Located in an unassuming and largely industrial area off Hastings near Victoria in a former seafood packing facility, Pallet Coffee will house a roastery as well as a cafe. Riffing on the notion of the humble wooden pallet as a tool by which coffee is shipped worldwide, the cafe will have a direct view of the roasting process on the level below thanks to a glass wall.
Co-owner Sharif Sharifi mapped out the area with his hands when we got a sneak peek at the space recently, and he explains that he and business partner Shane Dehkhodaei want their customers in their diverse neighbourhood to “see the culture [of coffee] behind the business.” The culture includes the roasting process, and, using the current trend of microbreweries offering beer lovers a glimpse into the brewing as a model, Sharifi hopes to provide the opportunity for customers to learn more about what they are drinking.
“I find when people can see the process of how something is made it makes them want to understand,” says Sharifi. In the case of Pallet, Sharifi adds that having the roasting facilities visible will “hopefully make [customers] want to get their coffee locally.”
Pallet’s beans are sourced from wholesalers who deal with hundreds of farmers, and Sharifi says they hope to ultimately work directly with farmers down the line to get their beans.
Just down the hill from Pallet is an outpost of Vancouver’s JJ Bean, but while Sharifi acknowledges the role the veteran roaster has had in the local coffee scene over the years, he says they’ll be doing things a “little differently,” and their end product “a little lighter.” With mini roaster test batches producing initial runs of Pallet’s coffee line until the larger roasting equipment is running, Sharifi elaborates that their opening line of coffees will be a carefully curated set of two drip coffees and two espresso roasts, of which one will be a blend. There will also be a decaf option available. The line will “get more experimental” and expand with time, assures Sharifi.
Sharifi and Dehkhodaei are no strangers to the coffee business. Sharifi is a self-proclaimed coffee lover, who drinks the beverage for the taste and not the caffeine. Having worked in various coffee shops around Vancouver, including Artigiano and Rocanini, Sharifi learned the art of roasting. Partner Dehkhodaei had also been immersed in the local coffee business, but shifted his focus to working in construction. Wanting to get back into coffee, the opportunity for Pallet arose, and Sharifi and Dehkhodaei launched Pallet.
The duo already have an eye on the growth of Pallet, though right now the dust is still whirring as the building’s renovation is completed. The cafe will have baked goods and more substantial items available for purchase, coffee tasting events, and public and private tours of the roastery. Sharifi is also hoping to be granted a parklet for the space outside the cafe through the VIVA Vancouver program.
These welcoming and inclusive aspects of Pallet are all part of what Sharifi hopes will draw locals to the cafe to convene and drink coffee.
The art of coffee is certainly undergoing a surge in popularity, in particular the “slow coffee” movement that has bean and brewing enthusiasts waiting patiently by the cup.
In what may wind up being the post-Starbucks era, coffee drinkers seem to be facing a fork in the road when it comes to their cups of joe–they can opt to drop a single-serve plastic pod in a machine, or they can take it to a more artisanal level. For Sharifi, there’s no question what direction he, and Pallet, are headed.
“Coffee is like food, or baking. It’s culinarily inclined,” explains Sharifi, who emphasizes the importance of freshness in the roast and the brewing of the beans. “Proportions [of coffee and water] have to be right,” he adds.
Inside the decidedly cool confines of Pallet, where hints of agribusiness surface in design touches like a custom-built pallet hanging over the counter and the aroma of just-roasted beans will soon drift through the air, it won’t be all snobbery.
“We want to make exceptional coffee accessible, without any pretentiousness,” notes Sharifi. Pallet will have traditional drip brews available to customers as well. “Drip [brewing] can make a pretty mean cup,” laughs Sharifi.
Top image: Pallet Coffee beans (Photo by Lindsay William-Ross/Vancity Buzz)