Kelowna is no stranger to pioneers in the world of wine – think about BC’s first commercial winery, Calona Wines; or Gray Monk who brought the VQA program to BC. So it should come as no surprise that we have pioneers of another drink in or city as well, and that drink is coffee.
Take local coffee power couple Deb Synnot and John Anderson who own the Bean Scene coffee shops at Dickson Ave by Landmark Square (aka “Headquarters”), downtown on Bernard (aka “The Mother Ship”), and on Dolphin Ave by the Landmark Tower 2 (aka “Satellite”). I recently hosted a travel writer in town who was curious about Kelowna’s “other” drink scene (translation: innovation in specialty beverages that aren’t wine) so I peppered his itinerary with stops at places like distilleries, breweries, and the Bean Scene on Dickson Ave. Did I ever find our visit at this hip Kelowna coffee shop enlightening!
We met with John and Deb who showed us around the locale. High tech professionals were sipping coffees at sleek tables as we cut across the floor of the shop that resembles more of a European coffee house than anything else. We went to the back of the shop where John has his roaster set up among burlap sacks filled with coffee beans. This is because at Bean Scene, coffee beans are purchased from specific farms and then John roasts the coffee right on site to his own flavor profile. You can see the roaster and workspace from the coffee shop, which gives the space a really inviting and artisanal atmosphere.
The roaster is an impressive cast iron machine and clearly John’s prize possession: he tells us the story of how he came by it, the dedication it took to get to know its particular qualities, and the ingenious mechanism that allows him to clean the roasting smoke to be as environmentally conscious as he can be. His stories were animated and we hung on his every word because his vision and intention flowed so naturally and with such clarity. This coffee shop is a return to traditional sized drinks, traditional terminology, and traditional presentation. On their website, they present their clear vision for the coffee shop they want to be, and it made me smile that they both started off and ended with the words “we are espresso lovers” (just in case you might have missed it).
Mentoring and education are also important at the Bean Scene, which is another example of this coffee shop’s pioneering persona. The Bean Scene puts on regular Barista Jams in which competitions are held for the best cupping and Latte Art. A barista from Bean Scene recently developed her Latte Art to the point that she was invited to compete in a major barista competition in New York City.
Deb showed us her onsite commercial kitchen where all the baked goods are made from scratch with quality ingredients. I was struck by their commitment to making wholesome treats and to applying that same respect for natural ingredients to their respect for the environment (in their use of carefully thought-out packaging with a focus on recyclable material or biodegradable material).
No matter what you go for, you can be sure that the products offered at this independent coffee shop are well-considered, intentional, and in line with a philosophy that is distinctly theirs. And this, in my books, is what makes a truly great coffee shop.