49th Parallel Coffee Roasters Cafe
2152 W 4th Avenue, between Arbutus and Yew
Vancouver, BC V6J 5L1
In my never ending quest to learn more about coffee, I found myself in Vancouver chasing down what most people told me were the classic choices: J.J. Bean, Artigiano, 49th Parallel Cafe, and Elysian Room. I decide to visit 49th Parallel Cafe first. 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters is owned by Sammy and Vince Piccolo, founders of Cafe Artigiano; not just roasters, but Sammy is a World Championship-calibre Barista as well. They supply their beans to a variety of fine establishments – including Kawa Espresso in Calgary, but have recently have opened up a cafe location as a flagship store to feature their products.
After a short detour (stupid me had written down the wrong address) to the Burnaby roasting location (which was closed on a Saturday), i finally rolled into 49th Parallel’s Cafe on W 4th Avenue. Starving for caffeine. Rather that hit something on their beautiful La Marzocco, i decided to grab a clover to get the best out of their beans. A clover, for the uninitiated, is a single cup coffee brewing machine that replicates the properties of a french press, by vacuum brewing coffee, and is configurable in a variety of ways to extract the best flavours out of the beans. It used to be exclusively the domain of high end coffee shops, ringing in at a low low price of $11,000, but they were bought out by Starbucks and have recently been introduced into several Seattle-area Starbucks, with plans for expansion to more locations. Chains. Sigh.
Already a fan of 49th Parallel’s Epic espresso blend, as well as my all time favorite coffee, the Ethiopean Yergacheffe Beloya microlot that positively reeks of blueberries (it’s amazing – you have to try it), I wanted something a little different, so i went with the recommended Kenyan Kiriga – very sour, acidic, fruit forward, and extremely interesting. Well, at least that’s how i imagined the exchange. What actually happened was I asked them for a recommendation for what was sampling well, and I got a few mumbles and a “try the Kenyan”. To be honest, the service from the baristas was pretty poor, who were generally aloof and unfriendly, especially when compared to the fantastic service im used to in Alberta – Transcend, Phil and Sebastian, Kawa, Bumpy’s are all wonderfully kind, patient, and generous with a new comer to coffee like myself. This was fairly disappointing, considering my enthusiasm for coffee currently out weighs my knowledge at about 10-1, and Im always looking for new perspectives to learn from.
At a massive, 16oz serving, using what looked like 34-35g of coffee, it was a bit light on the flavour, and a bit much on volume. A few more grams wouldnt have hurt either. But the coffee was good, though the acidity was a touch hard on the stomach. 49th Parallel are definitely great roasters though – I couldn’t imagine extracting anymore flavours out of the beans than that cup did. Something that was well showcased as the cup cooled.
Anyway, bad service aside, it’s still worth the visit. The space is definitely very cool – modern, industrial with some 70’s retro touches. Their coffee is great, though I would go with a small, and their staff are very skilled. Really, at the end of the day, who needs a friendly barista anyway if they are serving coffee this good.