It only takes meeting Brian Turko of Vancouver's Milano to know it's his unbridled passion for the art and science of coffee roasting that fuels him.
Founded in 1984 on the practices and principles of the Italian style of coffee roasting and brewing, Milano began as a direct flight from Italy to Vancouver in the hands of Francesco Curatolo. Turko spent 15 years learning from the Master Roaster before taking on Milano as his own. Now the brand has three Vancouver locations, one in Comox, and one forthcoming in Calgary.
But the space on West 8th Avenue, overlooking the green swath that is Jonathan Rogers Park, and, beyond that, the inching upward skyline of the city, is truly special. It's here, on the restored gymnasium floor and with the roasting facilities visible--and smell-able--just beyond a set of doors, with the smartly placed bank of large picture windows, that Turko is holding court on this rainy January day.
Tuko sits under four balloon letters spelling out GOLD, and to his left are a wall of certificates declaring past honours, all from the International Coffee Tasting Awards. He's made himself available to talk to anyone interested about his 2017 award-winning coffees, and, as is the nature in talking to Turko, about anything coffee-related.
For 2017, the International Coffee Tasting Awards gave gold medals to Silk Lili and Concept #9 espresso blends. Milano's beans were among those from 162 roasters in nine nations this year. Previous gold wins have gone to Milano for their La Futura, Butter, Velvet, Miscela Royale, Nuovo, Lucky 13, Cognac, Suave Rico, New Italian and Frank's blends. All told, that's a dozen golds in six years for Milano.
While coffee geekery may be a turn off to those who simply know that they like--or need--a cup or two a day, Milano isn't a sterile bastion of coffee academia. Turko loves to gently steer people towards tasting habits that let the inherent flavours of the roasts come through. If you ask for Hazelnut syrup, Turko wants you to try stirring sugar into your espresso to unlock the natural sugars and hazelnuts notes of a given roast.
Meanwhile, while some coffee drinkers turn their nose up at darker roasts, thinking they're all too bitter or burnt, Milano is embracing them. They've just launched a line of dark roasts to showcase the depths of flavours discernible when a dark roast is done well. You'll see those in Milano's new resealable and compostable bags--they're the ones in grey with black accents.
There's more to raise a cup to at Milano these days, too. They recently paired up with Faculty Brewing to create a cold brew coffee x beer collaboration, and, for something you'll find in the dairy case of select grocers, they've worked with Tree Island to create a Milano Espresso yogurt that's just hitting shelves. Milano is also offering yoga and beer classes some weekends, or even yoga and wine nights, just to shake things up.
While so much of what Turko and his team at Milano do is so deeply rooted in tradition, they are an iconic Vancouver coffee company that is clearly committed to moving forward a love for coffee.