North Van coffee roaster serving up more beans

Roasting the most - Above right: Moja Coffee owners Doug Finley (left) and Andrew Wentzel stand beside their new coffee roaster as it pours out hot Guatemalan beans.   - Michaela Garstin
Roasting the most - Above right: Moja Coffee owners Doug Finley (left) and Andrew Wentzel stand beside their new coffee roaster as it pours out hot Guatemalan beans.
— image credit: Michaela Garstin

Moja Coffee’s old roaster has been preparing beans since the company opened a decade ago.

The “workhorse” of roasters, it now sits at the back of the North Vancouver café beside a towering, shiny new machine imported direct from Portugal.

After scouring Europe for the perfect roaster and meeting the “who’s who of roasting,” Moja’s owner Doug Finley found what he was looking for.

The “Joper” does triple the capacity of the old roaster, feeding his café and off-sales to other Lower Mainland businesses.

“We didn’t want a machine that any roaster could work with,” says Finley, standing beside his brother-in-law and Moja’s head roaster Andrew Wentzel, as he prepares for the next bunch of beans.

It takes talent to use the new roaster, he says, whereas the old one was more straightforward.

“A lot can go wrong in the 15 minutes it takes to roast the beans,” warns Finley. “It takes the skills of a roaster to understand what goes on in those crucial stages.”

Burlap bags full of coffee beans from Central and South America, Africa and Indonesia are piled in the café’s back room. Soon they will be poured into the roaster, cooled and then wrapped for the café or to sell to Thomas Haas, Terra Breads, Whole Foods and the Vancouver Convention Centre, to name a few.

Moja is the only coffee shop in the Lower Mainland with this particular roaster, says Finley, adding there are only one or two in the entire country.

It comes equipped with an automatic filter that takes out any cement or rocks that come with the coffee beans, he says, opening a compartment at the bottom of the roaster. Sure enough, a half dozen small pebbles are inside.

“We had to manually screen everything with the old machine.”

The old Probat roaster, however, isn’t obsolete. Small, specialty batches are still being made inside.

Moja, which means “one” in Swahili, began in an industrial area behind Capilano Mall 10 years ago before moving to its new location close to Main Street in North Van. Finley’s wife’s family in Kenya was in the coffee industry, sparking his passion for java.

“We set out wanting to make the best single-origin coffees we could find,” says Finley, explaining where the name Moja came from.

“Just 10 seconds of roasting can mean the difference between a good and a bad cup.”

With a decade of coffee roasting experience, what’s his favourite drink?

There will be no seasonally flavoured lattes for Finley. He enjoys a cup of Nicaraguan coffee or, ideally, an espresso.

“We’ve both drank way too much coffee,” he jokes, standing beside Wentzel. “I don’t think our cardiologists are thrilled with that.”

—The new Joper roaster can be seen through a window at Moja Coffee’s café at 1412 Rupert Street near Canadian Tire.

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