This past August I had the chance to get back to the city I grew up in, for me this would be the ONLY holiday that didn’t get wrecked this year by COVID. I love the West Coast, and especially its coffee scene. There truly are few other cities in the world that rival the quality, and variety of coffee shops like Vancouver, BC. And at the top of my list of must-visit coffee shops was none other than Harken Coffee.
And that’s why I am so incredibly excited to have them as my Coffee Roaster of the Month for September. Just a few months after opening, Harken has already become a house-hold name in the specialty coffee community thanks to the team of Eldric Stuart & Stacey Lynden. You may recognize both of those names as Stacey was featured on this blog back in February 2019 when she was the head roaster for Pallet. Eldric is well known in the coffee community in Vancouver for his previous coffee shop Aubade. Both Eldric & Stacey are no stranger to the coffee competition circuit either, each having taken home significant amounts hardware from various coffee comps over the past few years. That’s also how I got to know Eldric… I lost to him in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Canadian Aeropress Championship.
And so it would appear that the stars aligned for these two to become the team who would give us Harken Coffee. And are we ever thankful they did! So when I was in town in August I made sure to take the drive downtown to spend a few hours one afternoon sitting at the brew bar sipping on coffee and tasting their incredible menu. Apparently I was there a little too long since I was greeted by a parking ticket when I got back to my car. I consider it a gift to Vancouver for allowing me the privilege to experience Harken. Hope the City of Vancouver enjoys my $46 bucks (could have been worse).
But I made sure to chat with Stacey & Eldric to learn more about Harken and to have the chance to share their story with you!
Q: So who is the team behind Harken?
[STACEY] We are small team of 6 at the moment, Tomoko Tahara is our Head Chef and Raph Pirenne is her Sous Chef. Mark Coughlin and Kunie Inaba are our Barista’s and Mark is also learning to roast and helps me out in the Roastery. Eldric Stuart is our Director of Operations, I’m our Head Roaster (Stacey Lynden).
Q: Where are you all from?
[STACEY] Funny thing, none of us are from Vancouver, Tomoko and Kunie both moved here from Japan, Raph is from Belgium, Eldric grew up in Ontario, Mark moved down to the city from Pemberton a few years ago, and I grew up in Ladner.
Q: How did you end up in Vancouver?
[STACEY] For me, it just made the most sense, if I wanted to continue my career in specialty coffee there were more opportunities in the city than in a small town.
Q: What’s your backstory in specialty coffee?
[STACEY] I’ve been in working in hospitality since the late 90’s,which transitioned into coffee in the early 2000’s. I worked for Saltspring Coffee Company for 7 years, but it wasn’t until I started working at Stir Coffee House in Ladner, that I really started getting into coffee, and started seeing coffee as a career. In 2014, I finally competed in my first regional and national Barista Competitions while working at Stir and after that I was hooked!
Q: Who were some of your early influences?
[STACEY} I’m so lucky to have had a really amazing support system since the very beginning of my career, which has just continued to grow. I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with Drew Johnson, now owner of Bows and Arrows , while we were both at Saltspring thanks to him I learned that coffee could be more than just coffee he really opened my eyes to what the coffee industry really is from seed to cup, and his unwavering stance on human rights and the rights of farmers at origin is constantly inspiring.
Tell the readers a bit about the history of Harken
[STACEY] Back in 2018 (a simpler time), Eldric was approached by an investor who owned a property in Japantown in Vancouver and wanted to collaborate on building a roastery as they shared similar values and tastes in what inspired them about coffee. They gave Eldric complete creative control over the project, from sourcing the coffee, to branding and packaging and the food and beverage program. After a bit of research, meetings with architects and designers we started construction on a lovely old building that put up a bit of fight, but which ultimately turned into a beautiful space.
Q: So…why the name HARKEN?
[ELDRIC + STACEY] We wanted something short and simple. Elegant and yet not too commonplace. We had a long list of potential names, and it was actually our interior designers, COMH-A that pushed hard for that name as they felt it exemplified the feeling of the company. To harken to something means to really and truly listen and take guidance from the wisdom of the past, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow it as a rule. That is ultimately what we are about. We aren’t pretending that we are doing something that revolutionizes coffee; what we do is not dissimilar to what coffee shops have done in the past, we are just trying to do it with a bit of elegance, passionate intent and maybe just a little bit of innovation.
Q: So when did the cafe officially open? What do you roast on?
[STACEY] We opened our doors to the public about 2 months ago. I roast our coffee on a Diedrich IR12, and have an IKAWA Sample Roaster. You can see me doing this through our glass windows in our cafe.
There’s no question that the coffee community in Vancouver is known for being one of the best coffee communities, perhaps in the world. So what about it do you love?
[STACEY + ELDRIC] We actually feel that the coffee industry in Vancouver is only just getting started; there is so much room for growth and development that we really think the best is yet to come. We’ve seen some controversy lately with some very notable companies in the city, but we feel that it’s given us an opportunity to reflect on where we have been, where we want to take things and to focus on developing the skills of the people in our coffee community. What we like most is that there are so many passionate young people here in the city and that we have such an immense opportunity to embrace that and foster that enthusiasm to make things truly spectacular.
Q: What sets Harken apart from the many other coffee roasters in the city? Feel free to toot your own horn!
[STACEY] I think our focus on our Four Core Blends, as apposed to the typical Single Origin Coffee offerings seen in most Specialty Coffee shops in Vancouver and across North America, definitely sets us apart. Also, we have chosen not to put tasting notes on the packaging of our blends, but instead allow for the colours of the packaging to speak to how we believe the coffee should taste. Sometimes tasting notes can be intimidating, especially when a consumer doesn’t taste those same flavours; we are hoping that the colours of the packaging can be a guide for our consumers to discover what that particular blend tastes like for them.
Looking forward beyond COVID-19 what do you see as some of the emerging trends or new initiatives that will shape the future of specialty coffee? What needs to stay? What needs to go?
[STACEY + ELDRIC] I think the most important lessons to be learned from Covid-19 honestly, is to be kind, patient, conscientious, and respectful of each other’s personal space.
But an interesting thing that has happened has been that I have been communicating a lot more with Coffee Producers over social media, since we are unable to visit Origin at the moment this has kind of become the norm of how I have been communicating with some of the producers we work with. I think this could be a trend we see more of in the future, I have also enjoyed how this has also allowed me to create relationships and friendships even though we can’t meet face to face at the moment.
So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
[STACEY] Right now I’m drinking a pour over of one of our future Special Selections, it’s super fun and fruity, but you’ll have to wait until we release it to find out what it is 😉
Your box design is incredible and certainly has created quite the buzz in the coffee space, but what I noticed is your “best after, best before” dates rather than a typical roast date. Can you share more on your philosophy of this versus what seems to be the norm in specialty coffee?
[STACEY] Our approach in this is based not only on our own observations, and Eldric’s when he had Aubade, but also based on recent research that has come out from the World Coffee Research Organization. Simply put, the rules that we have always followed and passed on from barista to barista not only aren’t always based on scientific study, but are now outdated because we have changed how we source and roast coffee. As our systems and technology advances, so should our approach. It’s now known that lighter roasted coffee off-gasses slower than dark roasted coffee, so straight off the bat we need to adjust our resting and expiry dates. In our experiments we have found that for filter coffee you get a much better result after the 3 week mark as the coffee loses it’s carbon dioxide.
We’ve also found that it holds up for much, much longer than we have been telling people, which results in a lot of coffee thrown out. We also often store coffee incorrectly, but that may be a discussion for another time. We actually find that espresso works best when it’s a bit more fresh. We always tell customers that the coffee is theirs to do with what they want, and we are just making suggestions based on what we have found, but that it’s ultimately about discovery and finding out what works best for them.
Tell the readers of Commonly Coffee about the decision to launch and put a significant focus on blends? While it seems like most specialty coffee roasters put most of their energy into sourcing dynamic single origins as they begin a coffee brand, you’ve gone and made some spectacular blends (I personally am a HUGE fan of the Summer”.)
[STACEY] It’s not that we aren’t offering/sourcing exceptional single origin coffees, because we definitely are. But there’s so much more flavour and possibilities to explore by creating blends. Just like a perfectly crafted cocktail or a beautifully blended wine, I use different coffees as ingredients to create a whole new drinking experience. I think that blending coffees from different origins can enhance the aromas, texture, body, finish, and the overall coffee drinking experience.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Just that we believe that coffee is both a communal product, but it’s also a very personal experience. As a roaster, we never want to tell people what we think they should taste, as we want them to develop their own sensory memories. What we love about coffee is how little we really know about it, and how much there is to learn. We’re just happy if we can be along for the ride with people as they experience this thing that we all love so much.
Find their beans:
If you’re looking to get your hands on some beans then definitely check out their web-store for what they’re currently roasting! You can also find their coffee online at Eight Ounce Coffee.
Visit their cafe:
If you are fortunate enough to live in Vancouver or have plans to visit make sure to check out their cafe located at: 338 Powell Street, Vancouver, BC.
Thank you so much to Stacey & Eldric for sharing about Harken Coffee for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in Vancouver! Keep up the great work!