This interview is with YaWei Lin, who co-owns with her brother, Jerome, The Taste and See Shop (formerly Innocent Coffee) in Vancouver, BC. I was lucky enough to meet up with YaWei in-person at her new coffee shop in the super cool False Creek neighborhood of Vancouver.
Q: When did you first discover coffee?
In college. Not that it was good coffee, but I was using it to stay awake. I first discovered good coffee in 2005 when I was living in Los Angeles at the time. There was a Peet’s coffee in Pasadena, and back then Peet’s was very good coffee. The baristas were always really nice, and so I would go there to study, and I appreciated that they had a nice tea menu and a nice coffee menu. I also remember that they had a book there that showed diagrams of all the different coffee drinks. I was fascinated by that book.
After about a year and a half, I came back to Vancouver. I wanted to find work that would be steady income, but that wouldn’t consume me so I would have time to focus on other things. So I got a job as a barista working for Blenz. I was lucky, because at the time, the people training baristas at Blenz were really excellent, and so I received some very good training in that job. This also gave me exposure to a lot of people connected in the specialty coffee industry
Q: How did you and your brother, Jerome, end up starting Innocent Coffee?
People kept encouraging me to start my own independent coffee business. Then, in 2010, the timing was right, and we opened Innocent Coffee. We chose that name because it described how we wanted to serve coffee: straightforward, pure, and simple. We operated under that name at our original location until the end of 2015, and then this year we re-branded our business as The Taste and See Shop, with the idea that we wanted people to taste and see for themselves how good our coffee really is. Our new location is 129-1628 West 1st Ave Vancouver (by Fir St, right in the back alley behind West Marine, the blue and white building). With this new model, Innocent Coffee operates from our new space Monday through Friday and our new partner – Moving Coffee – roasts and operates out of this space on Saturdays and Sundays. Monday through Friday, we serve the same coffee from local roaster Origins Coffee that our loyal Innocent Coffee customers have come to know and love.
Q: What are some of your favorite places to get coffee outside of Vancouver?
I really liked the coffee shops I visited in Austin back in 2005. They weren’t all specialty coffee shops, but I just love the vibe of that city and the atmosphere there.
Q: Where do you plan to go on your next vacation?
I’ll probably either be going to Taiwan or Milan – I’m not sure yet.
Q: Any coffee places you are looking forward to visiting on that trip?
If I go to Taiwan, there’s a coffee shop I really love in Tainan. There’s not really an English translation for the name of the shop which is Dao Nan Guan. I like this place because when you sit down they bring you a globe, and on the globe you see pins of all the single origin coffee offerings. They only serve coffee black, and the way it’s prepared depends on the origin of the coffee you choose. It’s two stories, and on the second story is their art gallery. In the shop they’re often playing classical music. They take time to talk to you about the coffee that you’re ordering. When I was there last, I got a coffee that was from somewhere in Africa – I can’t remember if it was Kenyan or Ethiopian, but they prepared it by siphon method.
Q: How do you prepare your coffee?
I want to say preface this by saying this is strictly on the weekend, when I am at home. It does not reflect my work performance [laughs], but I’m lazy, and I use BREWT to brew my coffee. I usually have a black – sometimes with a little bit of 2% milk.
Q: What is your favorite thing to eat with your coffee?
Cookies – shortbread because my brother makes them, so they are around, and they are really good. Lately, he’s been making them with jasmine tea in them, and those are really good with coffee.
Q: What is one item of clothing you love?
Q: What do you think is the one thing that you feel has had the biggest impact on your success?
Definitely I would have to say people – connecting with people. When you first start a business, you think you’re just providing a product or service, but really what you’re doing is connecting with people. When we moved locations we weren’t sure if people would follow us to the new space, but on the first day more than half of our customers showed up. That was really encouraging.
City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.
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