First Look: Bows & Arrows Coffee Roasters

Imagine, four weeks ago, you happened to be running an errand in Rock Bay. Perhaps you were returning a keg from a party the night before, on your way to work or heading to a jam session. Coffee cravings can strike at any time, and if one had hit right then, where would you have gone? You would probably have just waited until you were back in a neighbourhood with coffee shops. Well, those days are over. Bows & Arrows Coffee Roasters have set up shop in the upwardly mobile industrial area, in a warehouse roastery equipped with walk-up coffee bar.


Last fall, Drew Johnson and Leesha Sabine relocated (with their one-year old son) from Vancouver to open BxA with business partner Amber Fox. After a few bureaucratic hiccups, Johnson is glad to finally be up and running. Currently, Bows & Arrows is roasting beans for Habit Coffee & Culture, Spiced Water, Flocon Espresso in Montreal, and a couple of shops in Vancouver including Drink Espresso Bar at UBC. Their Garbally Road warehouse is open Monday to Friday selling beans by the bag and coffee, plus a selection of Fol Epi goodies from the bar.


Green beans from Central America ready to be roasted

Bows & Arrows sources their java mainly from Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua) and Southeast Africa (Rwanda and Burundi), where they make several trips per year. Johnson emphasizes the importance of raising the profile of coffee growers and producers in developing countries, where education on handling beans throughout the harvesting/storing/transporting process is tantamount to greater financial prosperity.


Despite coffee culture’s upswing, there are still many who don’t understand why locally-roasted coffee from shops like Bows & Arrows cost more than say, a tin of Nabob. For one thing, explains Johnson, it’s the basic economics of ordering small versus large quantities. Additionally, Bows & Arrows only works with wholesalers who practice transparency and can tell their customers exactly how much the farmers were paid for their work. Finally, the grade of the beans impacts their price. Like meat, eggs, and fruit, coffee is graded according to quality. Single origin/craft roasters look for top-notch or “export-grade” product. And the roasting process isn’t simply a matter of dumping some beans into a giant machine and pressing a big red button. Like brewing or winemaking, the system is delicate, with plenty of variables that can affect the final product needing constant monitoring along the way.


Bagging station

For the home-brewer, Johnson recommends using the pour-over method (paper or reusable filter fitted over a mug or carafe) for the “cleanest cup” of Bows & Arrows coffee. I ask if they will be doing a super-dark roast for people like our parents (no names mentioned) and other ‘green mermaid’ loyalists, but the answer is no. “We want [to showcase] the flavour of the coffee,” Johnson says, “Not the flavour of the roast”. Fine by me.


Hours: 7:30am-3:30pm Monday through Friday.

Bows & Arrows Coffee Roasters Ltd.

483 Garbally Road

Victoria BC

(250) 590-7792




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