Since opening a roastery in Victoria, British Columbia in 2011, Bows & Arrows Coffee Roasters has become a boutique mainstay in the Canadian coffee landscape. This year, the company, co-owned by husband and wife Drew Johnson and Leesha Sabine, took on the challenge of the mainland by opening a new shop in Vancouver.
Johnson tells me he had two goals for his new location: first, to be a neighborhood spot for the neighborhood. Located in the changing Fraserhood part of Vancouver, you'll see Johnson's other goal displayed right away on the storefront’s sign. Omitting the words “coffee roasters” this time around is intentional, Johnson notes, to steer people away from viewing them solely as another coffee roastery.
Indeed, with the cafe offering three meal services and a beer, wine, and cocktail program, Johnson and Sabine have a vision beyond simply roasting. “I wanted to extend the attention we give to coffee brewing, sourcing, and transparency to other interests,” he says. “There are always baristas whose creativity and ambition is stifled in their current workplaces. Same with chefs and bartenders and servers. Everybody wants to love what they do and create. We’re attempting to provide a venue.”
Upon entering the shop my eye is immediately drawn to the centerpiece of the room, a 26-foot-long table dominating the floor space. Twenty-two chairs surround this inviting communal space, dotted with jagged rays of sunshine through the large windows along 26th Avenue. Greenery hangs over the sides of a long, elegant light fixture above the table to bring a burst of color to the otherwise white and wood space.
Bags of coffee surround the bar area to encourage one directly to the service counter. The first half of the bar houses homemade pastries, two Mahlkönig Peak espresso grinders, and a La Marzocco Linea PB. Filter brews are ground on Mahlkönig EK43 grinders and prepared on FETCO brewers. The second half of the space transforms into stool seating and a mirrored back wall, accentuating various glassware and bottles of liquor. Hints as to the extent of their food offerings are subtly displayed on a chalkboard behind the till, featuring daily food and drink specials.
At the recommendations of a friendly barista, I first paired a shot of The Hathaway Espresso with an apple bundt cake that was an excellent complement to my sweet, balanced shot. For my second round, I took a recommendation for a fruity Guatemala El Tambor, alongside the shop's popular friand cake: with a chewy chocolate outside and a gooey chocolate inside, this little guy is a definite must have for any future visits. Both coffees were served in beautifully crafted ceramics made specifically for Bows & Arrows by Amanda Marie Ceramics in Victoria.
I was struck by the simplicity of the space with the feel being very clean, natural, and modest. The amount of bare wood present gave testament to a strong sense of the Pacific Northwest and of a shop very much fitting the city. With the south and west facing windows, Jessica Nakanishi and Jonathan Sabine of MSDS Studio in Toronto did a wonderful job utilizing the abundance of natural light. As well, the impressive planter-box light fixture and communal table were custom works from MSDS.
Beyond the obvious financial motivations for a roastery expanding its business to a larger city, I was inspired by Johnson’s more personal motivations for the shop.
“Let’s be real, it’s fun to serve coffee from [the] producers who made your brand day after day,” he says. “Who in this business doesn’t get a charge from the potential of a coffeehouse?” Luckily for Vancouver locals, his vision has been realized into a place that—whether you live in Fraserhood or not—you can be happy to call your neighborhood spot.
Peter de Vooght is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. This is Peter de Vooght's first feature for Sprudge.