That is precisely what happened at Sitka and Spruce in Seattle earlier this month, when we just happened to be seated beside three women who run a relatively new artisan chocolate and coffee roaster in Vancouver called East Van Roasters.
When I overheard them telling our server about their shop in East Van, I couldn't help but ask for a card so that we might stop in during our stay in Vancouver. I'm so glad I did, as my eaves-dropping it turned out to be the most delightful and delicious experiences I've had with chocolate!
East Van Roasters is a beautiful little production cafe located in Gastown. Both coffee beans and cacao beans are roasted on site, and single-origin chocolates and drinking chocolates are produced there as well. I enjoyed sharing a tasting flight of single origin chocolates, a Mayan Spice drinking chocolate, a salted chocolate chip cookie and a "Good Bar" (a fabulous raw brownie of cacao, coconut, nuts and seeds), oh yes, and a coffee. Sometimes you just have to try it all.
Shelley, Merri and Kari (pictured below), with whom we'd shared the community table back in Seattle, all happened to be there or drop in while we were there, so we had the opportunity to learn a bit more about what seemed to be a thriving example of entrepreneurship.
As it turns out, East Van Roasters is a nonprofit initiative of the PHS Community Services Society, which provides public health, housing and community building services toward a vision for a community in which homelessness and addiction are no longer life-threatening conditions. East Van Roasters provides training and employment to women residents within PHS services.
Among other PHS services and social enterprises, we learned about the Hastings Urban Farm, which employs residents and serves the community through a weekly farm stand. We also found jars of Hives for Humanity honey for sale in the shop, and it just so happens that Merri, the pastry chef, previously started a nonprofit called Growing Chefs, which places chef volunteers in elementary schools to teach kids about growing and cooking food!
Needless to say, I left full and fulfilled from an abundance of delicious chocolate and the delight of learning about wonderful work being done at the crossroads of good food and good community. I am so grateful for the sweet serendipity served up when we sit down at a table with strangers!
Executive Director, Growing Places Indy