Located at the historic Rainier Hotel building, East Van Roasters was conceived as a social enterprise program by the PHS Community Services Society. They make one of the finest coffee and bean to bar chocolate using single-origin, direct and fair trade beans.
We chat with Olivia Suddaby – Head Roaster at East Van Roasters, to tell us more about the brand and share her love for coffee.
RC: East Van Roasters play a vital role in the community as a Social Enterprise Community Contribution Company. Could you explain what that entails?
Olivia: We are very involved in providing jobs for people in our community; we have employees who help with grinding and packaging the coffee with our roaster program. They also work with our chocolate program. We’ve had some people who have been with us for the entire history of East Van Roasters; that’s eight years now.
RC: How did you get into the coffee industry?
Olivia: Like many people, I worked at Starbucks as a teenager. It helped me get a lot of knowledge about the coffee industry, and then on my own, exploring other coffee shops and learning what I liked about coffee. East Van Roasters were looking for a coffee roaster, and they weren’t necessarily looking for someone with roasting experience, but someone that would fit into our community and be willing to learn. I trained for two months, and I’ve been here for two and a half years now.
RC: Where does the coffee come from that you’re roasting?
Olivia: We work with West Coast Coffee Traders, and they help us find quality beans, fair-trade, of course. We roast about five single-origins and three blends. We have coffee from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Peru and Sumatra – we’ve got a really nice variety of countries.
RC: Do you roast the coffee differently for the various countries?
Olivia: Every bean is different, even in the way it’s processed, so you want to create a different effect for every origin. As far as roast levels go, we like to do a light to medium roast for our single origins, and our blends go a little darker, not a dark roast but a medium to dark. And then our espresso is a nice medium blend.
RC: Do you have a particular favourite?
Olivia: I love our Brazil single-origin and our Empress blend, which is our espresso.
RC: How do you brew your coffee at home?
Olivia: I have an Aeropress at home that I love, and it’s fun finding new recipes and playing with the grind and water levels and experimenting; it’s ever-changing. I love to try new things with coffee.
RC: How are you brewing coffee in the shop at East Van Roasters?
Olivia: We’re a pretty small operation, we have our espresso bar and our French press for brewed coffee, and we can change our origins pretty quickly.
RC: Tell us about the chocolate!
Olivia: That goes back to the beginning of East Van Roasters, and it’s become a big part of our business, and it’s created a lot of jobs in the community. We make chocolate bars and other lovely little treats like chocolate-covered hazelnuts and chocolate-covered orange peel sticks. We also make ganache and hand-rolled truffles. You can buy chocolate here at East Van Roasters, and we also have partnerships with companies like Spud and Harvest Union, so there is a great community of people that use our chocolate.
RC: Could you pass on any tips when it comes to brewing coffee at home?
Olivia: I think the best thing to do is experiment, because everybody likes something different from their coffee. So experiment with your grind, your water temperature, and how much water you’re putting in. When you start experimenting, it makes it more personalized.
RC: What plans do you have for the future at East Van Roasters?
Olivia: We’re focused a lot on our wholesale and online ordering on our website. Christmas is our busiest season, so we’re getting our orders lined up; it’s quite the little workshop over here right now.
East Van Roasters’ goal is to provide employment opportunities to women living on the Downtown Eastside while offering singularly delicious products. It is an incredible little piece of Vancouver! So go ahead, be kind to yourself and pay them a visit.
See the East Van Roasters FAQ page for more information on East Van Roasters role in the community as a Social Enterprise Community Contribution Company.