The creators of Yamabiko Coffee talk about what makes their coffee unique and the perfect way to enjoy coffee!
Chris and Nahoko are the creators of Yamabiko Coffee in Sutton, Quebec. You can find them every Saturday at the Sutton Market where you can pick up a latté, cold brew or bag of their handcrafted beans.
You can also pick up a bag of Yamabiko Coffee at Leaves House!
1. What is the best way to take coffee?
Chris: I personally love black coffee, straight up! I find it’s the best way to taste all of those nuanced flavours. My current go-to method is a pour over using the Hario V60
Nahoko: I love all kinds of methods, I can get different flavors from each one! But I do love espresso drinks, when I visit cafes, I normally order espresso as it gets me excited!
2. What makes your espresso “handcrafted”?
Chris: Well, if you can believe it, I am actually pulling all of our espresso shots by hand at our market cafe! We are using the Flair Espresso Pro and we’ve been really impressed with the quality! You can manually adjust all of the variables such as grind size, extraction time, pressure, temperature, and yield to dial in an exceptional espresso shot.
Nahoko is using the R.E.D Steamer, which is an incredible stovetop milk steamer that she imported from Indonesia! So together, we are truly doing everything by hand. (except grinding the beans!)
Using these handheld devices allowed us to create a coffee bar in place with no permanent bar set up, and no plumbing. Customers are often fascinated when they see how we’re making their flat whites. It’s definitely more work than a machine, and a little bit weird, and I guess that’s why we love it.
3. Why did you decide to start your own coffee business?
Anyone who knows Naho and I will tell you that we really love coffee, we’re big time coffee nerds! For years we’ve been talking about starting our own business, and over time it became obvious that it had to be a coffee business. Everyday when we get up, coffee is still exciting to us, so to be able to share that passion with others is very fulfilling.
Naho and I had been talking about the idea of building communities, and we saw that a business can be much more than just providing a product or a service, you can actually build a community. During the Covid lockdown in Sutton this April, I decided to create a community of coffee lovers and we called it Sutton Coffee Drop. We would buy large orders of coffee from speciality roasters around Canada in the mail, and then go and drop the coffee off on peoples doorsteps. Before long, everyone saw how passionate we were about coffee, and pushed us to open our own cafe. So we did!
In May we hit the ground running! We built out a simple coffee bar and set it up at the Sutton Market. We decided we wanted to have full control over the coffee we were sharing, so we also started roasting our own coffee. We’ve been having so much fun, that we are aiming to settle into a permanent location in Sutton this winter!
4. We heard that Chris is known for “enthusiastically [talking] to anyone who [will] listen about specialty coffee”. What do people need to know when buying a cup of coffee?
Chris: Yes, especially when I’m caffeinated!
I love sharing things that I learn, so when I discovered how amazing coffee could taste, I made it my mission to tell as many people as I could. My Mother used to drink flavoured coffee with cream and sugar, and now her favourite coffee is an Ethiopian Natural straight up!
What I would share with people about buying a cup of coffee is to go for local cafes/roasters who are passionate about the coffee they are serving and paying attention to quality. There are a lot of little details that go into making an exceptional coffee!
And I could also add, try something new! Try a single origin bean on pour over or espresso, and taste all those unique flavours!
5. What drew you to latté art and what’s the secret to making the perfect latté art?
Nahoko: I was mostly a white coffee drinker (espresso + steamed milk) when I lived in Melbourne a few years ago. Honestly, I was so impressed by how beautiful latte art could be. The moment when I received my drink in the morning with latte art on it, I would get so happy, because I knew the barista was taking time and effort to make this cup the best.
Since then, I have become hooked on latte art. I thought to myself, I would love to create this experience for someone else!
I don’t think I am the best at making latte art, but I do believe that lots of practice will help your art and give you a confidence. In the beginning I volunteered at a café in Melbourne so that I could touch the espresso machine myself. I brought at least a 3L milk jug with me every time so that I could practice ( I practiced with soap too! ). I still remember how excited I got the first time I drew a heart on a drink! 4 years have passed since then, and I’m still enjoying making latte art for every drink!
6. Why the name Yamabiko?
Nahoko: Yamabiko is Japanese word, as you might have guessed! It refers to the echo effect when you yell in the mountains and hear the sound come back to you.
It was the thing that I used to do with my family and friends when I was little in the mountains in Japan. You scream “Yahho-” to the mountain and you get an echo back so that you feel like you are talking with the mountains or with the spirit of the mountain!
Since I now live in Canada, and very far from my home, I wanted to bring some Japanese words with me to Sutton, so that I can remember and feel things from my past in Japan.
7. What makes Yamabiko coffee unique?
Chris: There are two things that are at the core of our business philosophy. We are obsessive about the quality of drinks we serve, and we want to create an approachable environment for anyone who’s interested in coffee. We hate the idea of being a coffee snob, and so we try to do the opposite, by sharing our knowledge and passion.
Our moto from the beginning was that ‘we take coffee seriously, but not ourselves’.
Because we are so interested in creating a community, we always want people to feel like speciality coffee is for everyone. We offer some darker roast profiles and simple filter options for those more interested in a classic coffee, as well as unique light roasted single origins for those looking to get off the beaten path.
We also take great effort to dial in all of our coffee drinks. If we don’t love it, then we won't serve it. Which is why we do things like serve lattes with organic milk, in compostable cups.
8. Both of you speak highly of Melbourne. How does coffee culture in Australia differ from Canada?
Chris: It’s hard to put your finger on it, but anyone who’s ever visited Melbourne can immediately feel the pride that Australian’s have for their coffee. The hospitality industry as a whole is very elevated, going out for coffee in Australia is an entire experience. Consumers are very educated on coffee, and are expecting high quality drinks. I believe people are going out for coffee to be in an inspiring environment, and to enjoy the true flavour of the coffee. As opposed to drinking coffee strictly for fuel to get through the day.
Part of it is likely the long history of espresso coffee in Australia. Early Italian immigrants brought espresso machines, and established independent cafes in the streets of Melbourne and Sydney in the 1950’s, and it just became part of the social fabric. In Melbourne there are very few coffee chains, instead you see independent roasters and cafes on every corner. No one is serving up 20 oz cups of darkly brewed filter coffee, instead you will see a menus with simple black and white beverages options. The largest being a long black (smaller than an Americano). You can even get flat white in most gas stations!
Cafes tend to be in architecturally designed spaces, and generally paired with incredible food. Most restaurants will have a full espresso bar with a dedicated barista. There’s also something to be said about brunch culture in Australia, if you think their coffee is good, wait until you see what they’ve done with poached eggs!
I could keep going on forever, let’s just say that Australian coffee/cafe culture is a huge inspiration behind what we’re doing with Yamabiko!
9. What’s the story behind the packaging?
Chris: We knew that we wanted to have something that was colourful and fun! We found that a lot of coffee branding was very seriously looking, reminding us of a business card. We wanted something that got people excited! We also thought that it was an amazing place to put some artwork, which is very much inspired by what Dunham Brewery has done with their beer labels.
The artwork was created by a good friend of ours, who is a barista and an artist in Sydney. Nahoko had worked with him at Pallet Coffee in Vancouver. When he heard we were starting a coffee company he jumped right in to help design the packaging, and took our idea and ran with it! We plan to release more artwork later this year for our different blends and origins.
10. What has been the most rewarding part about starting Yamabiko Coffee?
Hands down the most rewarding part of the business so far is the community that we’ve created at the local market. Seeing customer’s reactions to our coffees, and seeing the same people come back week after week has been so much fun. We’ve also met so many inspiring people locally that we would have never met otherwise. We both look forward to Saturday mornings at the market all week!