Vancouverites love their coffee, and just as the local craft-beer industry has exploded, the indie-roasters scene is heating up. The upcoming Beanstock Coffee Festival celebrates all things micro and sustainable on the java front while taking a deep dive into coffee culture.
The fest’s focus is on third-wave coffee, says Mengo McCall, co-owner of Mountain Coffee, a Vancouver-based importer of green coffee beans that is behind Beanstock.
Briefly, the first wave was 20th-century commercial coffee; think Folgers, Nescafé, and MJB, McCall explains in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight. Multinational companies dominated, and there wasn’t much in the way of choice for households, restaurants, and truck stops.
The second wave came as Europeans introduced better-quality coffee to North America, with Starbucks becoming that generation’s biggest success story.
The third wave started to take off as microroasters began taking a different approach to one of the world’s most popular beverages, using skillful roasting techniques with carefully sourced, high-quality beans and being less concerned about price.
“It’s a quality movement,” McCall says. “Younger generations said, ‘This is a science.’ Everything is measured to a very, very precise degree, and there are roasting curves with software…to control roasting time and temperature and airflow. It’s so precise. People are really understanding and exploring coffee.
“Wine has about 500 chemicals that lead to flavour; with coffee, it’s around 1,500,” he adds. “We’re still discovering more every day. It’s incredibly complex and fascinating, and the more you learn, you realize how little you know.”
A key component of third-wave coffee is social responsibility. Proponents of specialty coffee support growers and farmers around the globe, McCall says, paying them fair prices so they can make a living.
“The third-wave movement is promoting a more sustainable future for coffee,” he says.
As interest in specialty coffee has grown, so has coffee culture. Going for a pour-over or an Americano isn’t just about finding delicious, fine brews but also about being in an environment that has a certain feel and aesthetic—usually, one that has an undeniable cool factor.
Beanstock aims to celebrate coffee culture and connect microroasters with the public. Taking place at Performance Works on Granville Island on Saturday and Sunday (November 2 and 3), the event will bring about 30 microroasters to the table from B.C., Alberta, and beyond.
Among them are Structure Coffee Roasters (from Montreal), Agro Roasters, Moja Coffee, 2% Jazz Coffee, Smoking Gun Coffee, and Canoe Coffee Roasters.
With a setup akin to a wine festival, the zero-waste event allows attendees—who get a ceramic cup to keep with their admission (plus some take-home samples)—to make their way around the room, sampling small sips from as many roasters as they like. Most of the coffees will be served pour–over style and black, for the truest expression of flavour.
People who have a hankering for a latte, however, need not fret; there will be a full espresso bar as well as a selection of food and craft beer available, and a DJ will add to the festive feel.
McCall says people might be surprised by what they discover.
“You’ll encounter tastes you’ve never tasted before,” he says. “There’s coffee that tastes like pure blueberry, coffee that tastes like pure strawberry or peach. Other coffees are combinations of flavours; maybe they’ll taste a little bit of blueberry with some nuttiness, maybe walnut or cloves. Some will have a floral or lavender taste. They’re all incredibly different.”