Whistler, as a collective, multicultural gathering place for pilgrims from around the globe, offers a distinct yet highly dynamic ebb and flow of people. Historically, the region has been a place of gathering since the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations shared their cultures and celebrated together. Whistler continues to provide a unique gathering place, shared territory, and global connection. And what better place to collaborate than in the enticing atmosphere of a local coffee shop?
As I walked around Whistler’s Village Stroll for the first time, I sought out this reassuring coffee shop camaraderie. After nearly twenty hours of international travel, the only thing that felt ritualistic was a cup of coffee. As a seemingly reassuring adventure, coffee enables the traveler to seek out a cup of familiarity in an unfamiliar location. The search for a good coffee shop in an unfamiliar location can be an exciting (yet occasionally unsuccessful) adventure.
Coming from the Australasian biographical realm of strong, archetypal, predictable coffee, my first sip of Canadian coffee evoked many nuanced flavour profiles and questions. What sort of coffee lingo were they speaking? What characteristics constituted the perfect cup of Canadian coffee?
As I continued to ponder over my morning cup, I had to ask myself—was Whistler’s coffee culture a cup half full, or half empty? Does the resort have its own unique culture? Or is indicative of the broader Canadian coffee conundrum? Although these questions may appear simple, they are overly ambiguous, as coffee encompasses numerous political, social, environmental, and cultural issues in addition to caffeine.
Coffee culture here in British Columbia
For many, coffee is a habitual, communal, and eternal love akin to a religion. Today, in the 21st century, you could say coffee has become almost primal; a means to adequate functioning in an overbearingly stimulated, rambunctious world. Here in the mountainous geographical landscape of beautiful British Columbia, coffee is a means to a day of multitudinous activities. Whether it is in between runs in the bike park, on hiking trails, or ski runs, coffee continues to be a proximate cause for vivid connections here in Whistler, as coffee communicates an underlying sense of correspondence, of unspoken understanding in a town full of different dialects and cultures. Although coffee is a universal language, it carries its own peculiarities, eccentricities, and idiosyncrasies. These subtle distinctions — whether coffee is served black or with milk, or is called a latte or flat white — vary not only from city to city around the globe, but also from coffee shop to coffee shop in Whistler.
Whistler, in all its grandiosity, prioritizes the big, which is why it sometimes lacks the small, meticulously crafted coffee culture—at least on the surface. This apparent lack of crafted coffee is what Mat Peake and Chrissy Hay, owners of Hammer Coffee Roasting, saw almost 10 years ago when they first started to roast their own coffee in Whistler.
“About fifteen years ago, we began roasting coffee in Australia,” says Peake. “When we moved to Whistler, we were desperate for a great cup of coffee, but we couldn’t find one.” “And so we started a little coffee club in Alpine, roasting in the backyard and facilitating the five customers we had at the time.”