Last weekend Kyle and I snuck into Vancouver BC with Intelli honcho Doug Zell, the Suge Knight of coffee, for an epic west coast coffee crawl. In three days time we would aim to hit every major coffeebar on the west coast from Vancouver to Seattle to Portland and on down to San Francisco, unannounced.
Our schedule was ambitious and our plan would only work if we dodged every potential social obligation. Riding shotgun on this was Brad Ford of Vancouver’s Wicked Coffee who served as our guide in Canadia whose exotic foreign culture we needed help navigating. For instance, telling the customs agent you are in Canada “on business” to visit “coffeeshops” does not go over well.
What this epic tale lacks however is photos. On day two in Seattle my camera bit the dust. I got a lot of life out of that trusty little Casio, but it apparently couldn’t handle a mission of this intensity. I felt like I’d lost a limb.
I’m filled with many impressions and lessons from this overcaffeinated adventure, but I’ll mention only one facet here. The two standout experiences of the roughly 30 shops we hit seemed to re-affirm the cult of the barista. Billy Wilson pulling Stumptown’s ubiquitous Hairbender espresso at Albina Press, and former U.S. barista champ Bronwen Serna at Sitka & Spruce pulling some two day fresh Hines Public Market espresso were standouts by a wide margin. Billy was working a slammed bar on a Saturday morning, dealing with a mad rush of customers but coming through with stunning shots and macchiatos. Bronwen was at a relatively idle bar and with deceptive ease pulled us shots of what may have been the most well articulated, sweetest espresso of the trip. The biggest surprise of this trip may have been how few surprises there actually were given the breadth of our searching.
Thanks for the many warm welcomes we encountered, and apologies to the many people I wish I’d had more time to conect with.