I don’t especially like coffee. But, oh boy, do I love everything about it – the scent of freshly ground beans, the art of pulling a shot of espresso, the various brew methods that yield different tastes and textures. Swoon. I love the possibility of ritual, nuance, and tradition that comes with coffee. At times, there’s the sense of getting an education as you sip on a cortado or watch a barista weigh out grams of coffee on a scale with meticulous attention to detail. But you don’t come away with this feeling at Starbucks or Blenz – it’s something you feel at places like Revolver Coffee.
Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, with cobble-stoned, narrow streets and alleys with names like Blood Alley and Water Street and heritage buildings that used to house abbatoirs, brothels, and saloons. Back in the day, Gastown was the haunt of off-duty loggers and fishmern. Today, it’s turned over to the hipsters and tourists. It’s here that you’ll find Revolver Coffee.
With good design, great coffee, and an interesting crowd, Revolver Coffee avoids the pitfall of being just another hipster coffee bar by virtue of the sheer passion that animates its staff. There’s no coffee snobbery here. The staff are just basically and fiercely passionate about coffee, and they want to share that love with you. I’m by no means a coffee connoisseur, but Revolver makes me want to use words like mouthfeel, flavour clarity, and acidity. A great way to start off at Revolver is to go for a Tasting Flight. Find your favourite bean, then try out the Brew Flight and see how different methods of preparation can radically change how a coffee tastes. Each Flight is $9, and you receive a good amount of coffee – the experience is fully worth the money.
“Sip, compare and contrast. For fun, you can evaluate this coffee much the way we would by thinking about the following characteristics: aroma, mouthfeel, acidity, flavour, and finish. Let us know your favourite.” – Tasting Flight Card
Revolver keeps their coffee menu fresh by rotating it often and subjecting beans to blind taste tests on the weekly. I like lighter, sweeter coffees with fruity, floral tastes. On the barista’s recommendation, I chose the following three for my Tasting Flight:
1. Chelelektu, Ethiophia from Heart, Portland
2. Monte Rey Carrizal, El Salvador from Ritual, San Francisco
3. Buzira Guhindwa, Burundi from Parlor, Brooklyn
Drinking straight coffee has never had any appeal for me. I’ll load it up with milk and chocolate. But the Tasting Flight is just straight coffee, no room for additions, and I found myself really enjoying simple coffee for the first time. Taking a sip of each coffee one after the other, I found that the Chelelektu coffee was the most bitter and dark; the Monte Rey Carrizal reminded me of spring water, with different waves of light sweetness hitting taste buds; and the Buzira Guhindwa was slightly less sweet, but still had that strange, appealing feeling of smooth water.
“One coffee brewed three ways. These methods chosen specifically to demonstrate the range of cup characteristics achievable using different brew methods. Note the differences of transparencies, visible oils, mouthfeel and flavour clarity in each cup.” –Brew Flight card
The Brew Flight took my favourite roast, Ritual’s Monte Rey Carrizal, and prepared it three different ways, using a French press, Aeropress, and Clever coffee dripper. I took a cue from the card and was struck by the difference in clarity and oiliness between the cups. The French-pressed brew was the cloudiest and had visible specks of oil; the Aeropressed cup had a faint slick of oil, and was clearer; and the coffee was clearest and oil free when put through the Clever coffee ripper. I definitely preferred the Clever dripped cup, which had the cleanest taste.
So, next time you need a cuppa, go for something new and head to Revolver. I’ve experienced Portland’s famous coffee culture first hand, but it just doesn’t come close to what Revolver has brewing here in Vancouver. Just don’t try ordering a pumpkin spice latte.
Revolver Coffee; 325 Cambie St, Vancouver, BC. 604.558.4444.