Who: Propeller Coffee Co.
What: Award Winning Roaster / Cafe / Event Space / Delicious, passionately crafted & curated coffee.
When: October 19th, 2013 – the end of time (as we know it)
Where: 50 Wade Ave. Toronto, ON (Distance from Westside: 509m – door to door, as the crow flies)
Why: Because coffee is the life blood of all photo studios.
How: Good people + Passion + Hard work + Endless supply of coffee = Success
Last week I sat down with co-owner Losel, to discuss the finer points of roasting coffee in Toronto.
A: Well for starters, Well let’s get right to it! How long have you guys been open here?
L: We have just had our first birthday! Our first roast was October 19th, 2013, and the cafe has been open since the end of July, 2014.
A: Propeller Coffee. Great name! Any aviation history attached to the business?
L: Kind of! The key behind Propeller coffee is energy. The Oxford English Dictionary definition, is to propel, and move forward. We love the idea that our coffee is helping our customers move forward, and give them that moment of clarity, of energy, or of respite from a busy day. Because of course, everyone loves their coffee moment! We love the idea of aviation and exploration, and in the long term we’d like to talk about propellers of ships. It’s one thing to go explore new lands, new coffees, new origins, but most of the journey of coffee is done by ship.
A: Why Coffee? What about it gets you out of bed every morning?
L: There’s the romance and history of coffee, without a doubt. It’s so international… the idea that any given morning having a coffee from Guatemala, or Ethiopia, ya know? These exotic far off places, that we culturally still think of as far off distant lands… even though we all travel a lot more then we did, they still evoke that feeling. The other aspect is from a pallet or culinary perspective. Coffee has twice the taste points of wine, and is a incredibly complex drink. What differentiates us from some roasters, is that we follow the third wave principles. We don’t roast as darkly as some others, which allows us to really show off those flavour points. Weather it’s citrus points from an african bean, or the richer, traditional chocolates and nutty tastes from coffees in latin America. … By roasting a little lighter, you can really expose those flavours in a fun way. We love to work with our customers, to show them how diverse and beautiful a drink coffee is… Getting those “Aha” moments is really motivating for us.
A: So why THE HOOD?
L: Great question. This hood… is all the things we were looking for. And we looked for almost a year and a half! It’s in the city, it’s close to our customers, it’s accessible to our customers. In the city, searched for a year and a half. If we had been in the 905 or 705, or even in the city with a space that wasn’t like this, it would have been really difficult to execute on any key elements of our vision. We wanted a space that took our customers through our journey, to properly show off our coffee, our whole process, the care that goes into …and to be interactive with our customers. …It’s in the heart of a completely thriving creative neighbourhood. There are all these great elements, plus being right around the corner from the subway… The initial gut feeling that this neighbourhood had stuff going on, has been reaffirmed in really fun, surprising ways day after day.
A: Thrilled to see you guys getting involved in the area so quickly after setting up shop, and curating some great community events. Food Truck Fridays were a hit! Any insight into what’s coming down the pipe in this regard?
L: Oh totally, totally. One thing we did notice that this neighbourhood was missing, and we’re excited to offer, is the whole concept of that third place. It’s not work or home, but it’s a place you can make your living room, host a birthday party, or event space that you can make your own. We’re really beginning to find fun ways to do this with dinners, event collaborations, etc. We have some really neat collaborations coming up. A 4 part dinner series, with 40 of Canada’s leading chefs. So anywhere between 8 & 12 of Canada’s top-top-top chefs on any given night, over 4 nights. We’re calling it “The Chefs for Change Midwinter Feast.” That ancient concept of the midwinter feast, embedded in ancient Viking culture, embedded in Pagan culture… even in Japan they have the concept of the midwinter feast on the longest, darkest night of the year. And then we have a Sake festival coming up, new collaborations, some art exhibitions, documentary film screenings, etc.
A: Exciting! Well not to get too serious, but we need an experts opinion: Tim Hortons coffee… Yay / Nay?
L: Hahaha well it’s a part of Canadiana right?! It’s hard to say anything bad about Tim Hortons… It’s that comfort drink on a long road trip. Haha if given the choice I’ll default to a local indie shop, hopefully having some great sourcing policies. But if you’re on the road and a long way from your destination…Haha
A: Haha I hear ya! Favourite caffeinated beverage?
L: Hmm… If I’m having a clover or a pour over, I will have an Ethiopian or a Kenyan. They are such a rich complex drink… almost like having a wine, or complex tea. If I’m having cappuccino, which is my go-to milk drink, I love our “Ace” espresso that really cuts well, and really like our Nicaraguan as a drip. We just did a tasting up at the Artisan Tasting fair at Wychwood Barnes and it was a huge crowd pleaser.
A: Have any coffee tips or myths, you’d care to share or bust?
L: Absolutely. I have both! Tips:
1) Grind Size Matters: If you are to invest in any one thing for your home coffee kit, get a good grinder. Because freshness, just the quality of flavour and mouth feel is totally dependant on that grind. We fine tune our grinds weekly to adjust for that weeks roast.
2) Try your coffee without milk/cream/sugar, if you traditionally do that. Especially if you have a good coffee, and see those flavours. Which leads me to the next point:
3) Let the coffee cool down a bit. In the same way you let a bottle of wine breathe, you can watch the same complexity unfold in a good cup of coffee. It’s really neat to see!
1) Dark and oily: Isn’t a sign of good coffee, it’s a sign that it’s been over roasted. Those oils that have been forced out of the coffee, actually taste much better while kept in the bean, and then into your cup.
2) Espresso doesn’t have the most caffeine. Typically, a french press extracts the most caffeine, as the coffee sits in the water the longest, and is most exposed.
3) Latin America has a lock on great coffee. Latin American produces great coffee, but Africa and South East Asia also have some absolutely incredible coffees. Coffee began in Africa, so it’s very much the France/Italy of wine.
A: What playlists stimulate ideal roasting conditions?
L: Haha oh very eclectic playlists here… we had a particularly good batch the other week that funny enough, came right on the heels of the John Fogerty concert. He played on Thursday, a bunch of the team went, and the next Monday/Tuesday Fogerty was CRANKED in the roasting room, all through the roasting and bagging cycle. And that coffee was extra good that week!
A: What’s the most inspired thing you’ve seen/heard/experienced as of late?
L: Great question… OH! I was in Boston over the weekend, and there is this young Tibetan guy, who grew up in Switzerland, who was there rapping actually. I had heard of Shabaley, abd he basically sings about identity, and as an exile community, identity is pretty important. He takes a positive spin on what is really, a pretty depressing issue right now with the state of affairs in Tibet… He does something which is really beautiful, really inspired… He sings about his experiences in a really hopeful way, and through his music challenges other young people. I was watching him this morning actually with my 6 year old, teaching to stay true to your roots, to your culture. It teaches the value of art, the value of music in, really any struggle. And he promotes truth… It was inspiring to see this guy take a completely alien art form to the Tibetan culture, and then just make it his own. And he is every bit as good as aaany…so my sister used to work for MCA/Adam Yauch/Beastie Boys, so we hung out with them a lot. And he is any bit professional as any of those guys. A big part of his message is the conservation of both written and spoken language, so he raps mostly in Tibeten, but also English and Swiss German. Certainly inspiring.
A: Wow…Curious! I’ll certainly give him a listen. Well thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with me, and on behalf of everyone at Westside, we’re thrilled to have you guys in our mugs every morning! (?)
Editors Note: If custom industrial machinery is up your alley, (it kinda makes me warm and fuzzy,) definitely go in and ask about their roaster. Gorgeous craftsmanship.
Words, Images & Phrasing © Alex Beetham