Many Vancouver coffee shops claim to brew the freshest cups of joe — but one eastside cafe might have them all beat.
Over the past few years, Laughing Bean Coffee has grown and harvested coffee berries from a plant that grows in the corner of the shop.
This week, the berries were roasted and staff finally got to taste the hyper-local brew.
“It’s the best coffee I’ve ever had,” said Wayne Bertrand, co-owner of Laughing Bean.
The coffee was roasted at JJ Bean, Laughing Bean’s supplier and business partner.
Staff gathered at the JJ Bean cafe on Main Street and 14th Avenue on Wednesday for the tasting, with samplers saying the flavor profile contained hints of cinnamon, popcorn and wood.
“We’ve never tasted coffee that was grown in Canada before. It’s one of a kind for us,” said Grady Buhler, coffee quality leader at JJ Bean.
“It’s not specialty coffee by any means, but it doesn’t have any taints or faults,” said Buhler.
Coffee is not typically grown in Canada, as the plants require consistent heat. But Bertrand says he was able to grow the coffee by meticulously caring for the plant and drying the berries as he harvested each batch.
New life for a neglected plant
The plant was gifted to the coffee shop on East Hastings Street by a customer when it first opened 19 years ago.
“For quite a few years it just sat there in the corner with me not taking care of it, looking kind of sick,” said Bertrand.
In 2015, Bertrand decided it was time to start taking care of the plant. He re-potted it, gave it better soil and began to water and prune it regularly.
“Boy, it loved that. It just shot up,” said Bertrand.
In 2018, Bertrand left for the winter for a temporary job at Big White ski resort. When he got back in the spring, he was shocked to find the plant had “a burst of beautiful white flowers.”
He did not think it was possible that a coffee plant could flower in Canada.
After a few months, the flowers grew into coffee berries, properly known as cherries. Once they ripened and turned red, they were ready for harvesting.
“I squished [the beans] out of the cherries, put them on a plate and let them dry,” said Bertrand.
It took two crops over two years to get a pound of beans, with the harvest yielding about eight cups of coffee and a jar of beans left over for future batches.
That means that coffee growing won’t be a commercial activity for Laughing Bean. But Bertrand says he wants to continue harvesting and trying different processes.