49th Parallel Coffee Roasters Cafe – Vancouver, BC


49th Parallel Coffee Roasters Cafe
2152 W 4th Avenue, between Arbutus and Yew
Vancouver, BC  V6J 5L1
(604)420-4901

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.

49th Parallel Coffee Roasters Cafe on Urbanspoon

Transcend Coffee – Edmonton, AB


Transcend Coffee
9869 – 62nd Avenue
Edmonton, AB T6E 0E4
(780) 430-9198
Open 7:30am-5:30pm, M-F; 9:30am-5:00pm Sat; Closed Sundays and Holidays

September 2008 re-visit post below

Original post below:

Unlike food, I don’t get coffee. Not yet anyway. But someday soon, i hope to. You see, many years ago, back in my University days (where i met Shokutsu), I drank coffee for stimulation – typically to keep me awake through a combo of too little sleep, and boring boring classes. This was rocket fuel – sludge loaded with sugar and cream to make it palatable. It didnt taste good, but this was the way coffee was supposed to taste. Coffee was cool. An easy date. And a necessity. And i could learn to like it.

Fast forward several years, and we have the proliferation of Starbucks. Expensive, catchy drinks with a lingo all its own. The drinks taste better than rocket fuel, but that’s because of the skinny, vanilla, extra hot, half and half, venti, whatever else is in the cup that makes it a coffee beverage. This tastes better than sludge, so im happy. But it doesnt taste like coffee. It tastes like sugar. And vanilla. But it’s good!

Today, there is a proliferation of “good” coffee – single origin, the concept of terroir, roasted dates, tasting notes. There is proper temperature and steeping time, fancy grinders and tampers. The complexity of coffee is endless. In the end, none of these things really matter. This coffee tastes better – that’s what matters.

The bottom line is simple: Transcend Coffee produces great coffee. They are passionate about coffee. And they love to educate people about coffee. Running a small roasterie in an industrial area of SW Edmonton, they have added a small retail cafe to a thriving roasting business. Their prices are cheap – relative to the expertise and the quality of their product. They have experienced baristas, who compete at a high level, to produce your espresso drinks. These have the fancy art, and the really nice full flavour. The good crema on top of your espresso, and the great textured foam. They also have a Clover Machine – an automated french press that is able to reproduce a near perfect cup of coffee each time, bringing out wonderful flavours like chocolate, citrus, grass, honey out of the coffee. Coffee is surprisingly complex – more than wine, and similar to food. The flavours you can taste will surprise you. Drink it black. Bitter, rancid coffee doesnt happen here. It’s how you taste the good stuff.

I feel particularly comfortable at Transcend. The room itself is warm and comfortable.  The people are nice. The service is friendly. They have a small selection of food (in house baked goods, outsourced baked goods, sandwiches, and chocolate bars from Chocophilia). More importantly, they are happy to discuss their #1 passion – coffee. And they put up with all my questions, no matter how inane, or oft repeated they are.

There is a slow growing movement towards “great” coffee – and Transcend definitely are helping lead the charge in Alberta. If you’re open-minded to trying it yourself, put down that cup of Starbucks and give it a shot. Like me, you may learn something new, and even enjoy it! Because afterall, at the end of the day, coffee, like food is about enjoyment.  Consume what you enjoy. And if you get something more out of it, all the power to you.  Maybe someday, i’ll get coffee. I’ll keep trying anyway. And in the meantime, i’ll keep going to Transcend Coffee, and learning a bit more about coffee sip by sip.

Transcend Coffee on Urbanspoon