Cafés in Vancouver are important places. Business deals go down, papers are written, and people catch up, break up, and make up in these hallowed extensions of kitchens and living rooms. If done well, a café can identify with a population of people in ways unlike many other commercial ventures. Owner of Culprit Café, Troy Wolfe, set out to do just that – identify with coffee and food lovers in a very crowded niche market.
“I’ve always enjoyed coffee and food. I’ve spent a lot of time geeking out on internet sites and got into all the technical and scientific aspects, which I found really interesting,” says Troy. “It was pretty much a month from ‘oh, it would be kind of fun to open a coffee shop’ to signing the lease,” he adds.
Troy sat down with us to talk about how he went from a background in a tax consulting business to offering cappuccinos and the unconventional Paleo Latte.
What was the genesis of Cuprit Cafe?
It was pretty much a month from “oh, it would be kind of fun to open a coffee shop to signing a lease.”Which is why it was kind of nuts to do it. I’ve always enjoyed coffee and food and spent time geeking out on the internet sites like coffee geek which got into all the technical aspects which got into the science aspect which I found really interesting.
I found out about this place through word of mouth, because of the food. What sets you apart from the competition? How do you promote the place?
We’ve been here for three years without any traditional marketing but we do social media, Instagram, Facebook and twitter. That is the extent of our marketing. One of my staff was interested in taking on Social Media, and we try to talk about our suppliers, farm house cheese, grass fed cows. We get our tea from Jaga Silk in Victoria; those guys are crazy about tea, they’re tea maniacs. We try to work with people who are invested in doing the best with their products.
Is it a stretch to connect what interests you about coffee and the field of molecular gastronomy?
There is absolutely a connection. I’m going to Barcelona for a few days at the end of August to check out the scene there. My girlfriend and I go to France and Italy every September to look for ideas. This will be the first year to include Spain on the trip. I’ve been watching all the Anthony Bourdain videos about his friend over there who does the molecular gastronomy and we are super excited about that. We couldn’t get any reservations because you have to book two years in advance for some of the better restaurants, but we will see what we can book. In the beginning I was really interested in the technical aspects and had a partner who had experience in retail food, but he had a kid and couldn’t make the commitment. My initial role was investor and then that led to design and construction. I actually built the place myself, with some help, of course, and then a very steep learning curve in how to run a retail operation.
If you had to capture the vibe of Culprit in a few words what would they be?
That’s a tough one. We are the hidden gem of Kitsilano that uses only the best quality products.
We asked Troy’s in-house chef/coffee expert Derek Machin how to make a cup.
Measure roughly a tablespoon of either butter or coconut oil or a blend of the two per 8 oz of liquid.
Make an Americano and get out the immersion blender to emulsify the fat into the water/espresso.
This creates the froth like a latte, which is far more palatable than just mixing the ingredients with a spoon. Without the blender the coffee tastes slick and not appealing.
The idea is that you use good fats and caffeine as energy rather than spiking your insulin with some form of carbohydrate.
Grass Fed Butter Why grass fed? If you could ask the cow she might say “I have four distinct compartments in my stomach to break down grass, not hormone laden soy, wheat, corn crap you’ve been feeding us for years!” The cows at Rolling Meadows Farm certainly get the best grass diet and as a result – so do you.
Coconut oil It’s been used for years in Ayurvedic cooking touting medicinal and anti-bacterial qualities. The dietary benefit lies in how the fatty acids behave in our bodies. Western corporate canola and vegetable oil companies launched campaigns in the 70s trying to dissuade folks from using coconut oil products, saying it caused coronary blockage, heart disease and stroke. Recent research shows pretty much the opposite. If you Google the benefits of coconut oil you will quickly see that it is basically a gift from the oil gods – too bad it can’t babysit your kids too.
Photos: Justine Tong