We’re excited to introduce Prototype Coffee Roasters as our April Coffee Roaster of the Month, and this ain’t no April fools!
It feels like I’ve been following Prototype at a distance for quite some time. About a year ago, friends of mine shared with me some coffee from Prototype that they had ordered when I was visiting them in Saskatchewan. It wasn’t until I was out in Vancouver this last week than I finally had the chance to grab some more beans for myself and brew some up while on holidays.
For those of you who call Vancouver home, or if you’ve been out there on holidays, you might remember Matt from his time behind the bar at Revolver. Matt is the former manager of this famous coffee shop, but in the last year he has branched off to begin his solo-venture. And now Matt has begun on his latest venture, a brick-and-mortar location that will be opening up in the coming months. Matt invited me to check out the new digs (sorry, the exact location is still top-secret). I must say this cafe is going to be AMAZING. I think the highlight of this place is that they’re installing a Modbar AV, and I am told this is one of only a handful in Vancouver. I saw a few sneak peeks of what the final design concept will look like and this place is spectacular. There are even more surprises yet to be revealed at the new cafe, but you’ll have to wait to find out! My lips are sealed.
So, who is Prototype you ask? I had the chance to meet up and chat with Matt Johnson, the man behind this nano-roaster, and got to hear a bit more about his story.
Matt, tell us a bit about the history of Prototype?
Prototype started as a placeholder name for a holiday market I set up at in November 2016 where I sold 100g jars of coffee and bottled cold brew. But I ended up liking the name so much that it stuck. In March 2017, I officially launched Prototype. At the time, I was manager at Revolver, so I stepped down from the role but stayed on as a part time barista in order to focus my efforts on getting Prototype off the ground. By October 2017, I started realizing that it had gained enough momentum that it needed a bit more energy to keep it growing, so I took the leap and committed to it as my full time job. The following spring, I started shopping for retail spaces. In August of 2018, just a few days after my son was born (what a crazy time!), I finalized the deal on the space in Strathcona that is currently under construction.
OK, I can tell you’re a bit excited about this new brick-and-mortar location. Tell us a bit more about it.
Prototype’s new roastery and tasting room will be a study in rethinking production roasting through lean manufacturing. When you come in, you’ll likely see the coffee roasters in action right behind the counter operated by baristas/roasters who will also be serving drinks. You’ll be able to see the coffee go from raw to roasted to brewed all in one space. The rest you’ll just have to wait to find out!
Q: So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking right now?
Right now, La Guadalupana, Colombia. This has been one of my favourite coffees from the last two season because it has this intense sweetness and vibrancy. It’s fruit forward, but also really easy drinking. Finca La Guadalupana is a tiny family owned and operated farm in Nariño, and up until last year, their coffee was just lumped into the regional lots that fetch a low commodity price, which often doesn’t even cover the cost of farming. But last year, Jeff from one of my favourite importers Apex Coffee Imports out of Calgary discovered this farm and paid them a better price than they’d ever received before, one that matches the quality of this incredible coffee.
This is huge for the family, and it provides them with enough money to reinvest into their farm. Finca La Guadalupana produced four very small lots this year (each one coming from a different section of the farm), and this one is one of them. I bought this whole lot, so Prototype is the only place in the world where you will find this coffee.
Q: So tell us a bit more about your coffee roaster.
I currently roast on an Allio Bullet R1. It’s a 1kg capacity drum roaster. We are excited to add two more of these to the Prototype family when we open up our new cafe.
Tell our audience about some of your recent accomplishments:
Prototype was recently a part of the HopWired Festival this past February in Vancouver where we won the People’s Choice Award for Best Coffee. I am so humbled to be given this honour, and so thankful to the people who voted for me.
Q: Any parting words to our readers?
It’s such an exciting time to be in this industry. There are new and innovative technologies popping up so often, and there have been huge steps forward in making the supply chain transparent and ethical. I’m excited to be working with importers who care about maintaining integrity all along the supply chain and ensure that the producers get paid a price that makes their farming profitable and receive support year to year.
If you’re not able to visit either of the above mentioned coffee shops, Prototype has an excellent web-store where you can find all of their currently available beans. They offer monthly subscriptions and also a great Sample Pack for $24 which offers six, 50g bags of some of their coffee. This is what I picked up and I’m so glad I did. It’s an excellent way to try a few different beans before purchasing the one(s) you like.
I am so thankful to be able to feature Prototype Coffee this month and I cannot wait to get back to Vancouver to visit the new cafe once it opens! Thanks Matt for taking the time to hang out, and answer some questions!