Over the past little while, Revolver Coffee has grown into one of Vancouver’s favourite coffee-focused cafes, and one of the pioneers of “craft coffee” in the city. Think of it a little like Prometheus bringing the fire of meticulously sourced and roasted coffee to the Starbucks-swilling masses of the Lower Mainland. I made the trip to Revolver with Andy and Janice as sort of an epilogue to our visit to Big Lou’s Butcher Shop. After all, what’s better to ward off meat coma than a pot of coffee?
Espresso drinks are on the menu at Revolver, but their specialty is in their individually-brewed regular coffees. Coffee fans or even just the coffee-curious also have the option of a tasting flight (three coffees brewed with one method) or a brew flight (one coffee brewed with three different methods). These different brewing methods are where Revolver sets itself apart from the everyday coffee experience. The myriad of methods includes some familiar methods, like French press, but most of the brewing techniques are scientifically-named enigmas. Siphon. Aeropress. Chemex. These sound like the names of equipment found n a laboratory, and the descriptions are surprisingly apt — the brewing glassware resembles lab vessels, including such hallmarks of high-school chemistry class as open flames, fluted flasks, and glass spheres.
The coffee beans even come in pre-measured doses. I opted for Handsome Coffee Roasters’ Finca la Bolsa, which Handsome Coffee, in its very detailed coffee notes, lists as having “flavors of clementine, chocolate, brown sugar and graham”. The coffee was brewed by the Chemex method, which involves a very labour-intensive slow pouring of water from a small kettle over the coffee. The entire process took about five minutes and gave me a distinct tea-ceremony vibe. This wasn’t pre-brewed coffee sitting for hours, or even minutes. This coffee was being brewed just for me, right now.
Being a relative coffee novice, I wasn’t able to pick out the more subtle flavours (clementine?!), but I definitely noticed that the drink was sweeter and smoother and denser in body than other coffees I’ve had, although that might have been the result of the Chemex brewing method. The coffee was served in a small pot, like tea, and was cloudy from suspended coffee dust. I don’t want to say that it was grounds, because it was definitely finer than that — more like the sediment found in a bottle of wine. I drank it black; it seemed like a waste to cover up and modify a drink that had been executed with care, from bean selection to roasting to preparation. I think many other Revolve patrons agree, and the owners seem to encourage this spartan approach, as the cream-and-sugar cart is placed way at the back of the cafe, near the washrooms.
Revolver Coffee is definitely more than a place to go for your morning hit of java. In fact, if you’re in a rush, I wouldn’t really recommend it. Some people have called it part of a “slow coffee” movement, which I find an apt description. It’s a more respectful approach to coffee that views the drink as more than a vehicle for delivering caffeine to the brain. I think it’s high time that coffee received the same treatment as beer, wine, and cocktails have as of late — that is, a step back from looking at the sensory experience as merely ancillary to the active ingredient that you’re drinking. So if you’re interested in drinking coffee instead of just ingesting it, I definitely recommend making the trip to Revolver or one of its “slow-coffee” brothers and sisters, and doing so.
PS. Revolver also sells fancy brewing glassware, including all of the above mentioned brewing methods, as well as the same coffee beans that they brew.