Q&A Session 8: Ashley from The Little Black Coffee Cup
In the distant land of Toronto, there lies a website named The Little Black Coffee Cup. It’s run by Ashley Tomlinson, who’s kind of a big deal over there. Aside from running a really interesting blog, she’s made it her part to integrate herself into the Canadian coffee industry to nurture and grow it as, well as being a flag carrier for improving the environment via coffee. And to top it off she promotes discussion about how to improve lives of us lowly coffee drinking addicts and is part of the reason Mrs VancouverCoffeeSnob is trying to buy no new clothes for a year!
The Little Black Coffee Cup is a passion project. I started out reviewing cafes, but I quickly realized I, like you ;), had no business reviewing cafes (just kidding, your reviews are my favourite to read because they are hilarious!). Instead, I started learning as much as I could about specialty coffee and sharing my journey. Over the years tLBCC has evolved into a platform to share about people, places and ideas in coffee that inspire me. One of my favourite things is to develop recipes for my series #ThingsThatGoWithCoffee where the recipes are either made with, or inspired by a particular coffee’s tasting notes. I have also had the opportunity to showcase other people’s recipes too, which has been really fun.
My website is an organic and ever evolving thing. Sometimes I get wild ideas about building it out with maps, reviews and other resources for the coffee curious, but I always end up keeping it simple. So, I don’t have a plan per say—the ultimate goal is to keep the creativity flowing and to keep contributing stories and recipes that I am moved to share.
Are you involved in another other coffee related endeavours?
I do freelance writing for a few publications including Sprudge and Food Network Canada. Beyond writing about coffee, I’m starting to dabble in a few other coffee related endeavours.
Vania Ling of Coffee Potluck and I hosted an event during SCA Expo called Coffee ON:line. The event was a panel of independent coffee media professionals—writers, bloggers, creatives, content creators, etc. to discuss the nuances of coffee in the online space. We were lucky to have an incredible group of panelists, and as such, a really engaging conversation about coffee media. Naturally, I am fascinated by the intersection of the specialty coffee industry and media and I hope to see more dialog happening on this topic in the future.
I also recently launched a side media project called Toronto Coffee Community to help bring awareness to local coffee events and start rallying the Toronto coffee crew together. Before Toronto I was living in Los Angeles which had a really solid coffee scene. I am hoping to take a little bit of what I learned about coffee community in L.A. and use that to encourage more community here in Toronto. Anyone out there want to be involved, please let me know!
You’re a big player in the Bring Your Own Mug movement. What got you interested in this?
Before tLBCC, I had a blog called Buy Nothing New for a Year where I challenged myself to consume less and live more sustainably. In other words, my interest in sustainability preceded my interest in coffee. BYOM was a part of the buy nothing new project and eventually carried over into my coffee life. One thing I have learned is, if you are trying to be more conscious of your footprint, letting go of single-use cups is a really rewarding daily habit to change as the results of your effort can be easily calculated. For example, seven days of bringing your own mug means 7 less Styrofoam lids in a landfill, 365 days of BYOM means 365 less Styrofoam lids in a landfill, and so on. Sustainability aside, drinking coffee out of glass or ceramic is a much more enjoyable experience. Specialty coffee deserves a specialty vessel.
Home experimentation is a passion of yours, what projects would you love to try, but can’t for some reason.
I would rather not be doing home experimentation! I’d love a nice big bright studio, with a gorgeous white test kitchen, a custom white La Marzocco GS3 with walnut panelling, and all of my coffee gear arranged neatly in designated coffee gear shelves. My camera equipment would be stored in its own place next to an area allotted for food styling props. Perhaps there would be a stage where I could record live interviews with fascinating coffee professionals. Overall think: minimalist with freshly cut flowers. I’m allowed to dream here right?! That said, working and experimenting from home has limitations of space and surfaces while chasing natural light, and limitations tend to encourage more creativity. That may or may not answer your question.
As a Toronto resident, what coffee shops do you think the people of Vancouver should visit when they’re in your city?
I am always going to recommend Boxcar Social as it is my former place of employment and has a special place in my heart. Feelings aside, Boxcar is a multi-roaster with a really great coffee and booze program. I’d say check out their Harborfront location first—it’s gorgeous! Then there’s Early Bird, the Pilot Coffee Roastery, Sorry Coffee, Reunion Island, Neo Coffee Bar, Sam James Coffee Bar… so many! If you are like me and into non-dairy milks and healthier things to enjoy with your coffee, check out Nutbar. Their cashew-coconut-almond milk is on point.
Where do you see the future of Canadian coffee heading?
Things are very exciting in Canadian coffee right now! As you know we just got a Canadian Chapter of the SCA which is a really promising development for education, community, barista competition, and the Canadian coffee industry as a whole. There is a definite buzz in the air. We currently have the opportunity to make Canadian coffee anything we want it to be, so lets show up, put our heads together, contribute, and make it awesome! The future of Canadian coffee is bright… and balanced with a lingering sweetness.
CafeYVR is by far the best. Lawrence does amazing photo sets and features of cafes. Wait a minute… this is a set up… .
If you could pick one person dead or alive, real or fictional, to have coffee with, who would it be and why?
This is a tough one. Any one of my late grandparents would be interesting to talk to now that I am an adult. Most people are really interesting if you have the opportunity and confidence to ask them the right questions… over coffee.