, and distribute their product. This seemed like a lot to me when Sharif was describing it, but then he explained that money must also be spent on marketing and staffing. A $10-$15 markup is not a huge amount.

The most valuable activity we participated in at Rocanini was a cupping session based on SCA (Specialty Coffee Association) standards. Cupping involves brewing a predetermined amount of freshly ground beans with a consistent amount of water at 195-205 °F (95 °C) and then both sniffing and slurping the coffee after four minutes. This method forces you to really concetrate on the idiosyncratic qualities of EACH bean, in its purest form. I find taste tests like this to be the most helpful when trying to memorize traits of my favourite foods and drinks that come in unique varieties: single malt, wine, cheese, and cured meats.

At Rocanini we cupped Sumatran, Ethiopian, and Costa Rican grounds. The flavours were completely different from one another, and these differences would not have been as pronounced had the beans been blended or diluted with milk. Sharif explained that coffee aromas and taste profiles are really affected by altitude, and that this is one of the reasons Indonesian coffees are more earthy and one-dimensional than beans grown up in the mountains. The Ethiopian coffee was floral and acidic, while the Costa Rican was nutty with hints of citrus.

After this experience I could really relate to those who are obsessed with this dynamic bean, and it's hard not to become a bit snobby when one spends so much time studying and appreciating a favourite subject (i.e. drink, artist, animal, tv show...). However, as Sharif said, sometimes you just feel like a Timmy Hos. The staff at Rocanini are knowledgeable without being pretentious, and this seems to be rare in the coffee roasting world.

Keywords: "Alex Dawkins", "Vancouver Coffee Roasters", "49th Parallel"

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