Edmonton for many years was aptly titled, “The City of Champions”. Now, this was more in reference to the city’s vast sporting success in the 1980’s. But in as much as this is no longer the un-official moniker of the city, the incredible success in recent years when it comes to coffee competitions finds its origin from one coffee shop in the capitol city of Alberta.
So what do you get when you add together 2 Davids + 1 Ply? Well you get the team behind Rogue Wave Coffee. This cafe and roastery has seen a huge surge of success in the Canadian coffee space recently, and I knew that they would be a perfect fit to feature as my final Coffee Roaster of the Month for 2020.
I first met Ply Pasarj at the 2019 Western Qualifiers for the Canadian Barista Championship. One of the first things he did was offer me a sample pack of one of his most recent roasts. Ply and the entire team at Rogue Wave have always sought to share their wisdom, passion and love for coffee with anyone who visits their Edmonton cafe.
So I reached out to Ply and asked if he and the team would share more about Rogue Wave. Most of what follows is from Ply (since I haven’t had the privilege of meeting the two Daves yet). I am so excited to get the chance now to share their story with you.
Q: So who is the team behind Rogue Wave?
The team at Rogue Wave is made up of David Laville, David Walsh, Ply, and our lovely Rogue Wave Family Members, Janet, Sheh, and Lissette.
Q: So where is everybody from? How did you end up in Edmonton?
The two Davids are from Edmonton, born and raised. Ply is from Thailand and came to Vancouver/Victoria in middle school. The Davids were unfortunately subjected to a childhood of Edmonton winters. 😉 Ply came to Edmonton to study at the University of Alberta….and now calls Edmonton home.
Q: So Ply, what’s your backstory in coffee?
I got sucked into this crazy world after a beautiful cup of Panama Geisha brewed on the Clover machine at Transcend Coffee here in Edmonton. A year later, in early 2017, I discovered Rogue Wave Coffee, a small, tiny roastery run solely by the two Daves.
I became an instant regular at the café. We would discuss a lot of brew theory and how to make better cups. It was a great place to chat with someone who is very knowledgeable and passionate about coffee. The two Daves definitely put more coffee fuel in me. Actually, I never really thought of joining specialty coffee as professional. It wasn’t until David Laville invited me to join the company as operating partners that got my head thinking. It took me almost a whole year to say yes and joined the team when the roastery moved into the current location. I joined the RW team officially in the late 2018, and thus began my coffee professional journey.
Q: So Ply, who were some of your early influences then in Specialty Coffee?
Some of my early influences in coffee were Chad Wang, Tetsu Kasuya, a bunch of anonymous on reddit, and James Hoffman.
Tell us a bit about the History of Rogue Wave.
[DAVES] The Rogue Wave journey began in the early 2000s. Us two Daves were intrigued by the supply chain side of roasting coffee in that it was an industry where you could have complete control – we could source the coffee, control how it was roasted and – in the café – how that coffee was brewed. There are not many industries where a small business can have that level of control. This was important to us from a quality control perspective.
We built a stainless steel roaster that we lovingly named Stubby. However, our attempts to get a business off the ground were derailed by life changes and experiences. One Dave moved off to live in Ireland, France and Australia, and the other moved to Toronto to do a masters program.
We both reconnected years later and decided in 2014 to put into motion our dream of having a no-compromises roasting company that was continually going to try and improve in quality. That was always the goal – to instil the systems and protocols where the company was always progressing in terms of quality of product.
Q: So why the name Rogue Wave Coffee? What do you roast your coffee on?
[DAVES] We were trying to convey that this whole endeavour is our own unique take on the “Third Wave of Coffee.” We roast all our coffee on a Geisen 6KG and we use an Ikawa for sample roast and reserved lot mini packs.
From the beginning of Rogue Wave we have held the role of handling most of the production roasts for Rogue Wave. Ply–as of late–is seen as the face of Rogue Wave and has certainly had his hand with our coffee roasting during his time with us, however much of our coffee now is solely roasted by David Walsh.
Q: There’s no question that the coffee community in Alberta is very strong, so what about it do you love?
[PLY] I love that the coffee community in Alberta is very supportive. If we need any help, I can message Josh at Transcend, and he will be right on it if he is able to. I can always reach out to Cole and Nelson at Rosso (and Forward) if I ever need guidance in anything from running the business or sourcing coffee or friendly bashing on each other’s roast profile and my mediocre latte art.
I can always reach out to Ben Put and the team at Monogram, or David Kim if I ever need help with anything coffee related. Jeff from Apex Coffee Imports is always ready for a phone call whatever that may be about. And the team at Eight Ounce Coffee is always ready to help with any equipment relating things. With Alberta being a province full of coffee champions, I feel incredibly fortunate to have support and be in the mix amidst many world class baristas, roasters, and coffee professionals.
Q: Any exciting collaborations?
[PLY] This blog with Commonly is very exciting.😊 In addition, I do want to bring people attention to the recent hurricane that hit most of Central America a few weeks ago. We will be donating part of our sale to multiple charity in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.
You can check our initiative HERE:
Q: What sets Rogue Wave apart from the many other coffee roasters in Alberta/Canada? Feel free to toot your own horn!
[DAVES] This is obviously a bit of a touchy subject, and we do want to put the disclaimer out there that coffee and taste is subjective, and what we deem to be a great cup of coffee will not be to everyone’s liking. Having said that, we are unique in that we have an absolute devotion to making an amazing cup of coffee. At our heart we are a team of brewers – we love to make a handcrafted cup of coffee.
That is in many ways our overarching concern and the roasting side of things is a direct result of this devotion in that the roasted coffee is the ingredient used in crafting a cup of coffee.
Q: 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?
[PLY] I think right now we are in the middle of processing craze and varietal craze. I think we can expect and are seeing the emergence of more hybrid varieties and new innovative processing methods from around the world. Another thing is coffee from all kind of different regions are becoming more accessible.
For example, just a few years ago, we would never have dreamt of getting speciality coffee from Myanmar. And now we are seeing speciality coffee from China, Sumatra, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, just to name a few. I would love to be able to offer high quality specialty Thai coffee in our shop, and I am working on it!
Q: So speaking of coffee, what are you drinking/enjoying right now?
[PLY] I have been enjoying Abu Panama coffee that we will be releasing soon. The new Harvest of Myanmar Pa-O sourced from Forward Coffee is becoming my favourite on our normal offerings along with the Costa Rica Hacienda Sonora Centroamericana sourced from Apex and produced by Diego Guardia. In addition, Mexico La Joya Lot 1 from the magician of a producer, Samuel Ronzon, is what I am drinking as I am writing this.
Q: So Ply…you have certainly done well in the competition space in the past few years! What is it that you love about competing in coffee? What are you most looking forward to when coffee competitions resume? Anything you would like to see changed?
In late 2019, I won the Canadian Aeropress Championship and in early 2020 the Canada Brewers Cup. I went on to compete in the World Aeropress Championship in London, UK in November 2020 and placed among the top 20. 2021 World Brewers Cup is coming up in the Summer too!
So, when I go to compete, my main goal is to get to know coffee people. I am quite new in specialty coffee scene that I don’t know most of the people, still. I remember getting interviewed by Cole Torode at my first competition (just early last year!) and I had no idea who he was, maybe just some red hair coffee bloke, not knowing that he was, at the time, the Canadian Barista Champ, and World Barista finalist. Same thing when I went to Toronto for Canada Aeropress Championship. I only knew about 6 people at the venue, but I was able to create so many valuable coffee friends from that event that we still chat coffee to this day. Going to competition allows me to make amazing connections and lasting friendship that I would otherwise would not be able to make. This is the most important aspect and what I love most about coffee competition and what I look forward to the most.
Last year I was able to travel with David Kim to the world Brewers Cup final in Boston, which I was incredibly grateful for being able to help the legend himself. I still feel the chill when he was up in front of all the judges (and holy Commonly, Chad Wang was on his panel, I might have had a panic attack if I see Chad Wang on my panel at the up-coming world), and I still can’t believe that it would be me representing Canada on the world stage in the 2021 season.
The aspect of coffee competition that I really love is how people are so willing to help each other, especially in the Canadian scene. For the last Brewers Cup, it was announcing so abruptly that I did not have any competition coffee. I text Edmond from Moving Coffee in Vancouver, whom I have met in an earlier Competition, asking if he may have any coffee I can use. A few days later I had 2 potential competition green coffees, one of which I selected and used to win the 2020 Canada Brewers Cup. Edmond and Shirley of Moving Coffee were also the first to called and congratulated me as well. Rose, another competitor at 2020 Canada Brewers Cup, gave me her bottle of distilled water for me to used to make water for my final open service.
At this year’s Canadian Barista Championship, Cole and Anne Cumby had no hesitation to help me taste my espresso and help with tasting notes. Anne, with no hesitation, said yes right away when I asked if she would be able to help me with my set, less than 48 hours before the competition started. Jesse from Hide and Seek Café in Victoria let me use his café to run my set after hours, and even brought me dinner. I will forever be in their coffee debt. I cannot think of a friendlier competitive scene and it is what I love most about coffee competition.
Apart from that, I love that coffee competitions force me to push myself in the realm of coffee brewing, tasting, and innovating. And it is not just me, when we are in competition mode (either I am competing or Sheh, our awesome barista, fellow competitor, and my biggest competition coach) it brings the whole mood of the café up into competition environment and it get everyone to push themselves and improve their own coffee as well.
What I want to see change is some aspects of competition. I feel like the competition itself is not very new-audience friendly and it can be pretty…dry. For those of you who have seen my barista competition set, you know that I love to have fun with coffee. I don’t know the answer on how, but I would love to see more fun in competition.
Q: Tell the readers of Commonly Coffee about some of your recent accomplishments. Or any upcoming announcements from Rogue Wave.
[DAVES] We have expanded our brewing equipment inventory a lot and we think this is opening a lot of doors for people in terms of allowing to really “play” with their coffee and explore brewing their coffee in different ways and with different filters. We feel like we are allowing people to have a lot of fun with the art and craft of making a cup of coffee.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
[PLY] I do an Instagram live about 3-4 times a month, usually on Saturday afternoon where I answer questions, do fun (and sometime ridiculous) brew requests, and try to not mess up my brew.
We have started an initiative to try to get coffee back to the producers, and its been a tsunami of problems when it comes to sending back coffee. We would love to be able to have all the producers taste their own coffee that we roasted. We were able to get coffee back to Panama, and Colombia so far. Mexico and Costa Rica has been a bundle of problems having our coffee stuck in customs for several weeks now. We will continue to try to send coffee back to producers because I think this is incredibly important for us to connect with them this way. It can only bring up the quality of coffee when the producers can taste their own coffee.
Lastly, I am incredibly grateful for that “hey man, you wanna join us?” invitation from Dave L, which brought me into this crazy, fun, and delicious world of specialty coffee professional.
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!
Visit their cafe:
Edmonton: 11322 119 Street NW, Edmonton, AB
I just want to say a huge thank you to the two Daves & Ply for sharing about Rogue Wave Coffee and for being such a huge contributor to the coffee culture in Edmonton! Keep up the great work!