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Kelowna craft coffee shop following in the wine tasting tradition of the Okanagan

Craft 42 Roasters opened in Kelowna in January.
Craft 42 Roasters opened in Kelowna in January.
Image Credit: Submitted/Craft 42 Roasters

Visitors to Okanagan wineries are there for the tasting experience, sampling choice wines and, often, taking a bottle or case home with them.

The booming craft beer brewing sector often features the same sampling technique.

Now, the newly opened Craft 42 Roasters is expanding that into craft coffees.

“People are just going crazy over the tastings that we do,” owner Taylor MacInnis told “What we try to do is parallel to a wine tasting, because that’s what people can relate to here in the Okanagan. It just seems that, every day, more and more people are coming in for that tasting experience.”

The shop is actually classified as a tasting room rather than a café, she said.

Craft 42 opened at 1178 High Road, next to the Rail Trail in Kelowna, on Jan. 28 and is only open Saturdays and Sundays, for now.

“We thought opening this way would be a really good opportunity for us to exercise our barista skills and exercise our customer service skills without feeling any pressure of a line-up out the door,” MacInnis said. “It's just avoiding there being too much pressure for us and then for customers to be disappointed about how long they had to wait because we’re still kind of learning.”

The plan is to open Wednesday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting in May as the traffic on the Rail Trail picks up.

MacInnis came to Kelowna eight years ago after working for Tim Hortons for the previous decade, opening and running outlets all over North America and, most recently, in Vernon.

“I just had an itch for more to do on my own,” MacInnis said. So she and partner Aaron Moore started Craft 42 Roasters about a year-and-a-half ago.

While she worked for Tim Hortons for years, Craft 42’s coffees are a world apart.

“Ours is specialty coffee,” Moore said. “It’s hand-picked cherries. It’s paying the farmers the proper wages for the work they do.”

Fair trade coffee pay rates ensure the growers cover their expenses but not necessarily that they will make money on their crops, he said. Craft 42 believes farmers should be able to not only earn a living but to build generational wealth so they pay three to 20 times more than fair trade rates.

“We are able to trace it right back to the farm and the farmer and it always meets our three principles which are: One – does it taste good? Two – what is the environmental impact on the community? Three – what’s the give-back to the community at large for rebuilding and increasing the value in those communities.”

The coffee is sourced from countries all over the world, like Ethiopia, Rwanda, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Brazil and Columbia.

“If all you’ve had is Tim Hortons coffee or Starbucks coffee, I would highly recommend giving other coffees, craft coffees, third wave coffees, a chance, just for the experience to know what’s there,” Moore said. “We like to parallel it very much like wine tasting with the idea that you’re going to go in and have a tasting and you’re going to buy some bottles to bring home with you because you enjoy it that much.

“We just want people to taste our coffee and, we feel, if you taste our coffee, you can’t untaste it. You can’t unlearn what you’ve learned here. So you’ll either want to buy better coffee from us or other roasters that do a really good job. The idea is to just try to increase education in that field because there’s a lot more to coffee.”

READ MORE: Lower prices, more stops in Kamloops this season for popular Vernon food truck

Image Credit: Submitted/Craft 42 Roasters

Customers can pick three varietals at a time to sample.

“Aaron will walk them through the history of that farm and the people that work on it and the way that coffee was produced and processed,” MacInnis said. “Then he talks about the flavour notes from the coffee and talks about his roasting style for each of the coffees.”

When they started Craft 42 the intent was to sell beans online only.

“The goal was never to have a shop, at the beginning, but we just kept getting a demand for it,” MacInnis said. “’Are you guys ever going to open up? Your beans are so good, we’d love to have them in a latte or a cappuccino.’ So we decided to keep an open mind so, if something came up, we would open up a little shop.”

One day, as she was walking the Rail Trail, MacInnis came across the owners of Railside Brewing working to set up their shop.

When they told her about a nearby unit coming available she jumped at the chance.

“I called the landlord right away and signed the contract that day because I just knew the potential,” MacInnis said. “For us, we’re trying really hard to get on top of environmentally friendly lifestyles and, when we saw this location was available, we thought OK, that would really help encourage people walking up to do less parking and making it a destination point.”

Their bags, cups and other cutlery are recyclable.

“If you pop into our shop and you look to your left we have a big bin that says compost only,” MacInnis said. “Then there’s a tiny little trash can, if you happen to have any trash, because we’re really trying to discourage that.”

They’ve also offering snacks from local producers, Karat Chocolate and Big Fat Lion Bakeshop (which is vegan and gluten free).

They even found a supplier for oat milk for those who don’t want dairy.

“Oak milk is very much sharing our values on the environment,” MacInnis said. “We did a lot of work to find that oat milk and people are loving it.”

While the Rail Trail is a major draw, many neighbouring residents have discovered Craft 42 and Railside, which are just behind Urban Liquor Store on the corner of Gordon Drive and Clement Avenue.

“It seems like every other person that walks in is telling us how they are just so excited about this little thing we all have going here with the coffee and the beer and the rum,” MacInnis said.

The Craft 42 Roasters website can be seen here.

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