Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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for Adults, but he is open to other ideas, which he calls "good ideas that will feed people's souls." B A R R E N G R O U N D C O F F E E The newest addition to the Yellowknife scene is Barren Ground Coffee (BGC), a roastery in the city's Old Town. BGC is reached via a narrow alleyway that runs between an automotive shop and a warehouse. Previ- ously known as the Carver's Place, a patina of soapstone dust remained in the compact space when owner Eric Binion began improvements last year. Today, the roaster occupies center stage with a cupping counter behind, a retail counter to the right, and a small bar for enjoying pourovers to the left. Like the neighboring coffee-shop owners, Eric saw a gap in the Yel- lowknife market: "The existing roaster in town hadn't really capitalized on the interest in good-quality, organic, Fair-Trade, specialty coffees that exist elsewhere in Canada." A roastery also promised the stay-at- home dad fl exible hours. As a home roaster, Eric was familiar with the process—it was just a matter of doing it on a larger scale. The hardest part, he quickly discovered, was fi guring out the roaster. "The Toper," he explains, "is a very good roaster with a poorly translated manual." Thankfully, Eric has been able to reach out to a helpful network of roast- ers scattered across British Columbia and Alberta. Barren Ground prioritizes organic and ethically sourced beans, purchased through a distributor in Vancouver. Eric is working toward buying directly from growers—he has contacts in Costa Rica, Kenya, and India—though at present, volume and export licensing are barriers. Eric is still experimenting with different beans and roasts. Two current favorites are the Brazil Fazenda Saquarema, a slightly darker roast with notes of chocolate, baked peaches, and roasted coconut, and the Ethiopia Sidamo Guji, a lighter roast with a fl avor profi le notable for spice, cara- mel, and blueberries. Though only in business for half a year, BGC is already in a number of stores around Yellowknife, as well as in other NWT communities. With local wholesale prices lower than what Eric pays for green beans, it's been harder to break into the city's restaurants, though you can order BGC at The Fat Fox and nearby Blachford Lake Lodge. One local business, the NWT Brewing Company, has found another way to support the fl edgling enterprise. Owners Fletcher and Miranda Stevens asked Eric to provide coffee for their anniversary milk stout. Other collaborations are on the horizon, including bottled cold-press coffee with a Yellowknife eatery. M A K I N G C O F F E E I N T H E N O R T H There are challenges peculiar to making a go of it in the North. Access- ing products and materials is complicated and expensive because of Yellowknife's distance from major urban centers. A lack of redundancy, both in terms of equipment and staff, makes operations precarious. Then there's the astronomical cost of utilities. High electricity rates are particularly maddening because of the city's frequent power out- ages. "I can't tell you how many times the power has gone out and I've had to throw out trays of half-cooked scones," Emma of the Fat Fox says. Eric has had similar experiences mid-roast, and Barren Ground's aged pellet stove requires constant care to keep the shop above freez- ing, especially when it's 30 below. For all of the challenges, there are also benefi ts to starting a small business in Yellowknife. Without exception, everyone I spoke to credits a supportive community and an appetite for new things (novelty goes a long way in Yellowknife) to their early success. Now with so many other coffee shops and eateries competing for a fi nite number of customers, however, all have had to work hard to prove their worth, and will have to continue to do so. Mario's Marvellous Movie Emporium is Yellowknife's only fl oating coff ee shop, at least for part of the year. In the colder months, you can ski or snowmobile to the coff ee "ship" for an espresso-based drink made by owner Frans Barnard with Kenya's Java House beans and a cinnamon bun topped with locally harvested cranberries. PHOTO BY JESS DUNKIN 45 www.baristamagazine.com

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