Don't go wandering down the dodgy AF alleyways anywhere in the area!
Pallet Coffee Roasters HQ
Right now I’m sitting in the new Pallet Coffee Roasters HQ and I’m in a predicament. I can’t think of an intro. This might be because I’m about to drink my fourth pour over in a row. Or it could be because every two seconds someone from Beanstock Festival stops by. But I think we both know what the problem is.
They keep opening so many bloody coffee shops, I’ve run out of funny things to write.
So this is my best attempt:
In an effort to demonstrate that humans are, in fact, capable of operating on absolutely no sleep, the Pallet crew have decided that opening a downtown shop a few weeks back was not sufficient enough to show off. They, instead, decided that opening a brand new, state of the art, 7000 sqft roastery was preferable to catching some well-earned zzzz’s.
So what’s it like?
Fucking amazing, that’s what.
What is the coffee like at Pallet Coffee Roasters HQ?
You know what’s coming here, I’m sure. Pallet has won the Roaster of the Year award for the last two years and deservedly so. While that was a public vote, my personal opinion is that they are one of the most well-rounded roasters in the city and probably the country, to be honest. It’s pretty unlikely you’ll not be able to find something you like here.
Beans: Pallet Coffee Roasters Papua New Guinea Price: $4.50-$6 depending on what bean you choose
PNG coffee doesn’t often get to shine on its own. I find it’s usually mixed into blends to add depth or flavour. So I was excited to see this as a pour-over on its own. Off the bat, this actually smelled quite dark but it definitely had a lighter flavour to it. Subtle fruits, bigger caramel and chocolate notes and a really nice balance to it all.
There will usually be 4-5 pour-over options available when you visit.
Those stunning mugs you’ll see when you’re there are made by the local legend, Dustin Yu and can be found on his website here.
You have the choice of 5 different espresso beans for your drink. Pallet has recipes dialled in for each type of drink, but it’s up to you if you want to switch it up to get a different flavour experience. My latte was smooth, perfectly steamed and the balance of milk to espresso was absolutely dead-on.
In addition to your usual coffee drinks, Pallet HQ is planning to have cupping to order, where you can sample several coffees at once, as well as various brewed coffee flights. I’ll update this review when they’ve launched this program.
The review continues in a sec, but I wanted to quickly tell you about an app I’ve been working on for the last year that I’m pretty stoked about. It’s called Siply and the idea is to curate and promote the best coffee shops in Vancouver and then save you a little cash on your drinks. Have a play with the calculator below to see what I mean about savings.
If you’re keen to find out more, click the button below to check out the website.
What is the food like?
Because this new venue is not a traditional cafe, the food options are limited. A small selection of pastries, cookies and sweets can be purchased with your drinks.
Not too sweet, nice and chewy and big enough to fill your belly. It’s a great example of a ginger cookie! My only addition would be to spice it up more because I like my ginger food to bring me to tears with its intensity. But this is the perfect balance for the Canadian palate.
What are the staff like?
I’m getting bored of saying it, but Pallet has some of the best staff in the business. This is all due to the fact that they spend so much time on training and fostering a family spirit internally. Pallet Coffee Roasters HQ is a unique staff experience because you often get to meet some of the higher-ups from the office as well. People like Ben, their Director of coffee. Dan, one of the roasters and Dave, the lovely bloke that runs the roasting side of the business… as well as being one of the few people in the coffee industry taller than me!
Overall you’re going to get an amazing and special experience from these folks, which I did on each of my visits.
What is the Pallet Coffee Roasters HQ venue like?
OK here we go, this is the good stuff.
This. Venue. Is. Bonkers.
You enter directly from the sidewalk into a tunnel with a flower-wall mural that guides you into a cavernous room that makes up the entirety of this roastery.
It’s huge in there.
There’s a massive, well-designed bar area front and center, where you can order and also watch pour-overs being made.
There is loads of seating available, including cafe-style two-person seats under a giant living-moss mural of part of the pallet logo.
In the back, there’s a large, upright communal table as well as window style seating that looks into the roasting area. This area isn’t always going to be permanently open, as they’ll often use it for educational events and tastings. The intention is to make many of these available to the public.
The roastery area is a sight to behold. They have two roasters in there that are often on the go, so you’ll likely be able to watch them roast as you drink your drink. At the time of writing, this beast is not operational, but it should be soon:
I’m really excited to see what they can produce with something as large scale as this roaster (which by the way is almost 100 years old!).
What is the location like?
Real talk time. As much as I obviously love Pallet and the things they do, I have to be true to my review process. The location is the weakest part of the new HQ.
Railtown is a weird place. On the one hand, it’s a very up and coming area. I predict in 10 years it’ll be like Gastown – amazing condos and all the rough edges sanded away. But at the moment there are still parts of this area that are a bit of a trainwreck. Alexander St borders Oppenheimer Park which is a bit of a hot spot for DTES chaos at the moment. Interestingly, though, not much of it spills over this way.
So my advice is that when you visit, be alert of what’s in the area, don’t go wandering down side alleys and be aware of those around you. My personal experience with the area is that I’ve walked through here at all times of the day and I’ve never had an issue. I am a 200lb, 6ft4 man though, so I’m very aware that I’m probably quite immune to a lot of it, by nature of my size and gender.
There are a few buses that stop by around the area and a sprinkling of Mobi bikes, but no SkyTrain unfortunately. There is free on-street parking but it’s impossibly difficult to get hold of, which is the same for the paid parking, to be honest. I’ve often struggled to park close and usually end up walking 4-5 blocks after 5-10 mins of searching. My advice would be to avoid taking a car.
I won’t be adding these to the review, as they’re the building loo’s and not managed by Pallet. That being said, there are two stalls in a unisex bathroom and every time I’ve been inside them they’ve been clean and well maintained.
With this new addition to the Vancouver coffee scene, Pallet Coffee Roasters HQ have demonstrated that they’re not just in it to open loads of shops everywhere and aimlessly grow. Instead of just opening shop six, they took a unique and novel approach to the situation and decided that they’d create the lovechild of a coffee shop and a Real Canadian Superstore.
I firmly predict that this is the kind of venue that is going to be one of those places that people from out of town have on their “must-see” list, if only due to how jaw-dropping it is to first experience a building so huge that it has its own weather system.