Roasted in the ‘stoke

Revelstoke's Stoke Coffee roaster Mark Hartley is a connoisseur of caffeine and adrenaline.

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Stoke Coffee. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer

He was at the forefront of the splitboard revolution known for slaying dreamy backcountry lines, but these days Mark Hartley splits his face shots between powder and espresso.

He has an obsession with coffee and his mission, as the owner/operator of Stoke Coffee, is to provide Revelstoke with quality coffee. You’ll find his brand stocked at local cafes, retailers and the winter market. But the coffee novice might wonder, how can Revelstoke have its own coffee brand?

“One part of the quality equation for coffee is having it freshly roasted,” Hartley explains at his small warehouse and roasterie in the Big Eddy. He’s surrounded by 150-pound bags of coffee that he imports from the world’s best coffee regions. “In this day and age you can ship coffee quite quickly from the roaster to the consumer but it does take some dedication to manage inventory and keep it fresh.”

Mark Hartley chooses beans from the best coffee regions in the world. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Mark Hartley chooses beans from the best coffee regions in the world. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer

Stoke Coffee began in late 2008 and has grown organically with the demand.

“There’s been kind of a food movement to local production and local processing, it seems like a lot of towns and cities have their own roaster now,” Hartley says.

He rattles off a bunch of names, such as Bean Bag in Golden, Kicking Horse in Invermere and Oso Negro in Nelson. For Hartley, this venture really began with a love of coffee. And lots of it.

Back then, when snowboarding and touring was life, he and his friend Conor Hurley would hole up at The Modern, the earliest opening cafe at the time. Hurley, who had tried his hand at home roasting on a barbecue, figured they could go further than just drinking coffee.

“Lots of people were drinking coffee, and there wasn’t really anyone producing it,” Hartley says. “So we just though we would step it up and get a proper roaster and start roasting coffee and see how that went.”

“It seemed at the time, we could have our coffee and drink it too.”

While the business grew, snowboarding was still the main focus for about the first four years. Later Hurley’s life took him in a different direction while Hartley decided to keep grinding and grow the Stoke Coffee brand.

“I didn’t anticipate at one point I wouldn’t be a ski bum anymore,” Hartley says. “Now I’m not a ski bum and I’m roasting a lot of coffee and it is making some money.”

Mark Hartley was at the forefront of the splitboard revolution. Photo: Greg Hill
Mark Hartley was at the forefront of the splitboard revolution. Photo: Greg Hill

The process of choosing and roasting coffee gets pretty technical, so we’ll save the science class. But coffee flavour has as much to do with how it’s roasted as it does the bean and its origins.

“Each roaster has their own way of doing things,” Hartley said. “I generally shoot for a classic, well-developed medium roast.

“I do roast some offerings, mostly African coffee, lighter and brighter, similar to third wave style roasters like 49th Parallel out of Vancouver.”

Beans before they're roasted. Different types of beans have different colourings. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Beans before they’re roasted. Different types of beans have different colourings. Photo: Emily Kemp/Revelstoke Mountaineer

Hartley doesn’t define himself as a coffee snob, but without a doubt, he’s passionate. He has a diverse range of coffee so customers that know their coffee need to know what their tastes are.

“I define myself as a coffee professional,” Hartley says. “Sometimes as a street level drug dealer.”

“You have to find what you like. If you like it, it’s good coffee.”

Stoke coffee espresso served at many local restaurants, including Sangha Bean Cafe, The Modern Bakeshop & Cafe, Mountain Meals and La Baguette. Stoke is sold at the winter farmer’s markets and several local stores.

This article was first published in the December edition of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

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