Q&A with Pallet Coffee Roasters
With seven locations across Vancouver, community-minded Pallet Coffee Roasters aims to make specialty coffee more accessible. We chatted with Ben Rugg, their Director of Coffee, to learn more about their origin story and plans for the future.
- How did Pallet Coffee Roasters first come to be?
The first roastery/cafe opened in July 2014 in an old fish processing warehouse. It was started by a group of friends that wanted to get into roasting coffee and operating a cafe. I joined them a few months later, in November 2014.
Three years later, we opened a second location on Clark Street, and then we started getting a lot more opportunities to see places. Over the next few years, we consecutively opened more locations and now have seven throughout Vancouver. In 2019, we moved our roastery and cafe to our new location in Railtown, and we have also opened a brunch spot called Palate Kitchen.
Our new roasting facility has a lot of space, and we want to make it a coffee hub and an education center for people who wish to learn more about coffee. We host cuppings and events where we sample coffees with the public. We want it to be a space where people can come and learn without commitment; they can just be a part of something going on.
- How did you first get into coffee?
I grew up in New Zealand, and after high school, I got a job in a cafe. Working there was the first time I saw that coffee was more than a powder you just mixed with water. I began learning more about it and how to taste it. Eventually, I became a bartender and chef, and everything I learnt in those jobs kept bringing me back to coffee. I slowly worked my way through cafes, working with different roasteries and competing in barista competitions. Then I moved to Vancouver, and a few days after getting here, I started at Pallet.
- What is the coffee scene like in New Zealand compared to Canada?
Canada has a broader scale of different types of coffee and cafes. New Zealand didn't have a diner coffee scene; it wasn't until 2012 that we got drip coffee machines and the coffees sold for double the price of an espresso. It seems as though in Canada, there are some great coffee shops and some lower-quality ones, but in New Zealand, all the shops are similar, and all fall somewhere in the middle quality-wise.
- What is your ethos when it comes to green sourcing?
It is important for me to know where the coffee is coming from and to build sustainable and ongoing relationships. We have been working with the producers of our core coffees for many years, and when we bring in new coffees, I make sure to talk directly with the producers and exporters rather than just going straight to the importer. We want to build relationships and speak with people down the line to know where the coffee comes from and ensure that our price is fair and sustainable.
- What are Pallet’s plans for the future?
We are focused on building relationships with producers and people we buy coffee from. I want to showcase different styles of coffee. I want us to have coffee for people who like darker coffee and coffee for people who want more floral or fruity coffees. We are also focused on staff development. We want to help our staff grow and make careers in the coffee industry and have the opportunity to experience more of it than just behind the bar.