These days it seems like coffee fuels the world. You can hardly walk more than a block in any town and you’ll find a place to get a cuppa joe, be it a café, corner store, donut shop or even a gas station. There is no end of choice but you can choose locally roasted beans so you can learn a little more about your jolt of java.
I am pretty fussy about my coffee. I think living in Italy for a year spoiled me, where it was hard to find a bad cappuccino or latte. And I can be quite sensitive to caffeine, but I find the higher the quality of coffee, the fewer problems I have with the caffeine. So there are a few roasters on the Island that I know and trust, and although I have had this particular coffee before, I finally got around to visiting the woman who roasts it in her facility in Royston. Royston is just a few kilometres south of Courtenay, and is also home to the Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt Company, and I want you to remember that connection.
You get to Royston by driving down the Old Island Highway, which is a great road to take this summer if you’re heading up island, very picturesque and not too clogged with traffic. Anyway, just before you reach the first traffic light in Royston when headed north you hang a right into the Royston Roasting Company. It is a roastery, and a café, and a place to learn about coffee, and yes, you can also get a frozen yogurt there made with…Tree Island Gourmet Yogurt. Dyan Spink is the woman behind the roasting. She came to the craft after spending a dozen years at the Comox Valley Farmer’s Market making coffees with other people’s beans:
“So that background really got me interested in the whole world of coffee and I was always buying locally roasted beans from Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands to serve in my cafes and at the Farmer’s Market and I guess it finally came down to to point where I wanted my own label to put on the coffee, ha ha.”
To go from selling other people’s products to roasting your own, first you need a roaster. And when you go down into the basement of the café, there stands this beautiful piece of machinery. It’s a drum-style roaster made by the OzTurk Company of Turkey. It’s a hands-on manual style that has to be babied, but can roast about thirty pounds at a time.
The thing about this roaster is that the drum part is clad in hand-hammered copper in beautiful patterns. The company was founded back in 1948 and today the grandsons of the man who started the business now run it. Dyan and her husband Gary went to visit the factory in Turkey and got to know the family and eventually the family asked the Spinks to be the Canadian distributor for their products, and Dyan couldn’t be more thrilled. That just happened this year and they’ve already sold one smaller-style drum roaster.
Believe it or not this roaster has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, and I am just one of a growing number of people who have had their picture taken in front of it. They get small to large groups of tourists coming through and nearly all of them leave with a bag of coffee in their hands.
Dyan and Gary had had their eyes on this particular piece of property in Royston for a while, because they knew it had potential on a number of levels, a place to roast, a café to showcase their products, an educational area for people who want to learn some home barista skills, and lots of drive-by traffic. Better than having the roaster set up at their house, where they used to have it. People would stop by on Sunday nights to pick up a bag of coffee and say, gee, would you mind making us a latte while we’re here?!
The coffee is all fair trade and certified organic from the best coffee production countries from Mexico and all the way down to South America. Dyan says the certified organic label is important to them because it means the coffee workers in those countries aren’t exposed to some of the nasty chemicals that are still being used in some of the plantations. Fair trade means a good living to the suppliers and Royston Roasting even uses a biodegradable rice paper bag to retail their coffee.