That rich aroma emanating from a warehouse off Evans Road is not only from the fresh coffee beans roasting inside.
It’s the smell of success.
Pacific Coffee Roasters has been making inroads in the specialty coffee market ever since the husband and wife team of Reza and Lisa Ghaffari started the company in 2008.
The early going was not easy, with often more work than reward.
But lately, their passion to produce coffees of exceptional quality is starting to pay dividends.
From humble beginnings, the company’s coffee can now be found in about 15 stores within the Overwaitea Food Group, like PriceSmart, Save-On-Foods and Coopers. In addition, Pacific Coffee Roasters as secured distribution in 85 London Drugs stores, including some in Alberta.
That success, says Reza, is attributable to one thing: quality that consumers can count on every time they open a bag of his coffee.
“People know they are getting a quality product,” Lisa says. “We keep it consistent.”
That attention to detail begins early. Pacific Coffee Roasters source raw coffee beans from locations around the world, like Ethiopia, Sumatra and Guatemala. But before Reza agrees to put his company’s name on them, he tests to ensure the product meets his standard.
Reza is passionate about coffee – a passion that developed when he was a child growing up in Iran. (Reza’s father was in the coffee business, and he held the first beans in his hands when he was six.)
To him, fine coffee has the complexity of fine wine. And beans grown in different parts of the world – even different parts of a region – have characteristics as varied as the noble grape.
Understanding those subtleties is the first step in getting a good roast. Reza begins with a sample from a prospective shipment. Visually, it must be nearly perfect. A 300-gram sample, for example, can’t have more than nine damaged beans. (Reza digs into a random bag of green coffee beans and, using a little tray, proudly shows there are no defects in his coffee.)
The raw coffee is then roasted in a sample roaster. It’s roasted a few different ways so Reza can determine how to get the most from the bean. The samples are brewed and, with the help of a tasting panel of about four or five coffee aficionados, the samples are tasted, tested and graded.
Reza holds the final say; if the coffee meets his standard, additional shipments are secured.
But the coffee must do more than taste good. Pacific Coffee Roasters only sells coffee that is certified organic, and grown in an environmentally sustainable way. In addition, The company deals only in “fair trade” coffees, meaning growers gain a fair return for the products they sell.
Says Lisa: “I think a lot of the farmers here can relate to that and empathize with that.”
When the heavy burlap bags arrive, the green coffee is roasted in small batches. Once the perfect roast is achieved, the information is stored in a computer that makes maintaining consistency easier. (Nonetheless, Reza won’t leave the machine’s side while the beans are roasting. “This machine is perfect,” he says with a laugh, “but I still don’t trust it. I trust myself.”)
That dedication was tested from the start. Back in 2009, when Pacific Coffee Roasters secured its first order (to Hofstede’s Country Barn in Chilliwack), Lisa was pregnant with their third son. When she called him at the shop to tell him the baby was on the way, Reza admits his first impulse was to finish the order.
“We still laugh about that,” says Lisa.
Once the coffee is roasted the beans are packaged in bags that Lisa designed herself. The bags include tasting notes that explain the distinctive flavours in each variety. Their coffee from the specialty region of Cajamarca in norther Peru offers a, “Light smokey flavor with low acidity. A nutty aroma with a buttery mouthfeel and cocoa aftertaste.” Their “Three Oceans Blend,” which includes Asian, African and American beans, has “a hint of dark chocolate” and “lingering sweet florals.”
The bags also provide instructions on how to store and grind the beans, and how to brew the perfect cup of coffee.
Education is important, Reza says. For a great coffee to be enjoyed it needs to be understood.
Reza is more than happy to help in that education. Their warehouse is open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays and he invites people to stop by and talk coffee.
They can also purchase products there, or buy smaller “sampler” bags that help expand their coffee horizons.
Reza admits that starting a small business from scratch – particularly during tough economic times – has had its challenges.
But he believes a commitment to quality and consistency will help Pacific Coffee Roasters continue to succeed and expand.
Pacific Coffee Roasters is located at 105-44981 Commercial Court, Chilliwack. For more information, call 604.701.6887, or visit their website at www.pacificcoffeeroasters.com