Last years Beanstock festival was a triumph of caffeinated, boozy and chaotic fun. But do you know who the organisers are? Well, you will soon… or at least you’ll know one of them anyway. Meet Grant, master of festival organisation, lover of the finest hats, passionate aviarist and a bloody hilarious guy.
Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Grant Gamble and I’m originally from Vancouver but have been living in Toronto for the last seven years. I’m a specialty green importer with Mountain Coffee and one of the founders of Beanstock Coffee Festival. Some people mistake me for John Snow…. maybe they’re right, maybe not….
How did you first get into the coffee scene?
My father is a fan of the finer things, so I was introduced and taught to respect adult bevvies from a very young age. I was that guy at high school parties drinking craft beer and single malts – so I always knew who was stealing my drinks (hah). I was obsessed with the smell of coffee but hadn’t developed my palate to enjoy the taste, so I started working at Starbucks illegally when I was fifteen to investigate. It’s been a journey over a decade to get to where I am now but I’m still learning every single day.
You’re one of the masterminds behind last years very successful Beanstock festival. I hear there’s one in Toronto soon. What can our cousins from the big city expect from this event?
I wonder where you heard that 😉 We listened to every single response, comment, email, pigeon carrier, and phone call after the inaugural Beanstock and took the feedback into consideration. We’ve levelled up just about everything for Round Two. For one, the venue is more than twice the size, two floors, and on the waterfront of downtown Toronto. There are 36 roasters and 3 cold brew companies, five times as many espresso machines (Our Presenting Sponsor Zuccarini are bringing ten machines alone), classes for espresso, latte art, roasting education and cupping, more vendors, and I’ve fully exploited my restaurant network to get some ridiculous food and beverage options at Beanstock Toronto.
If that wasn’t enough, we’ve partnered with the SCA to host the Canadian National Barista Championships and a full Education Centre that are both free to access all weekend. We’ve received messages from people around the world who are coming – like Floozy Coffee Roasters in Australia. Just a casual hop skip and a jump across the globe to come to Beanstock… no biggie. We’re also co-hosting spin-off events leading up to the weekend and we have a full media team who have been shadowing and filming my day to day as an importer to introduce the world to the passionate folks in the Canadian Coffee Community. 100% percent makes me look famous when I go on client visits, so that’s been fun.
OK, enough about Toronto, we all know we’re the best city so when are you coming back to Raincouver, I mean Vancouver?
Hah! My life has been so busy I barely get to see my friends these days and am now single…I hope it goes to show how much time and energy we are putting into building the Specialty Coffee industry in Canada. We can have a hot coffee date over Christmas if you can wait that long.
So what can we expect at Vancouver Beanstock 2.0?
Everything will be bigger and better, but we won’t ever lose the intimate vibe we captured with the first one. The experience of the festival is the most important thing to us so we are totally open to suggestions, folks.
What coffee shops in Vancouver do you think people should be aware of right now?
I’m so out of the loop with the coffee shop scene in Vancouver, that’s what I have you for! Definitely, go check out Sharif’s new shop Modus on Broadway. Hands down one of my favourite experiences sitting at the bar and talking shop, drinking tasty brews, and eating unique pastries with those two. Also, Agro Roasters will always have a special place in my heart (Hi Dusty!). While you’re at Agro, the new Timbertrain Depot is just around the corner.
Who would win in an arm wrestle: Alison from Espressotec or Dusty from Agro but he has to use oven gloves?
That’s like asking me to choose between my children. I think it would be a tie and we’d be stuck watching the wrestle for eternity.
Vancouver Coffee Snob Edit: We all know that Alison would win this. Despite her small stature, she actually has the strength of 1.5 Dusty’s. But I’ll allow Grants, let’s face it, cop-out answer here!
You also work for Mountain Coffee. Tell us about them, so that everyone can accuse me of being paid to hold this Q&A. (Hint to my readers, it’s not a paid article you drama queens!).
I thought you were paying me for this interview (haha). Lionel and Mengo have done something incredible with Mountain Coffee over the last seven years, building countless meaningful relationships within the coffee industry all the way to origin before bringing me into the fold. We pride ourselves on providing a range of high-quality specialty coffee, something that’s actually needed in the Canadian Coffee Industry. There are a small handful of incredible green importers in Canada, but oftentimes they are limited in their offerings or aren’t as open to working with their partners to source exactly what they’re looking for. We’re pretty huge on customer service… I literally drove a single bag to one of my roasting partners in Montreal during an ice storm last week to offer a replacement to their tainted sac (of coffee).
If you don’t mind me getting sappy for a moment, the biggest thing at Mountain Coffee that resonates with me personally is our ethics in sourcing. Most people don’t know that coffee is traded based on a ‘C Market’ price. It’s mindblowing how little coffee farmers are paid per pound for coffee. The average cost of production for a single pound of specialty is somewhere around $2.25 USD, and the market price today is $1.18 USD. Take that in for a moment. Coffee is a very fragile industry and we are nowhere near sustainable as a whole, despite what most think. At MC we are always paying above the cost of production to ensure that farmers can exit the cycle of poverty they’re trapped in year after year. Those extra funds can be used to not only enrich the lives of their families and those around them but to improve the quality of the coffee itself. Phil & Sebastian are a company that comes to mind if anyone reading is interested in learning more about how ethical partnerships are ensuring that we have a future with coffee in it. Let’s be real, it would suck and I’d be homeless if coffee weren’t around in twenty years.
If you could pick one person dead or alive, real or fictional, to have coffee with, who would it be and why?
My initial response is Vancouver Coffee Snob, I hear he’s a total babe. Truly though, I would love to connect over a coffee with Mokhtar Alkhanshali, aka The Monk of Mokha. He’s creating history at the moment, resurrecting the Yemeni coffee industry despite war and broken infrastructure. Super inspiring dude, and if you’re reading this Mokhtar, you’ve got a free ticket to Beanstock and your first round of ‘not coffee’ is on me.
Thanks to Grant for chatting with us today. If you want more info on Beanstock Festival in Toronto, which is being held on the 26th and 27th May, check out their website where you can buy tickets, or their Instagram account where you can keep up to date on their progress. Finally I’d like to extend an apology to the “Eagle” in Grants hat, that is actually not an Eagle at all, but in fact an epic Peregrine Falcon, fastest of all the Falcons.