If you have been curious as to what was happening to the Starbucks at the corner of Main and 14th in Mount Pleasant, you are not alone. I was also baffled as to why this Starbucks location has been behind plywood painted with colourful images for the last six months. Today, I had the privilege of finding out exactly what was behind the secrecy; the first Starbucks Reserve Bar to open in Western Canada has arrived in Vancity.
Merry Lou Proudfoot, the manager of this location and a Starbucks partner of nine years, beams with pride as she shows me around the new digs. Beautiful brick walls, a wood bar top and woodwork created by a local crafter, and a stunning Siren sculpture made of wire graces the wall overlooking the reserve bar.
“For me, to be able to pull together these partners from different ends of the country, I am very fortunate to have this team,” explains Merry Lou. The Bradner, BC native lights up when talking about her team; partners from Edmonton, the Island, and from as far away as London, Malaysia and Japan give the Reserve Bar an international flavour that fits perfectly into the Vancouver landscape. Merry Lou moved to this location three years ago as the Manager in anticipation of the Reserve Bar becoming a reality.
“These have probably been some of the most challenging months of my life, but when I’m driving to work every morning, I remember what I am going to work for. My people, my partners, and seeing the looks on their faces when they are playing with the Siphon or the Black Eagle, I remember why I do what I do”.
Merry Lou was a member of the Olympic Star support team for the Starbucks location Downtown for the 2010 Games, and because of her dedication and passion she was quickly moved along to Manager. Her biggest piece of advice; choose something you are passionate about, find something that makes you happy and just go for it. Not surprisingly, her e-mail sign off is “Find your passion, it will lead you to your purpose” is one of her favourite Oprah quotes.
This location boasts the one and only Black Eagle Espresso machine in Canada and is exclusive to the Mount Pleasant store. The Black Eagle is a manual espresso machine; the grounds are manually tamped and espresso shots are pulled by hand, a skill in and of itself.
Siphon brewing, Merry Lou’s favourite brewing method due to the complexity, is also featured at this location. Using vacuum pressure and vapour technology to move the coffee to the vessel, and a halogen bulb to heat the water, it is visually stunning and brings a slice of the slow food movement to your cup. They also offer Chemex brewing, an easy brewing option that you can adopt at home. This pour over style of brewing allows you to take some time to savour the coffee process and prepare for your day; the partners are more than happy to educate you on the best way to do this.
Then there is Nitro coffee; a cold brew coffee that has been infused with nitrogen that is also available at this location; definitely a different and delicious coffee experience. With only five calories in a Tall, this could quite possibly be the best-iced coffee out there. Watching the velvety, nitrogen infused cold brew coffee cascade into a glass could fool anyone into thinking that a Guinness was being poured. The taste is smooth and rich, and not in the least bit bitter or acidic.
Main Street was chosen as the first Reserve location because of the demographics of the area; customers that want to know more about where their coffee comes from, how it was produced, and the ethical coffee harvesting and fair trade practices which Starbucks is proud to be a part of.
Each partner at this location is a coffee master or working towards their master status, each of them with a passion for what they do.
The beauty of this location is that you can have an elevated coffee experience or a more pedestrian one if you so desire. The store is divided into two sides; a reserve bar and a traditional Starbucks location like the ones we know and love. If you can, spend some time in this new location and take the time to drink it all in and take a moment to slow down and enjoy, something we could all use a healthy dose of.
All images provided by Gwen Perkins