Tucked away in the furthest northern corner of British Columbia is the town of Atlin, which sits on the border between the Yukon and Alaska. While absolutely stunning, only around 400 inhabitants get to witness the beauty of the largest glacial freshwater lake and freshwater island in the world, Theresa Island. You may remember the name Atlin from “The Atlin Gold Rush” that took place in 1898. At this time, miners and settlers flocked to the town for its riches and the population once reached 20,000. However, after two fires that burned the town down and as gold does not grow, Atlin once again became a quaint and precious place to few.
Today, Atlin relies on its tourist attractions including fishing and biking and hiking trails left over from the miners, as well as amazing coffee, such as last month’s CoffeeCollective feature, Atlin Mountain Coffee Roasters.
The roastery began only a few short years ago by adventure seekers, Philippe and Leandra Brient. The couple had spent their lives working numerous jobs including running a hotel, dogsled tours, and even winemakers in the Okanagan. Today, in addition to roasting coffee, both Leandra and Philippe are also volunteer firefighters, members of Atlin’s Search and Rescue Society and RCMP detention guards in Atlin.
Prior to their extremely busy lifestyle, Leandra and Philippe grew up in the Netherlands and France respectively. Being constantly surrounded by the sound of espresso machines and grinders gave them the appreciation for coffee that they would use later on in life with their roasting house and café.
Leandra says her experience in Holland gave her respect and appreciation for Indonesian and Sumatran coffee, as well as her and Philippe’s worldwide travel.
“Thinking back, we have been served a lot of different coffees, from coffee grounds boiled in a pan with water, served directly into a cup (grounds included) in Romania to being brought coffee from coffeestands along the road by strangers on motorcycles in Turkey, to drinking qahwah in Syria while staying with a local families who invited us to stay in their homes.”
In the end, their love for coffee, and Leandra’s educational background in hospitality, provided a means to roast coffee on their own. A decision that came to them quite suddenly over a cup of coffee one morning, and in consciousness of wanting to raise their son, Justin, full time in a warming and family friendly environment.
Atlin Mountain Coffee has now mastered numerous roasts including light roast and customer favourite Ruffner Bean and the Brient’s personal favourite, Ranger Strong – named for a 800km trip with the Canadian Rangers. In addition, the pair also opened up Lilly Café in December 2013, which was named after Leandra’s nickname “Lili.” The café serves as an espresso bar with food and drinks for the people of Atlin and a popular hangout for the moms and kids of the town.
For June’s packages, CoffeeCollective featured the Black Gold dark roast from Ethiopia and Nicaragua Tarahne Express. Both of which are complex with layers of sweet flavours of chocolate and caramel.
Should you ever get the chance to visit beautiful Atlin, potentially for their annual arts and Music Festival, take a trip down to Lilly Café where you can find Leandra and Philippe with a cup of coffee – and likely, some amazing stories to tell.