Meditations

Revolver Ends Coffee Debate


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The $9.50 I handed over for a morning coffee doomed this report from the beginning. The plan had been a one-day celebratory survey of what unique values Vancouver brings to the world’s gastronomic spectrum. An open question, subjectively breached by visiting in one day, seven Vancouver establishments at the top of their game. However, the survey was over as soon as it began. Its agenda hijacked, hijacked before noon.

The reason? Revolver. Yes, Revolver, yet another artisanal third wave coffee counter. A seemingly innocent little cafe in Gastown’s no-man’s-land. Not the bit of Gastown with off shore manufactured Canadiana clichéd tourist kitsch, maple-infused everything and the last bastions of 90′s power lunching stockbrokers. Nor Gastown’s gentrified band of gastronomy and haberdashers minted in the all mighty and globally pervasive Brooklyn chic aesthetic. Instead, on unremarkable Powell Street, up a small wooden staircase, steps worn from actual usage not a moonlighting Urban Outfitter set designer, is the finest coffee shop on earth. A coffee shop that stole my day away.

With Revolver I hereby declare the artisanal coffee wars over. Fold up your aprons baristas, retire your personal engraved tampers, shave your beards, step into your favourite pair of re-issued vintage Nikes and slink over to Revolver to bask in the perfect expression of a post Millennium coffee bar. Like a mid-80′s East German world record setting swimmer, a new bar has been set that won’t be surpassed for decades. Maybe ever.

What Revolver does so well isn’t merely one thing, but also not too many things. A balance of decor, service, quality and atmosphere. One thousand brand consultants working with one thousand designers locked into the world’s finest conference centre in a distant tax haven could not, despite their astronomic billable rates and smart casual attire, crack as flawlessly as the offering of Revolver.

Opening the creaky and slightly wonky old wooden door of Revolver the warm sonic atmosphere envelops you the slightest instant before a blanket of warm air wraps around you and two instances before the sweet auburn aroma of a 19.2 second espresso pull lovingly hugs your olfactory sensor neurons. The full range of mid and bass tones, only possible with pure vinyl, slumber into your ears right down to the bones of the soul. A gaggle of baristas adorned with well shorn bush beards (equal to the length grown on a three week tree planting sortie, Vancouver’s answer to the Italian man’s two day growth perma-beard) and sporting priceless hand sewn peasant aprons happily hop about the beans along the work bench armed with a collection of earth’s finest coffee brewing apparatus.

The best roasters using the best single origin estate beans fill the menu. In plain English with a schoolboy’s delight and not a hint of condescension the man manning the till guides me to an earthy and mineral rich Guatemalan mid-altitude micro-lot. After a brief interruption to bump the Clash off the wheels of steel to make room for Neil Young’s wholesome Harvest Moon I choose to put their skills to test with a horizontal brew flight; one bean brewed three different ways. Alternatively one can do a single technique with three different beans, an excellent path to enlightenment for the hold out Starbucks loyalist.

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Every cup, prepared with patience and a quiver of brushes to avoid contamination, was superb, each more superb than the other. Revolver is a workshop, not a “brand experience” and it shows in the precision and variance demonstrated by each brew. The French Press was slightly opaque without being muddy, the Aeropress clean to the point of clinical and Chemex pourover tops for retaining the full development of the beginning, middle and end flavours of each slurp.

Behind a glass case puns and witticisms are lined up, each fronting a pocket-sized bite to eat. I requested an It’s All Good, the best of cake, the best of a cookie and the best of a yoga centre juice bar without the spirulina pyramid schemes. The body nourished and the mind firing on high-test caffeine it might have been the happiest moment of my life. I haven’t had children but am pretty sure this was better. Though I did have a wedding, and my rating stands.

So Foodist friends, stop what you are doing. Your email, PowerPoint deck, revenue forecasts or InDesign file can wait, experiencing Revolver can’t. Go. Now. It can’t last, it’s too good. Places like this seemingly always end up compromised, but maybe, if we are lucky Revolver will endure in all its glory. Go, and be assured that Portland, Brooklyn, Melbourne and Shoreditch can continue arguing over who deserves credit for popularizing the third wave coffee bar but they needn’t worry about being best, for thanks to Revolver, Vancouver owns that prize.

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