They roast beans for real “coffee nerds” and some for anyone who drinks coffee.
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way many people in Vancouver do business, but for Aaron Kafka it presented a particular entrepreneurial challenge.
The owner of a local cafe of the same name, Kafka’s, with three locations in the city, Kafka says he realized that the pandemic was holding his business in hand, he needed to figure out “how to be better afterwards.” .
To answer his own question, Kafka found himself in a familiar place, and what some would consider the starting point of any coffee business: roasting beans.
Roasting their own beans was “the only thing we didn’t do,” Kafka told Vancouver Is Awesome over a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich in Gastown – which opened its doors. doors shortly before the COVID-19 crisis hit Vancouver. Kafka admits he thought about adding roasting and selling packaged beans to the coffee business before the pandemic, but he was finally able to put the wheels in motion when the business slowed down thanks to COVID, giving the l longtime coffee enthusiast the opportunity to create a business plan and get a provincial small business grant.
In terms of roasting space, Kafka uses part-time the old Agro roaster – which became available when this local business moved to new roasting digs – in the same way that new Vancouver breweries started by renting out. a space for brewing and canning from existing businesses.
Having worked since Kafka’s inception with a Seattle-based roaster, Kafka has drawn on their expertise and relationships and set to work building relationships directly with producers.
In recent years, savvy coffee consumers have turned to single-origin coffees, which means the beans come from a single farm. This practice and this product means that the farmers cultivate a close bond with the roasters, and in turn, the drinker can enjoy a cup with pure terroir. Yes, just like wine, coffee can offer a distinct “taste of the place” and the land on which it is grown.
Making coffee for nerds and ordinary people
For their roasts, Kafka indeed offers beans of single origin, intended to highlight the coffee-producing countries that Kafka is particularly happy to highlight, including their initial offer from producers in Guatemala and Ethiopia.
Kafka says he had two distinct types of coffee drinkers in mind when creating the new roasts: the “coffee nerds” in one camp and the average coffee drinker in the other.
For the real “nerd”, Kafka is happy to offer roasts for the avid coffee enthusiast who care about the beans they buy and have training in a variety of demanding brewing methods. By brewing Kafka’s Guatemalan or Ethiopian beans at home, Kafka hopes the drinker can appreciate the unique and nuanced flavor profile of each roast reflecting the classic tastes of these countries of origin.
On the flip side, Kafka is also thrilled that they are selling the Simpler Times blend, which he says is a versatile and accessible roast that withstands less vigilant measures while brewing and pairs well with multiple foods – in fact. , Kafka says he’d love to see Simpler Times as Vancouver’s restaurant home coffee.
Of course, Kafka himself is firmly rooted in the “cockroach” camp and he says the process of starting a roasting branch of the business, a dozen years after opening his first cafe on Main Street, gave it a revitalizing boost. âIt’s super fun and has rekindled my enthusiasm for coffee,â he describes. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a big fan of what Kafka’s roasts and cooks: “It’s legitimately wonderful coffee,” he adds.
Additionally, Kafka’s also brews an espresso blend for dedicated home baristas.
Kafka says he has learned over the years in the company how valuable it is to forge relationships with suppliers and expanding that to new relationships with producers is another exciting development that stems from the addition of roasting. The cafÃ© has long-time employees, including Paul Rose who was able to progress to a managerial position with the roasting operation.
Going from the status of barista and member of the coffee team to that of roaster is in fact a principle of what is considered the “fourth wave” of coffee culture. Kafka’s began its tenure in Vancouver as the city entered Wave 3, which was about craft coffee shops. It was a good seven or eight years between launching the first Kafka’s cafe before Kafka felt ready to add another location to the list, and since then he and his team have focused not just on serving great coffee, but also on growing their home-made food program, which features lots of handmade items including bread and baked goodies.
Ultimately, however, it all comes down to two things for Kafka, who wants to “make coffee and be nice to people.”
You can find Kafka’s homemade roasted coffee beans for sale at all three Kafka locations and in line.