“The world of coffee production is often completely unknown to most people. The farmers work extremely hard, often for very little money, living in poverty. I try to do my best to give people a glimpse into this world and inspire them to drink better coffee and to think about the ramifications of their spending” - Eldric Stuart
Besides having one of the most unique coffee bars in Vancouver, owner and sole barista Eldric Stuart of Aubade Coffee is on a mission to educate local coffee drinkers on the importance of knowing where your coffee comes from. Tucked neatly inside a shared space collectively called the Space Lab in Vancouver’s Chinatown district, Aubade Coffee is unlike the usual large chain cafes but rather, a fine cocktail bar where you can sit down and really get to know what you are drinking.
It was our second visit to Aubade Coffee, but the ever-changing vintage store sharing a space with Aubade Coffee was just as intriguing as the first visit. Blue walls, mounted taxidermy, rag dolls and rows upon rows of unidentifiable vintage collectibles provides ample visual stimulation. After spending some time browsing through the vintage shop, we finally retreated back to the more tranquil and minimalistic Aubade Coffee on the West corner of the storefront to recollect ourselves. Eldric was chatting away as usual: educating customers, friends, and regulars on specialty coffee.
We took a couple of empty seats at the coffee bar and started watching Eldric work his magic with various coffee brewing methods while effortlessly taking orders and answering questions. We watched intently as he made his signature Aeropress drink by pouring a precise amount of hot water into freshly ground coffee, splitting the brew in between and spooning a few teaspoons of one half into another to perfect his concoction. Everything seemed so controlled, precise and well-practiced.
The truly unique experience brings us to an interview with Eldric to chat about his passion for educating people on specialty coffee, and ultimately, the reason why he started Aubade Coffee.
P - Pendulum Magazine
E - Eldric Stuart
P- Can you tell us a bit about how you got started in the coffee industry?
E: After working for a couple years in large-chain coffee shops, I felt it was lacking inspiration so I decided to sell all my possessions and booked a one way ticket overseas. It was in Melbourne, Australia where I discovered specialty coffee, and more importantly the idea of taking something that is considered a basic daily essential to the level of an art or craft. I was inspired by their love for good coffee and how much value they place on how a bean is farmed, processed and sourced. I realized there is so much more than just roasting and serving coffee as quickly as possible. This has transcended coffee for me and changed how I look at food, material possessions and relationships. I really fell in love with the slow life movement, and for me, taking time to sit down and enjoy a well crafted, handmade coffee became an essential art of life.
P: What is the story behind Aubade coffee?
E: Aubade Coffee came about while I was overseas, thinking about coming back to Canada to open up my own small business. I really wanted to challenge the idea that customers don't want to wait for coffee, that it has to be served instantly. I also wanted to change the service model of a typical coffee shop where there is a big disconnect between the person brewing the coffee and the person enjoying it. It make sense to discard the assembly line of waiting in a queue, ordering, picking up your drink and then going to sit down. I wanted my space to feel more like a good cocktail bar, where I can teach people about what I do to make a coffee taste its best. I wanted to avoid having to borrow lots of money to open my shop, as it was important that I not be beholden to anyone and was free to express my shop how I wanted. I had approached Clint who owns Space Lab to do a pop up, knowing that he had previously done collaborations with Lukes General Store in the past. It turned out he was keen to have a permanent coffee shop in his space, and we began the long process of fitting out the space.
P: What kind of coffee are you serving to your customers? What methods do you use to make your coffee and why do you choose these brewing methods?
E: I was very fortunate to have been able to spend 4 years traveling the world and trying coffee from some of the best shops and roasters in both Europe and Australia. While I am a coffee brewer, I am also a curator of sorts, hand-picking coffees that I think are special from roasters I love and bringing them in. I use local artisan roasters for espresso and my coffee of the day, which is hand brewed as a pour over. I brew up all the really special coffees on Aeropress, which is my favorite brewing method. It's gotten a bit of a cult following because of the unrivaled control you have over the brewing process, meaning you can bring out flavours that you otherwise cannot with other methods. I loved the response I'd gotten from some of the truly special coffees I brought in. Some of them are award- winning beans, or the best lots from renowned farms. It costs a lot for me to procure them, and they are only available in small quantities, which means I often have to charge up to $20 for a glass. But these coffees are absolutely worth it. They can change your idea of what coffee can taste like.
P: How are you actively contributing to the growing 3rd wave, or so called, specialty coffee culture in Vancouver?
E: The specialty coffee scene here in Vancouver is still very young, but growing. While as a city, we drink a lot of coffee, it does tend to be from chains. I am doing my part to introduce and educate the idea that knowing the source of the coffee is vitally important, as the world of coffee production is often completely unknown to most people. The farmers work extremely hard, often for very little money, living in poverty. Buying a coffee from a local independent shop is not only better for your community, but it's better for the farmers as we can get more money directly back to them. I try to do my best to give people a glimpse into this world and inspire them to drink better coffee and to think about the ramifications of their spending. Beyond that, I also teach workshops to help people make better coffee at home, which I believe is a very thoughtful and meditative process. I love the feeling of getting up in the morning and making myself a pourover by hand as I look out the kitchen window and collect my thoughts, hatching plans and de-stressing.
P: Do you have any hobbies outside of coffee?
E: I love making things with my hands. Whether that be writing, knitting or gardening. There is something so rewarding about rolling up your sleeves and producing something. I also have a love for design, and am always coming up with new ideas for the future. I'm not one to rest on my laurels.
P: Anything else you would like to add?
One of the biggest challenges we have with specialty coffee is sharing our love for the product without being intimidating or pretentious. I strive to emphasize simplicity, and be product focused. Coffee farmers work very hard to produce an amazing product for me to brew up, and I try to honour and appreciate that hard work. Chain shops have created an environment that is not centered around quality coffee, but on concoctions focused on driving profit. My shop and others like it are not the norm, which can be uncomfortable for some. We took away familiar items like hazelnut flavouring and cocoa powder. But my ultimate goal is to just serve delicious coffee is amazing on it's own. To connect people to the product placed in front of them and to educate them on the various steps that were involved in procuring it. I want people to look at coffee the same way we view wine or a fine whiskey, and to hopefully inspire them the same way I was when I had that first sip of a truly special coffee brewed with passion.
We thank Eldric for taking the time to share his passion and vision with us through this interview. If you are looking for an experience and not a quick espresso shot to wake you up, spend the time to pay a visit to Aubade Coffee, where one can linger for friendly conversation and educate themselves on the story behind the specialty brews offered in the shop.
230 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC