VICTORIA-BASED COFFEE ROASTERS

 

B

ows & Arrows is a small, friends-and-family run coffee company based in Victoria, BC. As we are lucky enough to have them provide coffee for our Toronto-based coffee truck, we sat down with one of the roasters, Drew, to find out a little more about his wonderful world of coffee.


Bows & Arrows in action on Toronto's Queen St. West

 Bows & Arrows in action at the SHOEme.ca coffee truck on Toronto's Queen St. West


When and where did Bows & Arrows originate?
We opened B&A in the fall of 2011, in Victoria BC. I had been roasting in Vancouver for a few years.

Why did you decide to start Bows & Arrows?
It was time to work for myself. To be unencumbered by the demands of someone else’s brand and production. It’s obviously difficult to experiment and try out new things within those confines. And ultimately, waking up in the middle of the night stressing about someone else’s business gets a little tired. There were clear challenges in coffee that I wanted to pursue & answer for myself.


"At a base level, we prize clean, sweet, well processed coffees. But there’s so much more to it."



What makes you unique from other coffee roasters?

I like to think that we are not unique but part of a group of progressive roasters who are/were perhaps dissatisfied with what directions the niche industry was going and so we’re walking our own path. If we’re alone, that’s disconcerting.


"Coffee, as we know it, is not a sustainable industry."

 

Can you tell us a little about how you select the coffee that you sell?
It’s very enjoyable sourcing coffee – almost every step – whether it’s tasting an incredible coffee on a table of samples or, more importantly, meeting the workers, producers and their families responsible for it. Our goal is to buy from the same producers year in year out and work hard to show and improve the coffee. That can’t always be a “best coffee on the table” mandate because there are too many variables  – climate, soil, leaf rust, for example – that complicate replicability from harvest to harvest. At a base level, we prize clean, sweet, well processed coffees. But there’s so much more to it.

What are some obstacles you’ve encountered in the industry so far?
Climate change and the quick realization that many families we work with could likely see the end of the revenue stream that provides all, or a majority of, their income. Coupled with a relatively narcissistic consumerism amongst many retailers that seem, by their actions, more concerned with perfecting the brewing of coffee than the futures of the providers. It’s not malicious, just a privileged distance and therefore, insulation.

What has been the highlight of B&A up to this point?
Finding folks at every step in the chain who are equally invested in making it better, or softening the blows as growing conditions change. Coffee, as we know it, is not a sustainable industry.

Do you notice a shift in the way people are drinking coffee in the last five years?
Absolutely, we’ve seen a shift towards lighter roasts and a desire, or at least, appreciation for profiles highlighting brighter acidity and complexity. People can now find better filter coffee, prepared well.

What started your passion for coffee?
I was a baker and wanted to “learn” coffee the same way I learned baking – by apprenticing. So I sought out good teachers. With coffee, the trade and consumption, the science and enjoyment, the politics and challenges amongst the shifting political landscape and changing earth – we are presented with the potential for complete immersion – a we’ve-got-work-to-do opportunity. It’s infinite.



 

Where in the world has your love of coffee brought you?
Nicaragua, Brazil, Honduras, Chiapas, Minneapolis and trips planned for Guatemala and Colombia this year.



"It’s very enjoyable sourcing coffee – almost every step – whether it’s tasting an incredible coffee on a table of samples or, more importantly, meeting the workers, producers and their families responsible for it."

 

Can you describe the coffee scene in Victoria?
We have a higher per capita percentage of coffee roasters than most cities. Victoria is very loyal to it’s favourite spots which is a blessing and curse. But ultimately, I see progressive changes in coffee after a period where the city sat back. A ‘scene’ tends to replicate greater trends in a given industry, for better and worse. We’ve got to make better inroads into fostering smarter, more conscious and invested consumers without the heavy-handedness of the “education” fad that tarred the specialty coffee emergence in many North American markets. Most folks just want a good cup of coffee, so we often have to silently strategize while we smile and nod.

Do you have any tips for the ultimate cup of coffee?
Fresh coffee; well sourced; roasted well; in-season and still showing well; a good grinder; a scale and good water. It’s sounds like a clichéd list  – but making good coffee is tricky and each step is important.

Describe your perfect cup of coffee in three words.
With my son.

Can you tell us something many people may not know about the industry?
It is rapidly and irreversibly altered by the changing climate and most growers are vastly more aware and informed of it than consumers.

You can purchase Bows & Arrows coffee through their website or call in on your next visit to beautiful Victoria, BC.

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